Expert Guide to Buying Quality Sofas & Couch Materials


After a mattress, a sofa is the most used piece of furniture in your home. Buying a cheap sofa that starts to fall apart in a couple of years is a very expensive decorating mistake.

It’s important to know what makes for a quality sofa, so you can be sure that you’re buying something that will meet the demands of your family and lifestyle.

The advice I always give to my clients: never skimp on quality. In today’s mass-produced market, many big retail stores offer furnishings that are meant to be disposable. The quality of upholstered pieces has deteriorated in order to appeal to consumers who want to buy at a lower price point and who are prepared to trash their furniture after a short period of time.

It may surprise you to learn that some higher-end furniture stores are also guilty of offering inferior upholstery goods. Excellent branding and beautiful showrooms promote a luxury shopping experience and aesthetic that is easy to buy into. These are stores that promote a distinctive type of style with a broad popular appeal, be it rustic, modern glam, classic or industrial. They have brand name recognition and offer on-trend choices. For many consumers, they are the first stop in their search for the perfect piece of furniture.

To help you make smarter sofa purchases, here is my buying checklist for finding that perfect upholstery piece:

1. FRAME CONSTRUCTION

A solid, hardwood frame, preferably kiln-dried (where the moisture is removed from the wood to prevent future warping) is optimal. Avoid frames made out of soft wood like pine or particle board, which aren’t sturdy enough for good furniture construction. Avoid frames that were put together with staples or glue. Look for metal screws and brackets, as well as wooden dowels and corner blocks.

2. SPRING SYSTEM

If the frame is the skeleton of the sofa, the spring system is the suspension. Look for sinuous springs spaced close together across the base of the sofa frame, which support the cushions above. If there are gaps in between the springs, the cushions are not going to sit right and will sag over time. Eight-way-hand-tied springs are premium quality for high-end furniture construction. Avoid poly webbing – these are bands that cross the seat and back, which are then attached to the frame to make a platform for the cushions. This is a less expensive method of support that, perhaps, works well for a dining chair, but is not strong enough for the extended expanse of a sofa or sectional.

3. CUSHIONS

High-resilient foam is the best filling for cushions. Avoid goose down filled with feathers, unless you are OK with having to fluff the cushions on a regular basis. Spring-down cushions, which have coiled springs within the foam padding, are another good type of seat cushion.

4. UPHOLSTERY FABRIC

One of the most important things to consider when choosing upholstery fabric is durability. This is determined by the rub count of a fabric – known as the Wyzenbeek Abrasion Test, which tests a fabric’s ability to withstand stress. The fabric is inserted into a machine that pulls it in different directions to measure how it holds up to wear and tear. The higher the rub count, the more durable the fabric. A high-performing fabric should have a rub count of about 50,000 rubs or more. Crypton, Sunbrella, and Inside Out fabrics, for instance, help prevent the penetration of stains in a material and allow for easy cleaning. Outdoor fabrics are being used for indoor applications, and some fabrics are even bleach cleanable.

5. FIT

When purchasing a sofa, make sure that the sofa contours to your body type. If your feet are dangling off the floor, chances are that the sofa is too deep for you. Taller people require extra deep seat cushions. Think: what is the main function of the sofa? A piece primarily used for TV viewing should have a higher back to allow for neck and head support.

6. DIMENSION

Measure twice, buy once. Does the size and shape of the sofa comfortably fit the layout of your space? Be mindful of the delivery challenges of your home.  If you live in an apartment, will the sofa need to be transported in an elevator? Do you have enough clearance to fit up staircases or through doorways? I have heard many horror stories of sofas having to be cut in half and then put back together in order to get into a tight space.

At Grunberger Interiors, I love taking the guesswork out of furniture buying and giving direction and support to my clients when making these important decisions. It is my objective to provide peace of mind and assure clients of the value they are getting when purchasing a well-made piece of upholstery.

I offer a variety of manufacturers at different price points to meet the needs of my clientele. Taylor King and Century Furniture are a couple of my favorite go-to brands when it comes to specifying upholstery – they offer good construction and great comfort, with beautiful styling options. My clients will typically sit on various sofas to experience their comfort and fit, in order to customize a piece that fits their taste and needs. Fabrics, wood finishes, and decorative elements (such as nail head and trim for throw pillows) are selected to complete the look.

A quality, customizable sofa or sectional doesn’t need to cost much more than the choices on offer at the trendy brand name stores – many of whom are selling overpriced upholstery with inferior quality. The superior construction, fit, and feel of a well-made sofa is a far better investment in the long run.

Next time you are in the market for a sofa or a sectional, don’t let a brand name fool you. Ask questions and examine the furniture piece carefully – don’t take a leap of faith that could result in having buyer’s remorse.  Make smart, considered choices rather than expensive mistakes.


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