You know I love a beautiful, non-boring sofa. And with so many great deals on sofas out there, why buy the more expensive sofa when there’s a cheaper lookalike?
Here’s a little #realtalk from your designer friend Lesley.
Cheap sofas are cheaply made, and being cheap always ends up being expensive in the long run!
Quality is about so much more than looks, and what’s inside a sofa is what determines the price. That’s why two nearly identical-looking sofas (in photos, at least) can vary so much in cost. They might look the same in photos, but trust me, your butt and back can tell the difference.
I recently saw an Instagram post from a major home shelter magazine that featured two beautiful velvet sofas that looked quite similar. The question posed to their followers was, “Which is more expensive?“
So which sofa is more expensive?
The big reveal was, in fact, that one of the sofas only looked expensive but actually cost less than $1000. And the underlying message was clearly intended to imply that there’s no need to pay more when a lower-priced sofa looks exactly the same.
You guysssss. While yes, these two sofas may look comparable in photos, you cannot possibly tell from a photo how good the quality is! And your poor butt is NOT going to like sitting on a sofa that is cheaply made overseas from poor-quality materials in mass quantities. It’s easy to make something look good in a picture, but let me tell you a “sit test” will reveal how great (or rather, terrible) the construction and quality are.
What should you look for in a sofa?
I’m the first to tell you that choosing a sofa that feels awesome to you is the most important factor. Go shopping. Sit on a lot of couches. Get to know what you like – tight back, or loose back cushions? Firm foam cushions, or squishy down and feather wrap? Three individual seat cushions, or one long bench-style cushion?
If you wanna get technical about sofa stuff,
here are 3 important things to learn about before you go shopping (and impress the heck out of your friends and family!):
- The Frame. The best quality sofas have frames constructed of kiln-dried hardwood, which retains its shape and remains stable for a long time. The joints are glued, dowelled, and screwed with reinforced corners. If a sofa is made of plywood or particleboard and is held together with staples, be wary.
- The Seating Support. Eight-way hand-tied springs and sinuous springs are the bomb-diggity for comfort and support. Web suspension isn’t as strong or sturdy on its own, and isn’t what I recommend.
- The Filling. You’ll likely notice most sofa cushions are filled with high-density polyurethane. (FYI, this is the good stuff you want to look out for! The higher the density, the firmer the cushion will be.) This foam can be wrapped in other materials like cotton, Dacron, or even super plush down feathers.
So, when it comes to sofas and upholstered seating,
When should you splurge and when should you save?
On upholstered furniture you’ll use often like your sofa, desk chair, and dining chairs, pony up and invest in the best quality you can afford. When you sit somewhere daily, you want it to be well-made, comfortable, and built to last.
And where to save? On upholstered furniture you won’t sit on frequently, like the bench at the foot of your bed, a chair in the entryway, or a living room accent chair that doesn’t see much action.
Don’t get duped by pretty sofa photos! Put your butt on that sofa and really put it to the test before you purchase. Suddenly, that cheap $1000 sofa doesn’t seem like such a great value any more.
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If you’ve recently shopped for a sofa, I can bet you got pretty overwhelmed with all the decision-making. Sofa, or sectional? A tight upholstered back, or loose cushions? Do you need a matching ottoman? Leather, or fabric? Do you need performance fabric for a sofa? What type of arm should it have? What kind of legs, and how high? Or maybe a skirt?
“Performance fabric” is one of those buzzwords floating around, but unless you know exactly what that means, it’s hard to know if it’s something you really need or a fancy marketing gimmick. Here’s the down and dirty on what performance fabrics are, and if you need ’em:
Can’t view the embedded video above? Click here. Prefer to read? Transcript is below.
Hey everyone, I’m Lesley Myrick – your interior design partner-in-crime to help you Bust Out Of Boring. Welcome to Episode 5:
Do You Need Performance Fabric for a Sofa?
Aah! I don’t know! We’re about to find out today.
We talked a little bit last week about my epic sofa failure and how getting a sofa with vinyl was not a good choice. It just deteriorated after a few years.
But the conversation I want to have today is about specific fabrics for a sofa – mainly, do you need Performance fabric for a sofa?
Now, you might not be familiar with the term “performance”.
Basically, Performance fabric is the kind of stuff that was used in restaurants and hospitals and – you know – fabric that’s plastic-y and resists stains and dirt and you can be pretty rough to it and it still holds up.
I will have you know that things have come a long, long way since then and there’s lots of fabrics available on the residential market that are “Performance”, meaning they have those stain-repellent qualities, they have treatments done to them and even woven into them that’s going to make them easy to clean, resistant to stains, really durable, but it’s not that old, stiff, commercial fabric you might be thinking of.
Now, do you need it for a sofa?
The short answer is, no – but yes.
I think Performance fabrics are an awesome option for a sofa in two really specific instances. The first one is if you have kids or pets (because those things make messes!) and the second is if you want a light-colored sofa, like a light linen color, white, a light grey, or something like that.
I see all these really cute inexpensive sofas on the market that are upholstered in beige linen or grey linen and, girlfriend, you pour one little bit of water or, heaven forbid, a little bit of red wine on that and you’re toast.
That sofa is never going to look like it did when it came to your home for the first time.
The benefits of performance fabrics are
that when you spill red wine on them, on a good performance fabric that stuff will bead up and roll right off.
Now, it doesn’t mean you can be super mean to them and just throw crap all over them! But it buys you time to clean them properly and it resists stains and it’s going to work really well.
So having little kids, having small pets or big pets, I think it’s a great great idea.
