How to Buy a Sofa


Buying upholstery is sometimes like a guessing game because much of the craftsmanship is hidden beneath the fabric.  Much like buying a car, many important features are out of sight.  The color and style may attract our attention, but our long term satisfaction will depend on how well it is made.  So how can you tell you are getting a good sofa?   Here are some tips to look for and ask about.

Good tailoring on the outside probably means good components on the inside.  Look for uniform padding and even straight lines.  Welt cording should be crisp, straight, and evenly applied.  Seams should be so tight that the thread is barely visible.  Fabric patterns should appear in the same place on each arm and in the center of each cushion.  Cushions should be snug fitting.

A good hardwood frame is the “skeleton” of your furniture.  Your sofa should have a frame of at least  1 ¼” thick kiln-dried hardwood.  Kiln-dried means that the moisture level of the lumber has been mechanically reduced to control warping and shrinking.  Hardwoods hold fasteners securely so joints will not loosen and fabric staples will not slip out.  Major joints should be double dowelled, reinforced with corner blocks, glued and either screwed or nailed in place.

Steel springs provide quality comfort.  Sinuous wire springs in seat backs and coil springs in the seats themselves are the standard for fine upholstery.  Your sofa should feature eight-way hand tied coil springs under the seat cushions.  There are other, less expensive ways to craft upholstery, but no other technique gives better support and comfort.   Test the springs by bouncing on the seat to check for squeaks and support.

The padding gives upholstered furniture its final shape and comfort.  Seat cushions should feature foam with a density of at least 1.8 lbs per cubic foot.  Dacron polyester blankets wrapped around the foam core add down-like softness, round the seat cushion edges, and give them a shapely “crown”.  You may have the option to add down or other luxurious materials to the tops of the cushions as well.   Beware of shredded foam in seat and back cushions.  It will compact and settle over time.

Every edge of the hardwood frame should be covered in padding.  Firmly explore the top of the back, the top of the arms, and the front of the arm.  You should not be able to clearly feel edges of the hardwood frame.

Selecting the fabric is largely personal.  It has to look good and feel good to you, and fit your lifestyle.  A quality upholstery manufacturer will have hundreds of beautiful fabrics to choose from in a wide range of prices.  Since so much fabric is needed to cover a sofa, the price of the fabric can have a big impact on the price of your sofa.

Information for this article was provided by Taylor King.  Sofas and upholstered furniture from Taylor King and other fine manufacturers are available through Decorating Den.

Call 636 244 1623 to make an appointment for a personal upholstery consultation.

Mention this article for SPECIAL PRICING on a new sofa from Taylor King.

originally published in St. Charles Women’s Journal Fall 2010


Leave a comment

Filed under Furniture, Published in Print

Using paint to define narrow space

Often, the key to a successful makeover is not a beautiful piece of furniture or the most complimentary shade of paint, but finding a way to utilize the space to its fullest. In the case of this  room, the space was a long and narrow living room with a front door that opened directly into the room and an alcove almost entirely composed of windows.

To make the most of this space, the designer split the room into three areas, each painted a different shade of grey: a seating area, an entertainment area, and the alcove which can serve as a foyer. This alcove has open space for mingling, with only a simple, round foyer table in the center of the floor.

The grey area rug, with silver highlights, is one of the few cool elements of the room. The warm, cream-colored sofa and lounge chairs in a sleek, modern design dominate the space, as do the many bright yellow and gold accents. Another common décor theme is the espresso wood, present in all of the wooden furniture in the room.

The window treatments also factor significantly into the new look of this room. The bare windows are now adorned with cream velvet drapery panels over a sheer, silk roman shade with a crossed pattern that is repeated in some of the golden throw pillows and the finials of the acrylic rod supporting the draperies.

The room extends into a space for more entertaining with a buffet for serving drinks and snacks (not pictured). The rich colors and luxurious fabrics come together to create one lavish, unified space to share with family and friends.

Room designed by Yelena Gerts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Featured Room Makeovers, Paint

Beat the heat

July’s featured room is the perfect place to beat the summer heat. The homeowners wanted a relaxing sunroom next to their new pool that they could share with their children and grandchildren. The bare bones of the room are the hard cement lanai and the geometric lines and angles of the screen enclosure, which resulted in a room devoid of softness.

To soften the look, the columns along the lanai were covered with ivory sheers, supported by durable and weatherproof PVC piping. The rest of the furniture and accessories are also sturdy enough to withstand the elements: from the warm, honey-colored wicker sofa and chairs to the black damask-print rug. The furniture is arranged to accommodate intimate conversation, but there is ample space for the whole family. The lime green seat cushions add a punch of vibrant color, but also blend will with the surrounding greenery – the homeowners’ live plants, which add a final personalized touch.

Room designed by Kathie Golson.

Leave a comment

Filed under Featured Room Makeovers

Variety of textures

This multipurpose sunroom is both bright and cozy, but what makes it really stand out is the varied, but complementary, textures throughout the room. Before the makeover, the room was almost a blank slate – with creamy yellow walls and marbled tile in a terra-cotta shade.

This neutral beginning provided the perfect backdrop for an explosion of color and texture. The most obvious example of textured décor is the rattan and wood sofa, chairs, and ottoman. They add to the warmth and earthiness of the room, but in a more contemporary look than traditional wicker. Nearly every element of the room has a different texture, including the bamboo screen separating this part of the room from a craft table and chairs (also partly bamboo), the woven fabrics in the furniture, the throw pillows in a variety of fabrics ranging from leather to beaded and embroidered, all the way down to the lamps and accessories.

