Buying upholstered furniture: dos and don'ts

Plush upholstered furniture adds romance and nostalgic appeal to your living room. Remember, though, that the most important qualities of upholstered furniture are hidden beneath the fabric covering.

Buying upholstered furniture: dos and don'ts

When you're shopping for a sofa or an armchair, be aware that it will be used day in and day out, so it has to be sturdy — both in terms of its construction and the covering material or fabric. Shopping for a new sofa or armchair can be very challenging. Here are a few tips to make sure you make the right decision:

  • For a piece in a lighter colour, check whether it has removable covers that can be washed or dry-cleaned.
  • See if the upholstery fabric has a water- and stain-resistant Teflon coating. This coating helps to keep your furniture looking like new.
  • Consider an easy-to-clean leather model, particularly if you have kids who tend to spill things, or if your pet likes nothing better than to be curled up beside you on the sofa.
  • Keep your new armchair or sofa away from direct sunlight to prevent cover fabrics from bleaching out.
  • Alternatively, use a cover fabric that may bleach out, but can be easily stored when guests arrive.
  • You can buy high-quality upholstered furniture with different degrees of firmness. The heavier you are, the firmer the cushions should be if you want to enjoy maximum comfort.
  • Consider the height of the seat and back rest as well. It's easier to pull yourself up from the higher seats of taller furniture than from a low-slung couch.
  • If you have weak legs, consider an armchair with mechanical or electric power lift. They help you stand by raising and tilting the seat in an ergonomically-appropriate way.
  • Measure it out. You won't really know whether a couch is a good fit until you get it home, but you can get a sense of whether the size is right by taking the measurements of a potential purchase and then laying out squares of newspaper in that exact size in your living room.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to shop around — after all, you need your sofa and chair to stay comfortable even after a long evening spent in front of the television.
  • Stand about one metre (three feet) back from the sofa you're considering and look at it with a critical eye: does the pattern line up? Does the couch look symmetrical? Do the cushions fit together in a straight line? Does everything look right?
  • Don't buy a sofa, chair or loveseat without first sitting in it just as you would do at home — even if this includes lying down or slouching. Noticing the flaws in a piece of furniture only once you've got it home can be an expensive mistake.
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