Thursday, April 29, 2010

Buying a Sofa!

What you Should Know Before you Leave the House
Given that your sofa is likely to be one of the most expensive items in the room, why are so many people buying the wrong one?  The bottom line is that buying anything can be overwhelming but something that will be with you for 10+ years tends to strike panic in even the calmest of demeanour.   Not understanding your own preference in style is the biggest reason for scrapping sofa #1 before its time has come.  A sofa that is at odds with your sense of style can be a major stumbling point in redesigning a room.  If you hate it and it's not your style it can be hard to recreate the space into something fresh and new.  Here are some tips to consider before you set out on your next shopping trip.

Photo courtesy of Decorpad

Plan Ahead - Okay, I sound like a broken record.  Do you see a theme in creating a great space?  Plan, plan, plan.  It is not important whether you can identify furniture styles and periods but having a photo of a sofa you love can save you a lot of time on your shopping spree.  Flip through magazines or browse the internet and when you see an image you love, cut it out or print it out.  Create a little book with these images glued inside if you have a few.  Once you start your shopping, having something to refer to will keep you on track and likely help you to avoid buying another mistake.  Know that you likely won't find the exact same sofa as your photo but look for similarities...similar lines in the arms, back and feet (see more below on this but no skipping ahead!).

Determine your Budget and your Needs - Sofas can range in price from under $500 to tens of thousands of dollars so know what you can afford before you head out.  This is important  because there is no point in shopping on Rodeo Drive if you can only afford WalMart.  If you're on a tight budget look for great sales at great stores (January is a really good time of year to buy furniture as it's almost always on sale.  Late summer is another.)  Think about how the sofa will be used to help you determine your budget.  If you are the type that likes to buy something one time then purchase a high quality, well built sofa with a fabric that will endure through the years.  If the sofa is going into your children's playroom, keep the budget small but make sure to have kid friendly fabric (microfibre or denim are the best for greasy, dirty fingers.  Not that any of you have greasy or dirty children!!

Understand the Structure - There is no way to determine the quality of a sofa without understanding its components and how it is built.

Frames - High quality sofas are made from kiln dried hardwoods such as oak and don't have any knots in the wood (this can cause weakness in the wood).  Legs are attached as part of the frame or dowelled and glued but not screwed.  Lesser expensive sofas will be made of soft woods such as pine and will often be screwed, stapled or just glued.

Spring Systems - There are 3 ways of creating a spring system and this will account for much of the comfort of the sofa.  The first is the most expensive -
The 8-way system is a series of metal coils that are hand tied to each other on 8 sides.  This continuous coil is then attached to the frame with metal ties.
Next is the Sinuous Spring Connection, also called the "no sag" is a continuous metal wire shaped as a a series of S shapes.  It is attached to the frame in rows from front of the seat to the back and provides a firm seat.  The smaller the S shape, the less give the sofa will have.  It's often used in modern, low slung sofas.
Lastly, there is the Drop Spring System which is a pre-assembled, machine-made coil system designed to simulate the hand-tied version. It drops into the frame and is typically fastened at the corners.  Unlike the coils in a hand-tied base, drop-in coils are all the same gauge and haven't been configured to give added support. Also, they're built with more metal-to-metal contact and tend to squeak after a while.
Buy what you can afford but at least know what you're buying.
Photo courtesy of Decorpad

Know what you Like - Without getting into details surrounding period furniture it is wise for you to have an understanding of what style you are attracted to.  Three things stand out as the basis for forming your decision.  Arm style is a big part of deciding what you like.  Contemporary sofas will have a straight parson arm, traditional will have a rolled arm.  Feet are another factor.  Traditional sofas can have a bun, round or turned foot and will almost always be made of wood while the contemporary sofa will have a square or a tapered square foot.  Lastly, do you like your pillows to be removeable or attached.  I learned soon after having kids that there could only be attached in our house until the kids leave home.  I spent more time picking up pillows and rearranging the sofa than it was worth.  

Lastly, be prepared when you enter a showroom.  It can be intimidating to shop when you feel that you are at a disadvantage.  Do a bit of work, learn a few catch phrases and you'll be just fine.  


  1. Hey!!!! I'm on your blogroll!!! That makes me super excited. Thanks!

  2. These tips are very helpful...I fairly recently purchased a sofa and it was definitely a daunting task! I wish I would have know about this article before hand...atleast it's bookmarked for the next time :)


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