Think about that plastic sheeting on grandma’s couch back in the day. Grandma’s couch probably did need plastic sheeting because that fabric was way too delicate. But now, you don’t need itg – you can just get a really great fabric on your sofa and it kinda has the plastic secretly built in to the fibers which makes it super, super durable.
The other time you’re going to want a performance fabric specifically is if you’re doing a very light color.
A white couch – guys, you can do a white couch! If it’s your dream to have this pristine white couch you can actually do it with a performance fabric and get a really awesome result and have something that’s really going to serve you and function well, even though it’s white.
I show clients samples and they look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I’m proposing something that’s a really light color for upholstery, but with the right material it’s a really, really great fit for a project.
Now, I will say –
I mentioned last week that we just got our new sectional and I’ve got kids, and those kids can be dirty, and we did not do a performance fabric.
I did a teal sofa (obviously – I love teal!) and I didn’t like the options that were available in performance fabric in that color. So we chose to do a beautiful soft, silky velvet fabric. We also know how to clean it properly, we know it’s a darker color so it’s a bit more forgiving, and the kids now know they do NOT eat on our new sofa!
So that’s one way we’ve made it work.
But overall, do I recommend doing a performance fabric for a sofa? Yes.
It is just something that’s going to make your life a heck of a lot easier. You won’t be thinking and worrying about all the things spilling on your sofa, all that kind of stuff. I think it’s a worthy investment to look into it.
A lot of ready-made sofas have the option of performance but not that many. But if you look to a company that does custom, or semi-custom usually they’re starting to roll out some really great lines of fabric that do have performance characteristics like Crypton or Teflon. Sometimes the fabric is treated on top or underneath (sometimes both), and other times it’s actually woven into the fibers so they’re stain and soil repellant all the way through.
So – YES to performance fabrics if you want a sofa that’s going to last and look great and be easy to clean.
But here’s something to note…
I’ve heard stories of people complaining because they had a performance fabric and their sofa got dirty. Well yeah – you still have to clean it if anything happens to it and you spill on it! It’s not the plastic-covered sofas from the 70s you might remember your parents or grandparents having. It is still fabric, it is still a fiber with little pores that you can get stuff in – but it’s a lot easier to clean, maintain, and keep looking beautiful if you do invest in a performance fabric.
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My first apartment boasted a hand-me-down beige plaid sofa from my grandparents, a structurally unstable bed purchased from IKEA, and was shared with my suuuuper messy ex-boyfriend. As an interior designer and neat-freak, let’s just say these were not my ideal living conditions.
I never thought I’d be jealous of two boys under the age of 10, but let me tell you, their mom hired me create a Design Kit for the coolest kids playroom that puts my first apartment to shame. This spare bedroom was a majorly under-utilized space that needed to become a playroom, video game hangout, homework space, and guest room all in one.
An awesome orange sleeper sectional is the bold and badass centerpiece of the room, and it’s where the boys and their friends will get comfy to play video games (and wrestle and build forts and stuff). We swapped the totally impractical double closet doors for a pair of curtain panels mounted on a tension rod which freed up the floor space to add a hip industrial desk big enough for both kids to share. And if they can’t share, there’s a laptop table for some extra work space.
The boys are also getting a major bedroom and bathroom makeover too, in their favorite team’s colors of orange and grey. I’m not a fan of literal theme rooms (no sports logos here!) but taking inspiration from the colors and styles of a favorite sports team, book, or movie is an awesome starting point when designing a space for kids.
Should you reupholster – or not? A couple of years ago I chose to reupholster a loveseat for my master bedroom, thinking it would be a delightfully inexpensive way to transform a basic piece of furniture into something badass. Well, that loveseat definitely got a badass transformation – but it wasn’t inexpensive!
There’s a lot I’ve learned about design choices whether it’s been in design school, while working for other designers, while running my own interior design firm, and while designing my own home. Here’s what I’ve learned (and what I wish I’d known) about deciding whether or not to reupholster a piece of furniture:
Can’t view the embedded video above? Click here. Prefer to read? Transcript is below.
Hey everyone, Lesley Myrick here – interior stylist and owner of Lesley Myrick Art + Design where we create some pretty awesome interiors with an offbeat edge.
I want to talk to you today about reupholstering,
and whether or not it’s a good idea to reupholster an existing chair, sofa, loveseat, whatever it might be. So here’s the thing with reupholstering. People often think it’s gonna be less expensive than just getting a new piece.
Sometimes it is, but not always.
I encountered this in my own home working on a project. We bought this cool vintage loveseat and thought it would be a fairly affordable project to reupholster it. What blew me away is that by the time we paid for the loveseat, we bought fabric for it, bought foam, paid an upholsterer to do a great job, all these things started to add up and before I knew it my “inexpensive” loveseat project cost more than a new one probably would have.
So here’s my thoughts on whether or not to reupholster something:
If you have a piece of furniture that is quality-made, you love the form, it’s comfortable, it’s beautiful – it’s probably going to be worth the investment to you to have it reupholstered versus letting it go and trying to find something comparable brand-new.
If you have a piece of furniture that has a story to it, that has history, or there’s something about it you connect with whether it’s just how it looks or how it feels to you, I think that is a great opportunity to take something existing and to give it new life with new fabric.
However if you think reupholstery is just going to be the less expensive option, it isn’t always. On something simple like a dining chair where you’re reupholstering the seat, that’s an easy, affordable project and that’s one I recommend my clients do a lot if they already have great dining chairs and the fabric just needs a little refresh.
But when it comes to a larger piece of upholstery like a sofa, loveseat, or big chair,
don’t do it because you think it’s going to be affordable. Do it because you love the piece and you want to transform it and give it new life.
So there you go. A few quick thoughts about reupholstering – or not!