How to Buy the Perfect Sofa and Six Mistakes to Avoid at the Store
If you ever watched Mad Men, you might remember how Betty Draper
installed the fainting couch to the horror of both, her husband and
I have to admit that it was quite amusing to watch gorgeous Betty
reclining on a large Victorian sofa that did not fit in. On the other hand, I
am not sure that it would be as much fun to follow her example in real
Buying a new sofa can be as exciting as stressful even for experienced
professionals. It is very important to make sure that you know how to
do the search and what to look for. I am sure that the last thing you
want is to be stuck with a big (or small, for that matter) ugly elephant in
the most important room of the house.
One of the designer‟s secrets for buying the right sofa is in careful
planning which usually happens long before stepping a foot in the
furniture store. You do not want to come unprepared and become an
easy prey for salespeople. Because you will be „married‟ to your couch
for quite some time, think about your purchase and plan before you
After all, it is your BIG purchase and you want it to be perfect, right? In
most cases, the retail store policy is that if your sofa “fits” in the room
there is no return. This means that if your couch looks too large or too
small to you, the measuring tape in the hands of the delivery guy will
not be your friend. In many cases, if you ordered your sofa and it
physically gets into the room without breaking the walls, the couch is
yours for good.
How many people are going to use it every day?
What is the age of your family members and their habits?
Do you have pets? Will you allow them on the couch?
How big is your room?
What are the main activities in the room?
Do you plan to use it for a long time?
Do you have a conventional room with one or two doors and
» Does your room have an open floor plan with no doors that open
Here are some common mistakes that many people make when
buying a sofa and several ways to avoid them.
Here is why: Have you ever wondered why your furniture looks so
different in a store than in your house?
It is simple. Retail store display is a science of its own. Lighting is a
major part of a showroom display. It is created by lighting designers for
the sole reason to attract your eye to the best feature and create desire
If you don‟t believe me, next time you are at a furniture store, such
as Ethan Allen or Restoration Hardware, look up and you will see the
whole net of strategically placed lighting systems over your head. Of
course there is music, and other factors to appeal to all six senses.
Instead of a trip to a furniture store do
yourself a favor, take a measuring tape
and write down all the dimensions of
your room as well as locations of doors
and windows. Don‟t forget to show the
way the doors open, i.e. to the right or
to the left.
It is common to measure furniture
pieces in inches. So, keep your floor
plan in inches just to simplify.
When you know the dimensions of your room you can browse
online. Most of the measurements show width and depth . Some show
height. You will be lucky to find inside measurements, such as seat
height, arm height and depth of the seat.
Average size of a sofa is 86 inches wide, 38 inches deep and 37
inches high. The inside measure of the seat depth is important because
you want to have just enough room to lay down.
For example, if you are petite, 19-21 inches depth is enough. But if you
are tall, get a couch that is 22-24 inches deep inside. The same about
the height of the sofa back. While average height is 37 inches, there
are some contemporary pieces that are 33-34 inches, which is quite
low for back support.
If you choose a couch that is 40-44 inches high, which is quite unusual,
make sure you have a place against the wall since it will not look good
in the middle of the room, floating. The same is true for the depth. A
really deep sofa that is 42-44 inches deep will look better against the
wall in a large room with tall ceilings.
Most people are attracted to color and fabric first. However, many
stores today have custom options for all different upholstery fabrics and
slip covers. Instead of focusing on fabric, determine the style you like
as well as construction.
Upholstery fabric determines the price and durability of your
couch. The key questions to ask your retailer: Is this fabric for light,
medium or heavy use? Rule of thumb: 100% Cotton will fade and wear
out quicker. The combination fabric, e.g.: 46% polyester, 36% rayon,
18% acrylic will have longer life.
If it is comfortable, learn about
construction, not just fabric. Hard
wood frame will last longer than
Springs are placed for better support
and durability. It can be the eight way
construction or sinuous construction.
In less expensive sofas, there could
be no springs at all. Also, cushions‟
foam varies in density and materials.
Most reputable furniture manufacturers have warranty. Most common is
two years on upholstery fabric and four to five years on the frame.
There is nothing more disappointing than dealing with a low quality
piece that looks good only on the computer screen or in the showroom.
Here is why: The fabric houses have limited inventory and your favorite
upholstery fabric can be discontinued at any time.
You can create a checklist consisting of all of the above criteria for
your purchase. It will have the minimum and maximum width of the
couch according to your room dimensions as well as your own height,
desired construction type, cushions density, spring construction,
desired fabric and legs options.
Keep this information with you and start comparative shopping. It will
take you some time, but this is the only way to get the result you want
and enjoy your couch for a long time.
Please share your experience with us by posting questions or
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