A new sofa is a purchase that no one makes lightly. It’s an investment! And something you’ll be using almost every day. “Your sofa is a big piece that will define your space,” says designer Suzanne Kasler. You probably already have a style in mind that you like, but, if you’ve never bought a couch before—or if you’ve found yourself regretting past sofa purchases—you might be looking for a little direction. This guide will help you find a sofa you’ll love for years to come (and one that will last as long, too!).
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What Makes a Well-Constructed Sofa?
A lot of materials are required to make a sofa, and some are better than others—at least when it comes to longevity. A sofa with a particle-board frame and all-foam cushions might be the most affordable option, but it won’t necessarily be the longest-lasting sofa you can buy. (And maybe that’s fine by you!) A higher-quality sofa, on the other hand, will have the following construction.
1. A Wooden Frame
This is key to a well-made sofa, but there are different frame factors to consider that that can impact durability.
Make sure it’s kiln-dried.
“All kiln-dried means is that the wood is placed in an oven and dried to the point that it only has about a seven to eight percent moisture content,” Luther M. Quintana, the Operations Manager at Luther Quintana Upholstery, Inc., tells . “Air-dried wood can miss that seven to eight percent metric, thus leaving the wood more prone to shifting and warping. Wood with low moisture content is the best for furniture.”
Choose either solid hard wood or engineered wood.
Bob Williams, President of Design and Co-Founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, says that hard wood or engineered wood are both great options. Hard wood is pretty straightforward: It’s solid and makes for a sturdy frame. Engineered wood, on the other hand, is essentially “taking a tree and turning it into engineered plywood so that there’s less waste material,” Williams explains. “It does make a very, very strong frame because of its cross banding. They can cut it in and hook it together, so you get a lot of reinforcement that way. And then, any scrap that’s left over gets recycled.”
Don’t forget about the joinery.
Then there’s the way a sofa is put together. Frames are usually doweled, stapled, glued, or some combination thereof, and they use corner-blocking to be extra sturdy. At Arhaus, for instance, you can see how these different methods work together. “Frames are held together by a combination of long-buried staples that are coated in water-based glue,” explains TJ Schmitz, the brand’s Senior Vice President of Product Development. “The force at which those staples are shot into the wood frame produces enough heat and friction to melt the glue—creating a better, stronger bond. Then, the frames are corner blocked in all corners, and braces are added through the length of the frame.”
How the legs are attached is also important, says Samara Tuchband, Crate & Barrel’s Vice President of Merchandising. “Look for a sofa with legs that are either part of the frame, or wooden dowels attached by metal screws and brackets,” she explains. “The sturdier the frame, the more likely your sofa will last longer.”
2. Good Suspension
Every sofa has a suspension system (either coils, webbing, or ties, according to Tuchband), and it’s key to both your sofa’s quality and your comfort. Two of the most popular—and most comfortable—systems experts recommend are eight-way hand-tied and sinuous spring.
Eight-way hand-tied: “If you want the ‘gold standard’ of systems, look for eight-way, hand-tied springs that are handcrafted to support your every move,” Tuchband says. Quintana agrees that these are “the best.” An eight-way hand-tied suspension simply means that the springs have all been individually tied in every direction. “The weight distribution is much better when the coiled springs are tied together using jute twine,” Quintana adds. Eight-way, hand-tied sofas are also the most expensive because they’re the most intricate. Sinuous spring: Quintana describes sinuous springs as a lighter, cheaper alternative that can still work well when done right. “In this system, a series of thick metal wires are fastened to the sofa’s wood frame to provide support,” Schmitz explains, noting that it’s one of the most popular suspension systems in the industry now. “Sinuous wire suspensions with S-shaped coils placed close together distribute weight more evenly, providing a more comfortable sofa,” Tuchband says.
3. Comfortable Cushions
A well-made frame and suspension are needed to give a sofa a great foundation, but if you don’t have comfortable cushions to top the whole thing off, you’re not going to love lounging on it.
In terms of material, Quintana says that Dacron-wrapped foam cushions are the most widely available but not necessarily the most comfortable. On the other hand, 100-percent down is super luxurious and comfortable, but you tend to sink right into it—and sometimes that makes it harder to get back up. That’s why he recommends going with a combo instead of choosing one or the other.
“I would use a mix of materials,” Quintana says. “For example, a soft or medium density foam core, wrapped in an 80/20 down/feather mix. This is the best of both worlds, as you have the ‘give’ of down and the durability of a foam core.”
Williams agrees, noting that the most popular, best-selling cushions at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams are a Dacron-wrapped, high-density poly foam that is then covered in a down-proof ticking casing.
There are, of course, different cushion styles to choose from, and those affect your comfort, too—though they’re more of a personal choice than a quality concern (more on that here). And this brings us to the what’s most important besides quality, and that’s how to buy a sofa that truly suits .