A $500 Sofa Versus
A $5,000 Sofa
Before spending a bundle on a new sofa, don‘t be a couch potato
– get the facts about basic construction. Sofas are not all
Springs – Steel coil springs should be hand-tied
(not machine clamped) in as many as eight different points around
the spring’s diameter (aptly called “eight-way”
hand-tied spring construction) for the greatest stability. This
is what gives a sofa its bounce and is used in the base of better-quality
pieces. The other primary spring construction favored by manufacturers
is the “no-sag” spring. These are thick “S”-shaped
wires that are fastened to the top of the front rail and run from
the front to the back of the piece every few inches apart. This
spring system is often used in contemporary sofas that sit lower
to the ground. Be sure to ask the salesperson about the sofa’s
coil spring system.
Padding/Cushions – The comfort of a sofa
depends on its padding and cushions. The level of firmness, or softness,
is a matter of personal preference. In better-quality sofas blendown
cushions add a luxurious feel to the surface. Blendown cushions
offer the softest seat, featuring a combination of down and feathers
sometimes wrapped around a foam core and then encased in a muslin
bag. The most common – and least expensive – seat padding
consists of high-density polyurethane foam wrapped in polyester
fiber. Check the manufacturer’s tag for information about
the specific padding used in the sofa.
Fabrics – People want upholstered furniture
in fabrics that feel as good as they look. Traditionally, the most
popular fabrics were natural ones – cotton, linen, silk and
wool – prized for their softness and versatility but generally
more fragile than synthetic fibers. Recently, new fabrics have been
developed which offer both softness and durability. Rayon chenille,
for example, feels sumptuous and always looks elegant. Washing the
fabric brings out the yarn’s subtle colorations and makes
the fabric even more durable. This is carefree luxury: you can put
your feet up on the upholstery without worry.
Follow these easy, do-it-yourself guidelines for adding extra life
to your upholstery:
Rotate and reverse cushions regularly. This will
ensure even use of the seat and back cushions which receive the
most wear and tear.
Vacuum often. Remove dust and food particles using
your vacuum’s small-brush attachment, upholstery nozzle and
crevice tool. The crevice tool is especially handy for hard-to-reach
nooks and crannies.
Keep pets off the furniture. They may be part
of the family, but your dog or cat’s body oil can be difficult
to remove, so keep furniture a no-pet zone if possible.
Clean spots immediately. Blot, don’t scrub,
spots and spills with a dry white terry cloth or paper towel before the
spot can “set.” Scrubbing can irreversibly damage the
fabric and spread the stain. Before attempting to remove any stain,
you must first identify the fabric and correct cleaning method recommended
by the manufacturer. This information is generally located on a
tag affixed to the sofa.
Creating the Illusion of Space
Want a small room to make a big first impression? Here’s how
to create the illusion of spaciousness:
- Minimize contrast among furniture, floors, area rugs, upholstery
and drapery fabrics. Colors that naturally blend will create the
impression of greater space.
- Select furniture colors that closely match those for walls and
floors. Also, cut down on clutter by limiting the number of furniture
- Opt for light and neutral colors (cream, beige or gray) or pastel
blues, greens or purples, which will visually expand walls and
make ceilings look higher. The ceiling, in fact, should always
be the lightest color in the room.
- Double the size of a room visually by adding reflective, shiny
surfaces such as glass top tables, wall mirrors and chrome.
Making Large Rooms More Intimate
If your biggest decorating challenge is making an oversized room
seem less overwhelming, consider the following designer techniques
for creating a more intimate space:
- Position furniture away from the wall and use taller pieces,
such as an armoire or entertainment center, to define smaller
spaces within a room. Screens, plants and area rugs can also be
used to visually divide a large space.
- Paint the ceiling and floors a warm tone – any color between
yellow and red on the color wheel – which will draw in the
walls and bring down the ceiling.
- Light the room with incandescent rather than halogen or fluorescent
lamps for a warmer glow.
- Use rugs, printed wallpapers and patterned upholstery fabrics,
alone and in various combinations, to make large spaces feel more