Is a New Sofa in Your Future?
Know what to look for before you start shopping around
Need a new sofa? Take your decorator’s advice and buy the best one you can afford. But, don’t forget to make comfort a priority, too. Before you commit to a sofa, sit on it, lie on it, think of how you’ll use it. Is it for everyday snacking and watching TV, or will it be used only for occasional black tie events? Look at the length, seat depth, height and shape of the arms and pitch of the back. How many cushions do you want it to have? Will it go with the rest of your decor?
Jackie Meuse, assistant territory manager for Thomas Moser Cabinetmakers, advises sofa seekers to “Look carefully at the room where the new sofa will go before buying. Will the sofa blend into the surroundings or be the star? Do you want it to stand out or be a backdrop for something else to shine — such as art, oriental rugs or your new 60-inch 3D HD television? Are you just replacing a sofa, or is it just one step in a room makeover?” If it is the first step in a room makeover, “take images, paint chips, a piece of carpet, even a pillow from your mother’s chair that you know you’re going to keep,” Meuse urges.
Jose Amezcua, department manager for sofas at IKEA Houston, says some customers come into the store with only a cushion. “Their whole inspiration for the room springs from just a cushion. Everything else is chosen to accessorize the look or color of that one item.”
Thomas Moser, Swaim, Restoration Hardware, Baker and others are high-end furniture manufacturers featuring sofas ranging in the $7,000 and up range, while IKEA offers lower end sofas ranging from $500 to $1,500 for young and first-time buyers. But, they all give the same advice to consumers purchasing a new sofa. These include:
Before you go:
•Take measurements of the room and of the sofa you are replacing. Furniture often looks much smaller in a showroom than it does in your living room.
•Know how the sofa will be used. A family room’s needs are different from a formal living room or a space that sees only occasional use. “Most people buy a good piece of furniture for the formal living room, which is seldom used, and think it doesn’t matter what they put in the family room,” Meuse says. “Invest your money in the family room sofa that will take a lot of wear and tear rather than in the sofa for a formal living room that will get very little use. A lighter weight, less durable fabric can be used in the formal living room.”
•Bring samples of paint, carpet and fabric in addition to digital photos of the room. They all help a designer or salesperson get a feel for what you want and need in your space, and that equips them to help you make the wisest selection.
At the store:
•Check the frame for rigidity; no flexing, squeaking or sagging.
•Be sure you can’t feel the frame through the cushioning.
•And, last but definitely not least, check the warranty. You don’t want to get the sofa home and have no recourse if something goes wrong.
When buying a high-investment sofa, Meuse gives this advice: “A kiln-dried hardwood frame is the best way to go; it prevents movement and warping in the piece of furniture. If you buy a sofa with wood feet, make sure the feet are part of the frame and not just screwed in. Feel around the edges of the sofa and make sure you don’t feel the frame through the fabric.”
Many sofa manufacturers use residential grade fabric that is not required to carry a rating for light or heavy-duty use, and some beautiful fabrics are not durable. Because of the lack of rating system with residential upholstery fabric, Thomas Moser Cabinetmakers uses commercial-rated upholstery fabric. “You can look on the back of a swatch, and it will tell you the commercial rating — for example, if it’s for moderate to heavy commercial use,” says Meuse. If the manufacturer of the sofa you fall in love with doesn’t have a durability rating, the best way to tell if a sofa is soundly constructed may be to look at the guarantee. “The longer the warranty, the more sustainable the furniture,” Meuse assures.
According to Amezcua, IKEA sofas come with well-constructed frames, some wooden and some metal. Because IKEA uses manufacturers in both the USA and overseas, construction and pricing varies depending on the product. But as a general rule, back and arm materials include fiberboard, plywood and solid pine covered with polyurethane foam and wadding. Seating materials include zig-zag springs or elastic webbing. Seat cushions are made from polyester wadding, polyester fiberfill and polyurethane foam. Many IKEA sofas come with removable, washable covers of 100 percent cotton. “Our customers love our sofa covers, because they can be easily replaced for a new look,” Amezeua says. “IKEA presents a new set of colors each year for the customers’ selection.”
So, whether you are buying a sofa for an upscale soiree or for the Super Bowl crowd, make sure you know what you want before plunking down the money. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief if you do.
By Sandra Meineke