What Should I Look For When Sofa Shopping?
Most of us are pretty familiar with sofas. We sit on them, we lounge on them, we even eat in front of the TV on them. So you would think purchasing a sofa would be pretty easy, right? Well, it certainly isn’t rocket science, but it is important to know what your sofa is made up of and if it’s worth it to spend a few extra dollars on some rather than save a few dollars on others.
There are a lot of various combinations of frame construction, suspension systems, and cushion inserts that will affect the quality and comfort of each sofa. Just saying ‘Spring Suspension System’ for example brings up a variety of different spring coils, coatings and more. Every company has their own preferences and you don’t need to learn every in and out of each type, however it is important to know a few of the key features of construction in order to know what to expect out of the life and comfort of your sofa.
Sofa Frame Construction: What should I care about and why?
The frame of the sofa is what should outlast anything else. A good quality sofa frame should last you 10 years and more. Depending on your budget needs and use of the sofa, you can determine what quality and price point will work best for you.
- Quality Material: Durable, kiln dried hardwood frame vs. Cheap Material: softer woods like pine.
- Quality Joints: Doweled joints and blocked corners vs. Cheap Joints: Only glue and staples.
- Example of Cheaper Frame Construction – IKEA Ektorp Sofa made of Fiberboard, Particleboard, Plywood and Pine – Starts at $399. Good option for tight budgets not looking for long term or regular to heavy use.
- Example of Better Frame Construction – The Crate and Barrel Axis Sofa made of certified sustainable kiln-dried hardwood frame. Will last longer than the IKEA furniture. Overall, much better investment than the IKEA option if your budget allows for it. Starts at $1,899.00
- Top Quality Frame Construction such as Pearson Furniture Company or Carlyle Sofa (which is also known for good quality sleeper sofas) are made from quality kiln-dried hardwoods and also go into more substantial details such as double doweled joints and corners are blocked and bolted for extra wear and tear. Sofas are custom so prices vary due to size and style but can start from around $2,000.00 and upwards of $3,500 or more depending on the brand and custom selections.
Suspension Systems: What should I care about and why?
The suspension system is important for not only the life of the sofa, but the comfort of your seating as well. Lesser expensive sofas don’t have much of a suspension system, and in a very short time, you will feel the difference in comfort.
- Cheaper sofas such as IKEA’s Ektorp mentioned above, don’t have much if anything in terms of suspension. There is no webbing or spring system so over time the frame underneath will start to wear which will affect your seat. Again, a good option for tight budgets, as long as you are not thinking too long term – about 4-5 years.
- Better Support Systems such as Crate and Barrel offer a few different options from Synthetic Webbing through to an Eight-Way Hand Tied Spring System. These options a range of more support for your cushions and seat which will result in a more comfortable sit and longer lasting sofa.
- Certain sofa companies such as American Leather, take a lot of pride in their suspensions systems using the best quality eight-way hand tied suspension systems where the coils are hand-tied to each other and the frame to achieve superior elasticity in the seat.
Seat Cushion Fillings: What should I care about and why?
What fills your seat cushion is perhaps the trait you will notice first in a sofa when you first sit on it. There are of course degrees of quality, however it is also a very personal choice since everyone finds a varied degree of comfort.
- Foam is one of the most popular options for ready-made and retail company sofas and chairs. The Ektorp by IKEA has a blend of foam and polypropylene that fills its seats. Generally a medium-firm seat, these cushions last fairly well for a budget choice, but may not be for everyone and will have to be replaced as the foam looses its shape and firmness.
- A cushion with a blend of down and foam like of some sort has a softer feel due to the down or synthetic down layer around the foam. Generally a softer seat that will lose may need “fluffing” more often due to the down, however it is also a softer more ‘cushy’ seat for those who prefer this feel.
- The longest lasting cushion filling is a Spring Down filling which generally has a mix of spring coils wrapped in muslin or similar and encased in a type of foam with an additional layer of down. This seat offers the comfort and softness of down with the firmness and lasting quality due to the spring and foam. These cushions don’t need much ‘fluffing’ depending on the amount of down included and will generally hold their shape and last a long time.
Fabrics and Leathers: What should I care about and why?
Ultimately, the choice of your fabric or leather will depend mostly on your taste, style and the availability what the company offers. If you are very particular about your look, you may need to go with a company that allows you to find a fabric you love from any company and upholster your sofa in it. This is a C.O.M or C.O.L. option, (customers own material or customers own leather) and are generally only offered through higher end, custom companies. They will offer a C.O.M. or C.O.L. base price for the sofa and then it is up to you to pay for and coordinate the fabric delivery to them for an additional cost as per the fabric company.
One of the most common and durable fabric options in general is a micro or ultra suede. This is a faux suede fabric and most popular retailers offer this type of fabric in a large variety of colors. It is a fabric that is easy to maintain and clean.
Leather is another good and durable option and is offered in a variety of qualities, colors and styles from highly distressed to very smooth and consistent. The type of leather you choose will be affected by your style preference and budget.
Whichever material you choose, there will actually be a different feel to your sofa depending on what you pick. The largest difference being between leather and fabric. If you find a sofa you love in a store and they have it available on the floor in fabric but you want to order it in leather, be aware that the comfort level will vary due to the different material. One is not better or worse, just a bit different.
FINAL TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS:
- Make sure you measure your elevator, hallways and doorways so that you ensure a smooth delivery of your sofa. If you do come across an issue where your sofa does not fit into your home, check your area for services such as Dr. Sofa, which can actually disassemble and reassemble your sofa in order to get it in or out of your home.
- If possible, try out the sofa in the store or showroom first. It is important that you and whoever else will be using the sofa regularly gets a feel for it in person since it is such a personal preference.
Best Budget Option – IKEA Ektorp Sofa: A nice firm seat with a life expectancy of 3-4 years or more. Convenient slip cover and removable cushion covers for easy cleaning and maintenance.
Best Mid-Range Retail Option – Crate and Barrel Axis Sofa. Hardwood kiln-dried frame with polyfoam wrapped in fiber-down blend cushion. Flexolator Spring Suspension system with spiral coil springs placed into the frame and attached with vinyl coated clips to prevent squeaks.
Best Luxury or Custom Option – Carlyle Sofa with hard wood, kiln dried, double doweled, glued, corner blocked and bolted frames. 8 way hand tied spring suspension system. They offer over 40 combinations of cushion variations to tailor to your comfort level, the Spring and Dacron mix being the most expensive.