By Lisa M Smith
Family rooms are used daily. The upholstered furniture for this room may be the most important you will ever buy. If you are going to be sitting on it every day for 4-5 hours, it needs to be solid, well built and comfortable. Upholstered furniture is an investment. This is not the time for frugality. Once you get that perfect chair or sofa that fits you and your family, you won’t want to part with it. This is not a time for “I gotta have it now” and buy whatever appears on sale at your local furniture store or in a mail-order catalogue.
Take the time to sit in and test various pieces with different types of cushions. It is not so important that you test the exact piece you are buying but be comfortable with your selected manufacturer and the seat, arm and back heights, seat depths which are comfortable to you and the type of cushion you require. Buy only what fits your family and your needs. If you make the right selection you will be very happy with your upholstered furniture for many years.
Here are some necessary tips to help you make successful furniture selections.
• Determine what you really need (not want, but need).
How many people will the area serve at once?
Will anyone sit on the sofa or chair to read?
Do all of you watch TV together or separate?
Do you like to lounge, slump, or sit-up straight?
Do you eat or drink in the room?
Answering these types of questions will give you an idea of the types of upholstered furniture which would work for you.
• Knowing how you use the furniture will guide you to knowing what type of cushioning you will need. Down or down and feather combination cushions will allow you to sink into the sofa or chair. This will give you that luxurious gush factor. Foam cushions are much firmer and not as forgiving. There are foam and down combinations. Eight-way hand tied spring seat cushions will give you a long lasting comfortable seat. Try them all.
• Construction is important. Ask detailed questions or look at examples. If you are using the furniture on a daily basis the frame must be made from kiln dried hardwood. Particle board and plywood breaks, I have seen it from reputable name brand manufacturers. Glue and industrial staples are not the proper way to put together a wood frame if you want it to last. If cardboard is present in the furniture construction, run away or you are wasting your money.
• If someone will lie on the sofa you may want to have low upholstered arms to help cushion their head. You may need a deeper seat or a big ottoman depending on how people sit.
• When it comes to food and drinks your realistic assessment of how messy your family is or isn’t will guide you on fabric selection. Today there are some well engineered fabrics such as Crypton ® that perform very well (and look good) when food or liquids are present. A busy pattern can hide lots of mishaps. Leather furniture and pets do not mix. No matter what fabric you select, nothing is 100% kid or animal proof.
• One very important factor to consider on every furniture purchase is will it physically fit in the room as well as through the entrance door? I have heard numerous stories about people buying furniture and when it arrived, the delivery people couldn’t get it in. Once I had a large sofa hauled up the side of a condo building because it was too large to fit in the freight elevator, but I knew this ahead of time and made sure it would fit through the window. Check your dimensions.
If you follow these tips you will make good upholstered furniture selections. However most people become stumped at fabric selection when it comes to color or pattern. This need not be a huge cause of frustration, if you buy the right sofa or chair. Colors change and you may move to a different home, having bought the right upholstered pieces means all you have to do is recover them. A good sofa or chair can last twenty or more years, it should. Select a fabric that is appropriate for the interior design scheme you are working towards today. Good furniture is easy to reupholster. There is no shame in reupholstering old pieces because you changed your design scheme or location. Successful interior designers do this all the time. So go ahead if you want that new turquoise cut velvet damask from Osborne & Little, go for it.
In the long run it is much better on your wallet to spend your money right the first time. Be wise and do some research. Read magazines such as Elle Décor, Domino, Metropolitan Home, House & Garden, etc. to learn what items really cost. Ask an interior designer to take you to a showroom. Sit on samples, your butt and back will know what works. Good furniture will last. Furniture made from plywood or particleboard will not. Good construction matters. Taking the extra time to make a smart purchase will help to make it a happy one.
About the Author
Lisa M. Smith is an interior designer and owner of Interior Design Factory, Ltd. She specializes in creating beautiful and inviting residential interiors that are timeless and look collected, not like a showroom. Real design for real people. She produces individualized results using creative solutions that are liveable and tell a story. Good design is for everyone and available in every budget.