Consider the sofa.
At first, you may not think of it as an investment, but keep in mind that it’s where you lounge, decompress, stream your favorite shows, eat, entertain, nap and more.
Not only that, the sofa occupies pride of place in our living rooms, great rooms and dens. It establishes the tone for these rooms, maybe even the whole house. Thus, the purchase of a new sofa is a significant purchase indeed, making it important to understand what constitutes a quality sofa, what style options are available and how to apply practical buying tips to what can only be called an investment.
Fit, function, comfort and quality
Sofa shopping may feel overwhelming, so Sandi Mowry, Senior Vice President of Sales and Merchandising for Sam Moore Furniture, offers suggestions on how to begin. (Spoiler alert: It’s not with your design preferences.)
First, identify the scale and size of seating that will best fit your space. Do you need a smaller scale sofa paired with a few accent chairs, or you can accommodate a larger sectional? Obviously you’ll want to measure the area as part of this process, ensuring you have plenty of room around the new sofa to move and function comfortably. “Be sure to consider the traffic flow of the room and think about how you can position the sofa or sectional as the anchor,” Mowry explains.
Speaking of comfort (and functionality!), consider whether the new sofa will be used in a formal room or for more casual kicking back. The aforementioned sectional is L- or U-shaped and typically quite roomy, allowing numerous people to sit together. Another spacious option is a chaise sofa, which allows for one or two people to stretch out on the end (and put their feet up, sans ottoman) and which fits nicely in the corner. So think through whether you’ll be relaxing on your sofa solo, with your partner, or your entire family.
“Answers to these questions will help you determine if you want a casual and down-blend feel or need a taller seat and back with a firmer seat,” says Mowry.
Fit and functionality are key, but they’re nothing without quality. Sydney Wells, director of marketing at Sherrill Furniture Company, speaks to this: “Anybody can make a really nice-looking sofa, but is it going to last?” she asks.
While some consumers are okay with buying a new sofa every year, most of us want a quality sofa that will last for decades. That equates to setting your expectations relative to lead times; you can get a new sofa in a couple of weeks but it may be lower quality. For instance, Wells explains that quality means eight-way hand-tied springs for extra support, multiple layers of cotton and high-end fabric, all of which increases the longevity of the piece.
Mowry explains that once you’ve addressed the distinctions above, you can then begin to sort by style to find pieces that reflect your home’s décor and your individual design preferences.
The simplest way to break down sofa styles is traditional versus modern, but truth be told, sofa styles exist on a spectrum. There are sofas that aren’t truly traditional nor contemporary but that fall into the transitional category in between, taking cues from both types. And there are sofas exist everywhere in between.
Both Wells and Mowry also delineate sofa styles further based on the look of the arms, back or legs. For instance, sofas with rolled English or narrow arms are considered more traditional, while wider arms – ideal for resting your own arm – reflect a more contemporary style.
“Traditional styles include classic shapes and tailored details like rolled arms, curved backs, nail head trim, carved wood accents and tufting,” explains Mowry. “Modern or contemporary styles appear more tailored, with clean, straight-lined silhouettes and design details like track arms and lower profiles.”
Many companies offer custom programs that allow consumers to choose which arms they want, which back, and which leg. Thanks to the digital age we live in, you can enter all of the features (i.e., data points) that are important to you and use the company’s website or configurator to “build” your perfect sofa from the ground up.
Taking advantage of technology is one practical buying tip. Wells offers several others:
• Researching is important. Research before you shop and definitely before you buy. And if you love the in-store experience, you don’t have to give it up just because of today’s technology. Head out to furniture stores and plant yourself on a bunch of sofas to see how they feel.
• If you really want to invest in a piece, hiring a designer is a good option. They are very well educated and thus can educate you.
• Understand the world we live in. If you order a custom piece and it takes a long time, realize that many things out of manufacturers’ control right now.
• Pick something you love and not just because it’s hot and trendy.
Ultimately, you want a sofa that will offer you (and whomever you live with) the best seat in the house. So take your time, considering which factors matter the most to you – and which styles you find most appealing – as you seek to find a quality sofa that you can enjoy for years to come.
SOME THOUGHTS ON FABRIC
Your choice of upholstery fabric has implications not only in terms of interior design, but also from a lifestyle perspective. Mowry explains: “Comfort and performance should be top of mind when it comes to selecting upholstery fabrics. If you have a house full of kids and/or pets, muddy paws, a spilled cup of milk or a tipped glass of wine is often a reality.” Look for performance fabrics that help keep stains away, including those that offer fiber technology that makes them both durable and easily cleanable.
As the new year kicks off, Mowry shares some chic fabrics that will be prominent in 2023, both at Sam Moore and beyond: Bouclés (a luxurious looking fabric comprised of looped yarn), heavy sweater-inspired plain fabrics, and fun furs. Hot colors will include soothing, nature-inspired colorations including greens, blues, desert hues and warm sand tones.
Best Furniture, Hoffman and Albers Interiors, ID Cincinnati Furniture & Interior Design, Studio J lillianaugust.hickorywhite.com, sammoore.com, sherrillfurniture.com, vanguardfurniture.com, whittemoresherrill.com
Article by Lee Rhodes
Article originally appeared in March 2023