Even the gauzy floor-to-ceiling draperies have texture. More importantly, however, the sheer buttery-toned fabric covering the windows softens the room and gives it privacy, but still allows enough sunlight in to satisfy the plants. The plants are right at home amidst the color palette of oranges, browns, and beiges, and the use of so many natural materials.

The furniture, particularly the ottoman and end tables have a more modern look, but with round edges, instead of the sharp angles generally associated with contemporary design. Any harsh angles would be jarring in a room meant to reflect the more organic shapes of the outdoors. Instead, the client’s contemporary tastes are reflected in the clean lines of the furniture and the simple geometric patterns in the fabrics and accessories. All of these elements come together to create a room with contemporary style and casual elegance that still satisfied the client’s desire for a warm and inviting gathering space.

Room designed by Kristy Falcone.

Leave a comment

Filed under Featured Room Makeovers, Furniture

Neutral with a splash of color

In this modern living room, the homeowners received a dramatic makeover with minimal color. The original space was narrow, awkward, and lacked architectural interest. The first major upgrade involved installing satin white crown molding to the ceiling to give the illusion of additional height, as well as visual appeal. The walls were painted a soft neutral tan to give the room a little bit of warmth without being overwhelming.

The clients wanted a Metro Chic space for watching TV and entertaining. To achieve this look, a color palette of mostly black and white was chosen to give the room a crisp, modern feel. While the sleek white leather couch anchors the seating arrangement of the room, an eclectic mix of accent chairs and dual-purpose black leather ottomans allows the clients to arrange the furniture to fit the occasion. Grommet panels in two coordinating black and white fabrics add texture, as well as privacy. White shag carpet and the two accent tables, in a nickel finish, continue the monochromatic look, as do the two large pieces of 3D art above the sofa, which feature engraved metal medallions.

The room is not completely devoid of color, however. Punches of red – in the swivel accent chair, textured pillows, and accessories – have been used sparingly throughout the room, but with maximum effect. The touch of color throughout the room ties it together and keeps the room from looking too plain or washed out. In this case, a little color really can go a long way.

Room designed by Barbara Elliott and Jennifer Ward Woods.

Leave a comment

Filed under Featured Room Makeovers

Mixing patterns in traditional design

Before this dramatic makeover, this room was used as an overflow for guests during large house parties, but the homeowners wanted to use the space for more structured, formal dinner parties in a southern plantation style. Changing the purpose of the room gave the homeowners an excuse to give the room a complete facelift.

The remodel began with installing the hardwood floors that the homeowner had always wanted, as well as new crown molding and trim in the entire room. There were already several pieces of beautiful mahogany furniture – a front chest and Philadelphia Highboy and Lowboy – which were used as an inspiration for the new pieces in the room. In the same, traditional style are a large Lortz pedestal table that seats up to 12 and a distressed buffet piece.

The most distinguishing features of the room are the many different patterns in the same color palette of green and tomato red. The inspiration for the color scheme of the room is the Aubusson area rug beneath the table in an intricate floral pattern. The plaid upholstered chairs provide a comfortable seat for multiple courses and hours of conversation. The same colors are picked up with less intensity in the linen draperies with a tropical bird pattern, framing white plantation shutters. The custom flower finials on the curtain rod were created to compliment the ornate metal parrot chandelier, which draws attention to the ceiling.

Many people think that wallpaper, as its name implies, is only for walls, but the subtle texture of the khaki grasscloth wallpaper on the ceiling adds more interest to the ceiling and contrasts well with the tomato red damask wallpaper. Several lamps add even more light and warmth to the room. Taken altogether, this dining room remains a formal setting but still represents the liveliness of the homeowners and the conversations around the table.

Room designed by Diana Apgar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Featured Room Makeovers

Updated look in historical home

The homeowner of this room was looking for a new start in a very old home. Parts of the home were built as early as the 1840s, and the homeowner was looking for a design that would reflect the historical character of the house while also bringing the room into the 21st century.

The biggest challenge was finding a way to arrange the furniture so that the room would seat three to four people comfortably, in spite of limited wall space, due to the prominent fireplace and a pair of French doors leading to the deck. The cabinets in the adjoining kitchen were already painted a bright red, so it was decided to continue that color scheme into the family room with two red microfiber chairs. They swivel easily to face the fireplace, the television, or the view through the French doors to the garden outside.

A large, chenille, braided rug adds more of the signature red to the room and also fits with the vintage look of the home. Other red elements include several lamps and other accessories, as well as the two different prints on the Roman shades on the windows and French doors.

The muted tan of the walls keeps the vividness of the red from overpowering the room, as do a variety of other, more neutral elements in the room. The ottoman, in a golden yellow fabric that is picked up in other details of the room, is a great multi-purpose piece because provides a comfy place to rest one’s feet but is also sturdy enough to serve as a coffee table. It makes a statement but does not take too much attention away from the rest of the room. The third chair, black and tan with just a hint of red piping, also adds functionality while maintaining balance.

All of the new pieces keep the room firmly grounded in the present without compromising the integrity of the past. The designer has given the client a look that is traditional without being outdated.

Room designed by Linda Edwards.

Leave a comment

Filed under Featured Room Makeovers