If you ever watched Mad Men, you might remember how Betty Draper installed the fainting couch to the horror of both, her husband anddecorator.
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 life.
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 buy.
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.
Here are some questions that designers ask their clients and you should follow as well before any steps are made:
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 windows?
Does your room have an open floor plan with no doors that open and close?
Here are some common mistakes that many people make when buying a sofa and several ways to avoid them.
1. Don’t start your search for a sofa at a retail store.
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 to buy.
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.
Do: start with a room floor plan
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.
2. Don’t buy online but rather browse, then browse some more.
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.
Do: determine the tallest person in the house that will use the sofa.
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.
3. Don’t judge the sofa by its cover.
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.
Do: find the right upholstery fabric that lasts.
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.
4. Don’t ignore what’s inside your sofa- wood and springs/foam construction.
If it is comfortable, learn about construction, not just fabric. Hard wood frame will last longer than pine lumber.
Do: ask about cushions and springs.
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.
5. Don’t buy without specific manufacturer’s warranty.
Most reputable furniture manufacturers have warranty. Most common is two years on upholstery fabric and four to five years on the frame.
Do: Find out all the details before you make your decision.
There is nothing more disappointing than dealing with a low quality piece that looks good only on the computer screen or in the showroom.
6. Don’t delay your purchase if you found the right piece.
Do: if you finally found fabric you like, buy it.
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 comments.