By Melinda Collins
Whether you want to call it a sofa, settee, divan, couch or davenport, what is non-negotiable is the importance of finding a good one.
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, couch quality is much more than skin deep. The frame, joinery, springs and fillings also play a big role in how long the couch will last and how much enjoyment you will get from it in that time.
Here are some tips to find a couch that is cool, comfortable and classy.
If your couch is a high traffic area, it requires durable fabric. Synthetic micro-fibre is the winner in terms of durability. It can mimic most fabrics and is stain resistant. Linen and cotton come in a close second – while they can be treated for stain resistance, they are still not as durable or washable as synthetics.
Wools and leathers are aesthetically pleasing and strong, but expensive. Blends of natural and synthetic and natural fibres tend to pill within a year. Silk is sleek but fragile and best only used in low traffic situations.
Tip: Fabrics with patterns woven in generally wear better than those with patterns printed on. Look out for loose weaves in cotton and linen as these can snag. Many stores offer fabric swatches. Try these where the sofa will go, in both natural and artificial light and wait a few days before making a decision.
Fillings can make or break a couch. Polyurethane foam cushion filling is a low cost and easy-care cushion filling.
When you get into the more durable, high density fillings, they can be hard and uncomfortable. However, softer, low-density foam deteriorates faster with regular use.
High-resilient (HR) foam is slightly more costly, but more comfortable and long lasting. Polyester fibre is also cheaper, but it flattens quickly. A mix of goose and duck feather as a filling is comfortable, but they can clump.
A high end option of goose down (the bird’s soft undercoat) mixed with feathers is deliciously plump, but expensive and high maintenance, with cushions that need regular fluffing. A cheaper option is a down-polyfiber blend, but again this flattens quickly.
Tip: The most promising two options for comfort and a reasonable price are HR foam in a layer of down or conventional foam wrapped in a polyester batting. Jump online and check out reviews before purchasing.
When it comes to sofas, a sturdy frame means long lasting. When looking at timber framed sofas, soft timbers such as pine, tend to be lower in price however, they are more inclined to warp or lose structural stability after five years. Hardwoods, such as oak or beech, are much more durable.
Tip: Particleboard, plastic or metal frames should be avoided as they tend to warp or crack. Sofa legs should be well attached to the framing using screws or dowels, but never with glue alone.
Couches are predominantly held together using serpentine springs, which are wires twisted together for strong support. While they certainly provide this support, if the metal isn’t heavy, they can sag over time. Expensive sofas are often built using eight-way hand tied springs which are comfortable, but costly. Couches with just webbing or mesh instead of springs tend to be uncomfortable and flimsy.
Tip: Feel the springs through the upholstery. They should be firm and close together. Sit down firmly on the outside edge of a couch. If it creaks or groans, the springs are likely incorrectly placed or hitting the frame.
When a frame is connected with wooden dowels (pegs), double wooden dowels, wooden corner blocks, metal screws or brackets, you can safely assume it is solidly constructed.
Tip: Don’t go near sofas which are held together by staples, nails or glue alone, but these products are OK as extra reinforcement.