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Selecting a Sofa That Will Sit Well

August 01, 1992|From Associated Press

Selecting a quality sofa will be easier if consumers use the following shopping strategy:

* Size up the situation. The sofa should fit the space, so before leaving home, measure its future sitting spot. Also, measure the doors, halls and stairwells it will need to pass through.

* Look for fabric features. Once the desired sofa has been found, check the upholstery quality. Is the fabric pattern carefully matched? Are the seams even with smooth stitching? Is the welting nice and neat? If not, move on to other possibilities.

* Examine cushions. Good seat cushions are slightly rounded on top, not so stuffed that they stretch the seams. They should have an inner core of high-density polyurethane-type foam, a middle wrap of softer, polyester fill, and an outer muslin case.

This produces a cushion that retains its shape yet is soft enough to be comfortable. Back cushions are fine with a less dense foam core or a filling made entirely of polyester fill.

* Check frames. Ask the salesperson for the manufacturer's catalogues for frame construction. Good frames are usually made of solid hardwood, such as maple or oak.

Joints will be secured with glue, screws and double dowels and will have corner braces or blocks for added strength. A good frame will be well padded on the arms, back, sides and front panel.

Have an urge to test the structure? Pick up the sofa at a bottom corner; if it loosens or twists, it doesn't pass the test.

* Inspect the springs. A sofa's suspension system is important for both comfort and longevity. Moderately priced sofas often use an arrangement of snake-like, springy steel strips in the deck or platform under the seat cushions. These strips are wired together and attached to the frame.

The best sofas have individual coil springs of steel that are tied or wired together. Be sure, too, to look for a layer of padding over the springs.

* Read fabric labels. Learn the contents of the sofa coverings and weigh each of their characteristics. A combination of fibers might even work best.

For example, wool, nylon and olefin are durable but can be coarse and scratchy. Rayon and silk are elegant and ideal for formal settings but tend to be delicate and may deteriorate when they're overexposed to the sun's rays.

Cotton is affordable and can be woven into a wide variety of textures, weights and patterns to suit almost any decor. It may, however, stain easily, can fade in sunlight, and is only moderately durable.

* Take fabric samples home. Be sure to view fabric swatches in the room where the sofa will be set.

Don't be surprised, either, if they look different at home than they did in the store; lighting conditions and surrounding colors can make a big difference.

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