Choosing a sofa: The ingredients for a perfect sofa

January 8, 2021

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I’ve seen A LOT of sofas. Hundreds… thousands, perhaps. And I make a point of sitting on every single one that comes through my studio doors. So, I’d say I’m fairly qualified to say what makes a good one. Whether you’re choosing a new sofa or wanting to know if yours is worth reupholstering, there are some ingredients which I think make for the perfect sofa. Read on and I’ll tell you…

After your bed, which you absolutely want to be the last word in comfort and luxury, your sofa has to be the next best place for curling up and getting cosy. Maybe you read on yours, watch TV or see it as a sociable space for gathering the family, friends or your household pets. Whatever you choose to do on your sofa, it’s a place where you probably spend a fair amount of ‘me time’. Statistics suggest we will spend around 17 years sitting on a sofa in our lifetime! As well as looking good, you want it to be just right for relaxing in too. Like a recipe, there are certain ingredients that will make it perfect for you.

Here’s my top five, most important things when choosing a sofa that will ensure your sofa is the stuff of dreams…

Comfort

Could there be anything more imperative than feeling comfortable when you sit on your sofa? Comfort comes in different forms for different people, but there is one thing I won’t compromise on… I always recommend foam core, hollow-fibre wrapped cushions. The hollow fibre gives you the squishy comfort, but the foam core offers support. This way, the seats and back always last longer too.

Old sofa undergoing upholstery project in the workshop

These days, manufactured sofas tend to be quite mean with their fillings, which is why it’s a good idea to bring your cushions to an upholsterer to get them re-filled. Equally, don’t write off a sofa that may look or feel uncomfortable on first appearance. Small tweaks to fix the depth of the cushions can get around that feeling that you’re ‘perching’. An upholsterer can also switch and change the legs to make a sofa that feels too low a little higher or vice versa.

Don’t underestimate the power of plumping up your cushions regularly to keep them ultra-comfortable. Likewise, turning and rotating will help increase the lifespan of your lounging companion. In fact, I reckon seat cushions can last up to 10 years if you regularly turn and rotate them.

Sofa ready for reupholstery

Reupholstered grey sofa

Style

When choosing a sofa, the style you pick is going to be a reflection of your unique tastes. You may be into sleek, mid-Century design, or it may just be all about the snuggle factor and you want the squishiest-looking style that will be a place you love to lounge. Either way, it’s important you love it and it suits the personality you’ve created for your home. I think it’s fine to mix and match eras and styles, so long as there is one co-ordinating theme – a colour or a style thread that links things together.

The Chesterfield is a real timeless classic and a popular choice for a sofa, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It has a fixed sprung seat, high arms and no additional cushions, so it’s going to be firm. Real lounge-y sofas tend to have a more substantial seat, back and possibly side cushions. I’d avoid the more stylised types of sofa or one with a low back if you’re someone who likes to relax and recline.

Reupholstery project - pink patterned sofa reupholstered into navy and white patterned sofa

Fabric

I defy anyone to dislike the appeal of a sumptuous velvet sofa – warm and inviting in winter, cool and soft to the touch in summer months. My best advice when it comes to fabric is to choose something that combines practicality with pure joy. Love a pattern? Go for it. Adore a particular colour? Don’t be afraid to put it on your sofa. I have never, ever, come across anyone who has made a bold choice and then regretted it. I have however had people say to me that they wish they had gone for it. If you ask me, there’s really no point in playing it safe.

“I have never, ever, come across anyone who has made a bold choice and then regretted it. If you ask me, there’s really no point in playing it safe.”

Black leather sofa ready for reupholstery

Reupholstered bright pink sofa

What I would advise though is to select your fabric in situ. Sit with it in different lights – daytime, evening, in bright sunshine and on a dull day too. If you do that, you can assess how the fabric will react in its space and rest easy that you’ve made a great choice.

Reupholstered navy and white patterned sofa

Size

Where is your sofa going to be sitting? Getting the proportions right between its size and the space you have available is absolutely crucial, but so many people get it wrong. Even if the thought of a huge, long seat to sprawl out full length on is appealing, it’s going to look ridiculous if it swamps the room. Don’t just measure your room and the intended destination, map it out with newspaper or magazines on the floor and see how well it fits. Don’t forget about all your other furniture too and how it all sits together. If the rest of your décor is small and dainty, an over-sized sofa will look out of place.

Old red patterned sofa in need of reupholstering

Reupholstered pink velvet sofa

If you buy a sofa that’s too big for the space it will look cramped and cumbersome. If you do have a smaller room but want to go to the max with your sofa, low arms will help create the illusion of greater space. Many people these days opt for an L-shaped sofa, but be warned… in some cases, you’re better off buying two smaller sofas instead as this can give you the versatility to switch things around with the same amount of seating spaces if you did ever decide to reconfigure the room.

Sofa and two armchairs with low arms ready for reupholstery

Reupholstered green sofa and patterned armchair

Practicality

Children, pets, accident-prone other halves? Even if it’s getting relatively low usage, your sofa needs to be as bulletproof as possible. When choosing a sofa, at the very least I recommend a stain-resistant fabric. Don’t be fooled by ‘Scotchguarding’ – it’s never as good as built-in stain-resistant technology. These days fabrics are designed to stand the test of time – don’t get seduced by one that isn’t. If you have pets, do consider a closer weave, or preferably a velvet – less chance of it getting scratched to shreds. And if you have kids? Is that pale cream colour really such a good idea? Darker shades or patterns are much more forgiving.

Old patterned sofa ready for reupholstery

Reupholstered navy patterned sofa

Do you have a sofa that needs a little love to fulfil its potential? Or do you have the perfect one, but it needs a little revamp? Drop me a line for an initial, no-obligation quote by filling in the online contact form. Alternatively, you can email me directly at sharon@vintiqueupholstery.com or call me on 07764 182 783.

Credits: Kitty McCall, William Clarke Earthed, Kirkby Design, Linwood, Prestigious Textiles and Modelli Fabrics.

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