Sofas 101: Designer Oakville

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Vanda Albuquerque

Vanda Albuquerque

Located in Oakville, Ontario, Vanda Albuquerque, owner and lead designer of Designed for Comfort & Style, has a unique edge in the interior design and decorating industry. As a Certified Interior Decorator & Designer, coupled with years of experience in Marketing and Project Management, Vanda brings an extensive educational and experiential background that is rarely found in this industry.

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Sofa 101

Sofa 101

Sofas – before you buy or reupholster check out these tips

Buying a new sofa or reupholstering it is a big decision – you may chuckle, while I am perfectly serious.  Not only is cost an issue for both options, there are questions relating to design, construction, fabric versus leather, colour, size, style and most of all comfort.  If the truth be told, I spent more time and energy researching these sofa options than I did itemizing all the must haves on my list for a recent car purchase……priorities, priorities.

Researching the various attributes of a new sofa meant that I had to plonk my derriere, on countless sofas.  And I even managed to sweet-talk a few friends and family members to accompany me on these outings to confirm my decision. I successfully convinced them that their much needed ‘bum’ comfort was quite necessary to consider all the various shapes and bum sizes this sofa will have to accommodate at one time or another in its life in my home.  Ultimately though, and I didn’t dare let them know that it was my derriere that would determine which sofa made the short list and would ultimately get purchased for my family room.

So, before I went sofa/chesterfield shopping, I made some enquiries from a few upholstery shops in my area about reupholstering the existing sofas in my home.  I asked them if it was worth saving the much loved, well-worn sofas or was I better off putting the money towards new ones.  Here are some valuable tips that I gleaned from my conversations with these upholstery experts……….

Firstly, I recommend that you check out a few upholstery shops in your area before you shell out any money on a reupholstering project. Ask if they will come to your home and examine your sofa to see if it can withstand the process.  If your sofa squeaks a lot (it means the clips that attach the springs to the frame need to be replaced).  If springs are popping up, then the sofa must be stripped to the frame to fix them.  This can be a costly proposition especially if the frame is quite wobbly (frame joints are loose and require re-gluing or reinforcement – major safety issues that may not be worth fixing).

On the other hand, reupholstering can extend the life of a sofa that is in relatively good condition. If  the arms and body were originally overstuffed and too big for the space, an upholsterer with exacting standards and fair pricing can transform your old sofa or Chesterfield and make it more sleek, stylish and retain its comfort factor.  Tufting the sofa back or creating loose cushions for an originally tight back sofa can update the look.  A traditional styled sofa with a skirt can be transformed to a more contemporary style by removing the skirt and exposing more stylized wooden legs in a finish of your choice.  A new fabric choice can replace leather or vice-versa; solid versus patterned fabric; tufting (with or without buttons); tight back versus loose cushions can also transform the overall look and feel of a sofa or Chesterfield. You can opt for firmer or softer seating by choosing a level of foam or a combination of foam and down that meets with your bum needs.  All in all, your decision to go to the reupholstering route will depend primarily on the condition of your sofa. Just remember that style aside you shouldn’t get talked into restoring an unsafe sofa.  It could cost thousands of dollars to fix and may not survive daily wear and tear too well.

Over Stuffed Sofa

Over Stuffed Sofa

Purchasing a sofa on the other hand begs the question what looks best where?  As part of my reading research, I came across an article by Colin & Justin (hosts of HGTV’s Colin & Justin’s Home Heist Style Guide) in the Saturday Star where they itemized very well the necessary things we should consider before buying the sofa or Chesterfield of our dreams.

