The sofa, davenport, divan, chesterfield, the couch…call it what you may, but this large upholstered lounge is the “Big Daddy,” “The Diva,” “The Patriarch” of the family room and the piece of furniture all the other furniture wants to hang around.
Note: Any designer worth her weight knows the preferred industry term is “sofa;” however, the proper term for a piece of furniture on which one could sit or lie is a “couch.” A sofa is a couch with arms and back completely upholstered. Hmm, they say potato and we still say sofa!
Sofas are a big investment with many choices to be made and mistakes are costly. Making the right choices and asking the smart questions takes “Sofa Savvy.” Start by deciding the sofa’s role in your “approved” room design. Is it the little black dress you can wear over and over by changing the accessories? Or is it the unforgettable red dress, a statement piece that makes the room? Then, advise your client accordingly on the division of funds, between sofa style and sofa substance…
In the cycle of trends, every decade or so the sofa stylings will be spot lit with key features defining the trend and giving a cutting edge sofa “15 minutes of fame,” plus an expiration date! Go ahead and give them that TRENDY room for a 3-4 year run…That is what “Flores” is for! When a classic, timeless sofa design is the right choice, make the investment in a good piece.
The quality sofa has a balanced, kiln-dried hardwood frame. The joints are double doweled and the corner blocks are both glued and screwed, and the legs extend from the frame. The 8-way hand-tied spring coils are “dropped” into the core of the seat cushions, then encased in foam and wrapped with a 50/50 blend of poly and ester and duck down. Remember, the cushion and frame construction are the key to the sofas comfort and longevity.
When a customized sofa is necessary, a checklist of choices will need to be made, starting with the frame style. Over the years, the most popular sofa styles have gone through many variations and modifications, but the vast majority of sofas have morphed out of one of three styles:
- The Camelback: a sofa with one or more humps along the back
- The Chesterfield: a sofa with the back and the arms at the same height
- The Club: any one of a variety of sofas with arms at a lower level than the back.
These are the “bones” you build on to determine your style. All of these sofas can be traditional OR contemporary depending on the parts you pick and the proportions of the profile.
For a comfortable sit, know your clients leg room needs. Try the “40/44 Rule,” by adding a seat height of 16” to the seat depth of 24” that equals 40” for short legs and a seat height of 20 with a 24” depth equaling 44” for long legs.
Check List Choices:
Arm Style Cushion Placement Cushion Style
Leg Style Skirt Style/placement Base Style
Back Style Trim/nails/welt application Throw Pillows
The arm helps define the sofa style, and if it’s low and flat it can be another perch in the room. Do confirm how the sofa will be used with your client—is it more guest seating or a place for naps. Certain arms are classic like the “rolled” arm or “Lawson” arm, but move in and out of style. Others are timeless, like the “English” arm on a tight back sofa with a serpentine base and turned front legs.
Cushions are very important to style and sofa maintenance. For example, a “T-Cushion” on the seat and back suggest a more traditional look. The “Box Cushion” with a knife edge is more informal than a box with welted seams. Fitted back cushions can go either way; a cushionless “tight back” tends to be more traditional. Also, you want to avoid “scatter back pillows” on large pieces, like a sectional… it’s just a big mess all the time!
The base band and leg or skirt style is another area that changes with the styles. Exposed wooden legs are timeless on many classic vintage sofas and mid-century modern pieces. Currently, exposed wooden legs are very popular with all styles, with turned legs on the more traditional pieces. The normally traditional sofa skirt is now trending on transitional pieces with the “waterfall” or “dressmaker” skirt, creating the slipcover look!
As you know, nail heads are everywhere right now, way more than just a bottom edge or following the shape of a rolled arm. Now it’s an 8” high nail head design on a sofa band, or covering the side or back of a sofa. Very dramatic and unforgettable, it could be the “red dress” so make sure this trend is worth it!
Lastly is the fabric choice. Make sure you edit the choices before you show your client. Only bring fabric that is appropriate for the sofa style, fabric with a high thread count and 25,000-30,000 rubs. Beware of linen blends and the stretch factor, add backing to tweeds and watch the scale of big prints on small sofas. The more you know how your client will use their sofa, the better you can advise them, so lots of Q&A before you start looking.
There is no denying the importance of the sofa’s role in a home. It occupies a prime location in the room and beckons you toward it with open arms. These days at Design Alliance we are loving sofas and sectionals. Have you seen all our new places to perch or nap in the showroom? All of the manufacturers seen here and more were handpicked by DA for their quality, diverse styling and custom programs in a full range of price points. Come see, sit on and feel what we have available. Finding or creating the perfect sofa that serves your clients’ needs can be a daunting task, but if you succeed, you will have a client for life!