On the surface, picking a sofa may seem simple – you go to a shop, pick what seems right and have it delivered to you. However, there’s more to it than that, as I personally found out when trying to select a sofa for my new home. It’s certainly not rocket science in all cases, but if you need help choosing a sofa, you’re reading the right article.
As an element of the interior, the sofa is very important, as the properly chosen one can accentuate your style, or simply blend in if that’s what you’re going for. However, a poor choice can quite often break a room, as the inappropriate settee stands out too much to be ignored. To avoid breaking rooms and breaking the bank for costly replacement, read my own experience below.
How my search for the proper sofa began
I went to three different shops, trying to get an idea and some advice on choosing a sofa for the home I just moved into. Before I started, I didn’t really have much of a clear idea what I should be looking for. I may have years of experience in a cleaning company, and I know about the many types of materials, which all need different care. But from a personal point of view, sofas didn’t seem all that different.
So when I walked into the first two shops I had scoped out online, I didn’t really learn much. The consultants, while competent, were not very into selling me the right sofa or helping me figure out what it is. They only asked me questions that, looking back, seem all too shallow and do not cover my unique situation. Examples would be “how many seats should it have?” or “what colour do you want it in?” which were all fine and dandy.
Normally, I would be alright with that, but my gut feeling told me there was something missing. More or less, the salespeople were simply guiding me towards their current special offers. Most of them did not match what I was truly looking for, and I didn’t enjoy the interaction of being pushed to buy something I might not like.
Also, I knew that while I might not be picky with furniture, my family definitely is. Thus, my search continued, after I’d spent about 15-20 minutes in each shop. But at the third store I visited, things were very different.
Now, I have to specify that at the first two shops, there was an overwhelming selection of sofas and other furniture. It was almost as much of a headache as trying to select a sofa online, where it’s like walking into 100 shops at once. Well, the third store was not as large, and the selection was not as grand, yet the salesperson there inspired me to write this article.
From the get go, the man was very different in his approach, more courteous and very thorough in his questioning than the previous people. I enjoyed the conversation, and his questions didn’t feel like he was reading from a teleprompter. He really knew how to make me think about what I’m looking for, and how he can help me find it.
I’ll briefly relay the gist of our conversation below:
What room will you be placing the sofa in?
At first, I felt confused, as most people generally buy a sofa for the living room, and it didn’t seem important to me back then. But the man explained that there’s a different style of sofa for every room sofas are used in. He made me understand that in terms of sofa types, there is a lot of variety for a good reason.
For example, if you want to buy a sofa for a TV room, you should choose one with very soft cushions that bend easily for more comfort. The same applies if you have a family that enjoys reading on the sofa, or simply lying down to nap often. A feather filling sofa is ideal for this, as the pillows practically allow you to sink right in.
If you’re getting a sofa for the children’s room, you want a fabric that’s sturdy and easy to clean. Steer clear of velvet, linen and silk, and go towards polyester or cotton for any upholstery used by the little ones. If you were wondering why, your kids will show you in practically no time at all.
In case you’re getting a sofa for a low-use room, or for the office, you are looking for durable and firm material. A synthetic sofa with foam filling will be perfect for the leisure room, as it will endure daily use without much cleaning effort. If you are a manager, and want your sofa to be an extension of your authority, a luxury material settee will work best.
Will you be using the sofa yourself, or will it be in a rental property?
I’d never been asked this question, and it did catch me off-guard at first. I don’t have tenants of my own, but if I did, I certainly wouldn’t be buying them an expensive sofa. I’m not expecting someone to care for my furniture the same way I do, and most people shouldn’t. I don’t want to generalise people, but it seems responsibility is a task easily skipped these days.
If you are a landlord or lady, I suggest buying an affordable sofa made of material that’s easy to clean. Going for a synthetic sofa with enough comfort and a foam filling will be the reasonable option. That said, hopefully you’re lucky with your tenants, as some rentals have their furniture left in a real state post-tenancy.
Do you have children and/or pets?
I knew why he was asking me this one, as I explain this to all our customers over the phone every day. When children or pets are in a property, the rate of maintaining your sofas is higher due to increased traffic and spillages. By “maintain” I mean how often you hoover it, and how often you have to have it professionally cleaned.
If you’ve been following our blog or using our services, you know that sofas should be hoovered once a week, and cleaned at least once every 6 months. However, when you factor in kids, pets and their accidents, the rate doubles or even triples. So if you have a big family, consider a sofa that’s sturdy and not easily worn.
How big is your family?
This partially expands on the previous question, since the more people you are at home, the faster the fabric will wear out. And when it’s worn, it’s easily torn, which needs repairing sooner or later. Your options for sofa repair are reupholstering or replacement, which cost an arm and a leg, so think before you buy.
If you have a big family, even if there are no pets, the furniture is getting used by more people, and getting worn faster. Therefore, it would be wise to invest in a sofa that’s light on the budget and easy to maintain, as opposed to a velvet or silk sofa. And vice versa, if you live alone or the kids moved out long ago, you can safely buy a deluxe sofa. However, always be mindful of the last thing we spoke about with the salesperson:
What does the cleaning label say?
Based on my years of experience in a professional carpet and sofa cleaning company, about 90% of our customers don’t know what it says. Normally, that’s all fine and dandy, as most people don’t clean their sofas every day or even every month. However, when you do need it cleaned, always read the label before you call a cleaning company.