Style-wise a clean-lined tuxedo sofa where the arms and back are arranged at the same height will appeal to both traditionalists and modernists, while overstuffed, rolled arms with an oversized softer body attracts those who like a more country-style look.  A camel-back or antique sofa with Queen Ann feet generally features a tight back and bench seat and can appeal to the traditionalist as well.  I am sure you’ve noticed the sofa offerings today feature a slimmer arm with variations like a slope or squared off arm.  Feet on these sofas are generally visible and can be purchased in a finish of your choice – espresso, java, mahogany, etc.  Keep in mind that sofas come in various widths and lengths and they can be custom made too.  Measure your room and keep in mind that an oversized, overstuffed sofa may feel comfortable.  However, it may just be too large for the room. It then definitely becomes the elephant in the room.  Space permitting, a sectional or L-shaped sofa can not only provide seating, it can also be used as a room divider.  Know which end the corner piece will turn if you have other pieces of furniture to accommodate.

Okay, so with all the various retail stores you have at your beck and call, here are some tips that I read about which I’m sharing with you.  First off, you must arm yourself with a tape measure and keep these points in mind before and during your sofa shopping trips…..

–       Measure the room and draw a layout or two and make sure that the size and shape of your sofa will work in the space where it will be located.

–       Ensure that your front door and other doors leading to the room in your home where the sofa will sit are wide enough (measure the opening) to welcome it.

–       Look for better lumbar support – shorter seat depth and a fixed back. Loose cushioned sofas may not allow for this.  A sofa/Chesterfield that’s too deep will mean you have to squirm to get out of it.  The older we get the harder it is to get out of a very deep and soft seat.

–       Look for a sofa that the entire family will use and feel comfortable using. Don’t spend an exorbitant amount of money on a ‘show piece’ that no one sits on regularly.  On the contrary, you should spend the money on a well constructed and high quality sofa/Chesterfield that’s used all the time by the entire family.  A high quality sofa/Chesterfield will be more durable than one that’s designed to ‘look stylish’ but isn’t able to withstand the daily wear and tear.

–       Don’t be afraid to try the sofa – lounge on it, stretch on it and make sure that the feel and style are a joint decision.  Test it for softness, firmness and that very important “comfort” factor.

–       Ask how the sofa is constructed – eight-way hand-tied coils versus the s-coil.  Eight-way hand tied coil construction denotes higher quality construction and generally costs more money. You want the springs to provide yield and support and not remind you each time you sit down on it that a metal coil is located beneath your bum.

–       Dacron around down (feather fill) is a great combination or down around foam is another option.  Foam alone can be too hard, and down only cushions can be too soft and sloppy looking.

–       A sales person is quick to push a particular sofa. However, look for and ask about certification of product and materials used to make the sofa.  Check out Canada’s consumer products safety website.

–       On patterned fabric (floral, geometric, striped) sofas, look for pattern match and good stitching.  A well made sofa/Chesterfield will be well tailored with cushion seams that don’t look like they will unravel in a few months time. Piped edges and cushions have clean and neat seams.

–       For a sectional sofa, make sure there are locking mechanisms to ensure the major seat components don’t float apart. Some manufacturers don’t provide these locking mechanisms and they will charge and arm and a leg (pardon the pun) to retrofit your sofa.

Tuxedo Sofa

Tuxedo Sofa

–       Pick a style of sofa/Chesterfield that will stand the test of time.  Classic styling versus trendy options.

–       A fabric covering versus leather is a personal choice. However, a leather covered sofa combined with fabric covered armchairs is more interesting to look at than an entire suite of leather.  Think about how you want the room to look before you commit to a specific type and colour of cover for your sofa/Chesterfield.

–       Pick the colour of your sofa/Chesterfield carefully.  Bright white, cream, light beige or a light coloured fabrics or very dark fabrics with a pile or nap (velvet, mohair, wool) may not be practical in a household with young messy fingers, and pets that love to languish on the sofa when you aren’t around.  If you like using your lint brush regularly to clean up after your pets, then go mad and pick the fabric of your choice.  You may want to consider cost of cleaning – do you want to be able to wash the cushion covers or are you more likely to have them dry-cleaned?

So, with this cheeky advice for your next sofa purchase or re-upholstery project I leave you with a reminder that you should go armed with your tape measure and keep style, size, construction and most important of all comfort in mind.

Happy sofa shopping!


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