Buyers’ guide to sofas
•“Be sure to know the dimensions of your room and where you are going to place your sofas, ” Claudia Monk, of The General Store, said. “In store, a lounge often appears smaller than when you get it home and place it in your living room space.”
•Adam Watkins, of Bespoke Furniture Gallery, said it was important to scrutinise the quality of a piece. “You can see how well it is upholstered but you cannot see how it was constructed, ” he said. “Where was it made? Will this sofa last as long as your parents’ sofa they had for 20 years?” As a rule, he said sofas should at least have a 10-year guarantee on the frame, suspension and the foams.
•Ask what the frame and cushion inserts are made up of, recommended Fiona Steddy, of Minkz. And ensure fabric lounges have fully reversible cushions: “(This) uses twice the fabric but provides twice the lifetime of the cheaper products, ” she said.
•Look at the fabric swatch and find the label, Mr Watkins recommended. “The label states the performance of the fabric from light domestic to heavy commercial, ” he said. “The composition states the material used; generally the higher the polyester synthetic content the more durable the fabric is and the easier it is to clean. The label also states the Martindale Rub Test: this measures the durability of the fabric.”
•Buying a leather sofa? Ensure you’re getting the real thing, Ms Steddy said. “Cheap leather, or fake leather, is not designed to last a long time and it can be hard to tell the difference, ” she said. “Be extremely wary of products that claim to be good quality but cost a lot less than competitors. Cheaper alternatives will only frustrate you and cost you more long term as they deteriorate quickly.”
•Don’t forget comfort, Ms Monk said — after all, this is a sofa. “Make sure your lounge is long enough to lie on and deep enough to curl up on, ” she said.
•Mr Shah said it was important to inquire about what the warranty covered (for example, the frame, springing, webbing and cushions), and where a sofa was made. If it’s locally made, any problems down the track could be easily dealt with by going direct to the manufacturer. And always find out who the warranty comes from. “When you buy a sofa from a retailer, the guarantee is the manufacturer’s, not the retailer’s, ” he said.
Five top care tips
1. Arthur G’s Madeline Ehlers said most fabric sofas required a light overall vacuum once a week to keep the fibres clean and free of dust, allowing the fabric to breathe.
2. Yogesh Shah, of Torrance & McKenna and Leather Interiors, said sofa cushions should be rotated if possible to ensure even wear, and any spills should be dealt with by a professional cleaner.
3. Adam Watkins, of Bespoke Furniture Gallery in Nedlands, recommended having fabric shielding done at the time of purchase, and to keep the sofa out of direct sunlight.
4. Ms Ehlers said it was recommended to have fabric-upholstered furniture professionally cleaned every 18-24 months because this would help refresh and rejuvenate the fabric fibres. Following the manufacturer’s care instructions was also essential.
5. For leather sofas, Ms Ehlers said aniline, oiled, pull-up and waxed leathers required an application of a leather conditioner and cleaner to ensure they retained their suppleness and wearability, as well as to help rejuvenate, nurture and protect the leather. For semi-aniline, finished and pigmented leathers, she recommended a specially formulated leather cleaner to remove soiling, enhance softness and provide protection.
In the market for a new sofa and in need of some style inspiration?
Richard Hofer, of Easyliving in Nedlands, said the biggest trend was that more people were downsizing, shying away from large, deep sofas as room sizes decreased.
Claudia Monk, from The General Store in Osborne Park, agreed that she had noticed a shift away from large, particularly modular, lounge furniture. “There is a return to the two, three, four-seater sofas, ” she said.
When it comes to coverings, more people are confident in choosing colour and/or pattern, according to Ms Monk. “For the less brave, neutral toned linens with a French feel are very popular too, ” she said.
Madeline Ehlers, design consultant at Arthur G in Claremont, said on-trend materials included raw timber, wool, tan and black leather, while navy and mustard yellow were both popular colours.
“We’re also seeing a more eclectic (and) adventurous mix and match of leather and fabric, ” she said.
Ms Monk said 1920s Deco-style lounges were also a key trend — think rich velvet jewel tones and a modern take on the classic Chesterfield.
And as for the ubiquitous suede sofa? Yogesh Shah, of Torrance & McKenna and Leather Interiors in Osborne Park, said suede had fallen out of favour because it was simply too generic.
Instead, he said more sofa buyers were coming back to a more classic look but incorporating more colour and patterns.
Ms Monk said low-maintenance fabrics were also very popular.
Tricks for choosing vintage
•Inspect the piece thoroughly. Anyone who sells vintage furniture should have no problem with the potential new owner giving the piece a good once over. Sit on it, have a look under any cushions and inspect springs and webbing.
•Not all imperfections and signs of age are causes for concern and many can be repaired or replaced with little loss to the integrity of the piece. The more vintage pieces you look at, the better you’ll get at distinguishing between faults in the piece that will cause you problems and harmless wear and tear.
•Water damage or splits in timber are best to avoid because they indicate that the structural integrity of the piece has been compromised. Avoid pieces where it looks like there are screws around the joints where there shouldn’t be, it usually means the original joinery is in bad shape and has been reinforced.
•The most important factor to consider is whether the structural integrity of the piece is intact. Most other imperfections can either be repaired, or won’t cause you problems.
Leather or fabric?
“You do pay more for leather but it will last the distance, ” Bespoke Furniture Gallery’s Adam Watkins said.
“It is ideal for allergy sufferers, children and pets. There is also a fantastic and vast range of textures and colours in leather — so you can choose the right leather for the style of the sofa and your needs. (For example) a semi-aniline or corrected grain leather for heavy use, or a full aniline or oiled leather for the vintage look.”
Yogesh Shah, from Torrance & McKenna and Leather Interiors, said that while leather was easy to look after, there was a misconception that it was maintenance-free.
“But that’s not true, it does need some (maintenance) but if you do it will last forever, ” he said.
“The downside to leather is if it’s not a good-quality leather it will not adapt to your body temperature very fast, and it will feel cold in winter and stick to you in summer.
“The idea if you’re buying leather is you should really be investing so that it lasts. If you go for a cheaper option, chances are that either if it’s leather it’s a very poor-quality leather, or it’s leatherette or bonded leather.
“You might as well then go for a fabric.”
New technologies meant today’s fabrics were extremely hard-wearing as well as offering warmth and comfort, The General Store’s Claudia Monk said.
“A lot of our latest fabrics have been treated with a water repellent in the milling process, ” she said. “This is important to customers as it means lounges do not need to be Scotchgarded or repeatedly treated.”
Mr Shah said the other main attraction of fabric sofas was that they offered virtually endless style options, from colours to prints to textures.
According to the Great Australian Home Survey by online retailer Temple & Webster (templeandwebster.com.au), brown is the most common sofa colour (30.8 per cent of respondents). This was followed by natural (22.8 per cent), grey (15.4 per cent) and black (9.4 per cent). The survey, which interviewed 11,000 Australians about their decor and furnishing choices, also found that 35.8 per cent of people allowed their pet to sleep on the couch.
Image: Hans Wegner daybed, $2680, from Squarepeg Home, Fremantle, 0407 982 390, squarepeghome.com.au.
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