The reason is that there’s a lot of sofa materials (more on that below), and not all of them can be cleaned in the same way. Some can withstand high water temperature, others need a gentle touch, and a few can only be spot cleaned. Unfortunately, just knowing the type of fabric is not enough, as sofa materials usually have a finish in a different material. Your e.g. polyester sofa could have a velvety finish, which may alter its cleaning manual significantly.
To be fair, most cleaning instruction labels are vague, saying “professional cleaning only”. What the manufacturers mean by that is not to apply random products on your sofas when you have stains. Even if all you want is advice, always call professional sofa cleaners when there’s a problem to solve.
If per chance there is no label attached to your sofa, not all is lost. If you remember where you bought it from, check if you can find it on their website. For most manufacturers, there is at least a few words, or a whole guide, on the page of any sofa.
Now, before I tell you all about what I chose and why, let me tell you about…
What are the types of sofa materials?
Below, you can briefly read about the differences between upholstery types, and their benefits and downsides.
What’s commonly known as polyester is actually a blend of synthetic fibres, which are soft and easy to maintain. They can be found in many colours, and the right touch can make them fit any interior.
Their major upside is how simple they are to clean, as they have innate stain resistance and are quick to dry. Their major downside is that they have low resistance to heat, and tend to soak up grease. The former also makes them flammable, so you may need to reapply fire retardant every few years.
We recommend polyester sofas in the living room, or in the children’s bedroom, due to being easy to clean. We don’t endorse polyester in the dining area, where it is highly likely to get marked by sauce or oil.
Leather can easily be described with a few words: style and wealth. The most expensive furniture on any market is either velvet, alcàntara, or leather. It is a luxury material, and it can endure for many years if you look after it well. Most types of leather also do not absorb spillages, but this may vary based on the exact material, and what was spilled.
But on the other hand, the main thing about luxury is that not everyone can afford it. Leather settees are higher priced, both to purchase and to maintain, and they also fade in the sun. Additionally, they tend to easily scratch or crack, which can require costly repairing. And last but not least, extended use in hotter periods can cause discomfort and sweat marks.
Ideally, this type of sofa belongs in the living room or in a master bedroom. Take care to keep it away from windows, or purchase blackout curtains, as leather is predisposed to fading quicker than most materials.
Faux leather, also known as leatherette or fake leather, is synthetic fabric made to resemble leather. It’s just as elegant and enduring, but at a much lower price for more or less the same feeling. It has the added benefit of being UV resistant, a property real leather lacks.
However, faux leather is very easily torn or pierced, so it’s not ideal for pet owners or big families. It also doesn’t shine like real leather does, nor does it have the same fragrance. And finally, it’s less breathable than genuine leather, so it tends to develop a smell with frequent use.
Artificial leather is best suited to a big and sunny living room, as the material can take the UV exposure. What it is not suitable for is a nursery, or a property with animals that like jumping on upholstery, as they may accidentally scratch it.
Suede is the best of many worlds, as it’s both easy to care for and light on your budget. What is more, people with suede sofas own the style of leather and comfort of fabric all in one. Truly, suede is the jack of all trades when it comes to settee materials.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as suede’s softness also makes it less enduring to wear and tear. In fact, suede is prone to damage rather easily, so you need to be careful with your upholstery. And while it may have the style of leather, it does not have its sturdiness, nor its stain resistance. In fact, if you have a suede sofa, we recommend applying Scotchgard regularly – trust us, you need it.
Suede sofas are perfect for the small family, and work well in any room you can fit a sofa in. They’re not the best choice for a big family or for pet owners, where the sofa gets more use and is more likely to be scratched.
Linen is frequently used because of how smooth and comfortable it is to sit down on. In fact, linen might be the most convenient option for a TV room sofa. Also, it’s not that high in pricing!
However, linen is also a tender natural fabric, meaning it’s more prone to wear and tear, especially when exposed to sunlight for too long. It is also, regrettably, rather absorbent, and stains are quite hard to remove if left to set in. And its last downside is how easily it wears out through usage.
Linen is ideal for a lounge, or for a master bedroom, where you can comfortably lie down to watch TV. It is not a good choice for the dining room, as it may easily be soiled and ruined. Linen is a poor choice if you don’t have a way to shield it from sunlight, or you have messy children.
Cotton is the most durable natural fabric, and it doesn’t trade comfort for that. It’s easy to clean, simple to look after, and it can serve you a long time with the right measures. However, it has much the same downsides as linen regarding sunlight and staining. It’s almost as quickly worn, and it wrinkles easily.
Be careful where you place cotton, as sunlight will ruin it if you don’t have blackout curtains. I personally don’t recommend it for a large family as the sofa material does not handle regular use well. Yet if you live alone or with a partner, cotton is a budget investment that will pay off in the long run.
When you don’t want leather, but want to show off your extravagant lifestyle, you buy a velvet sofa. The many types of velvet all have one thing in common – they don’t fade through sunlight exposure. It is by far one of the most pleasing to look at and sit on, and you can barely tell it’s synthetic.
However, just because the colour does not fade in the sun, does not mean the fibre can withstand it forever. Also, velvet sofas tend to work sort of like any carpet does, in that they are dust magnets. This means you need to care for it a bit more than you would a normal sofa, and in terms of care, it’s tricky at best. Make sure you read the cleaning label before you call a cleaning company, because not all types of velvet can be cleaned the same way.
I’d like to say that after my time at the third shop, I managed to successfully choose a dark grey suede sofa for my living room. With my newfound knowledge, I also had a good time helping my parents decide on a light linen sofa for their TV room. If you would like help cleaning the sofa you chose, or need free advice, call your local cleaning company ProLux.