What is a good sofa for your living room? Definitely, it is a sofa one you can’t resist. It signals when you pass, inviting you to really enjoy your own living room between dinner parties. To get this degree of bonding, you may have to replace your present sofa, a process like buying a new car: quality, comfort, and seductiveness are key factors, and yes, good sofas are expensive.
Don’t buy a sofa with your in-laws and guests in mind. Buy it for you. See if it seduces – does it tempt you to stretch out lengthwise with a magazine, or prompt you to sit up straight? Trust the sigh that escapes when you sit down for a test drive. It indicates generosity of scale, some percentage of goose down filling, and the kind of quality you can spot from across the room.
Perhaps you already own a good sofa, love seat or arm-chair – “good” meaning it has a handsome shape, a solid frame that doesn’t creak, and a high “aaaah” factor. New upholstery or a slipcover may be all you need, especially with a well-built vintage sofa that was built to last forever. Remember, though, that good upholstery is artisan’s work, and priced accordingly. When a designer in a magazine crows that her curvaceous vintage love seat cost only $399, she is not mentioning the $2,000 to $3,000 she spent resuscitating it (the cost of 10 yards of mohair, new goose down, and labor).
If your old sofa doesn’t merit saving, donate it to charity and shop for seating – antique, vintage, or new – that feels truly inviting. Don’t rush: any piece you buy just to fill a gap will prove an expensive albatross.
When shopping, you may face the “sofa versus love seat” living room dilemma. Love seats are viable alternatives to the sofa; indeed, some designers prefer them because sofas rarely seat three people anyway – no one wants to get stuck in the middle. On the other hand, sofas are classics, and let you stretch out to read. Either way, you truly can’t make a mistake if you buy what you love.
Patterned fabric can be beautiful, but it may not be the wisest choice for seating. Choose a solid color – that way, you won’t force everything else in the room to conform to a large, patterned sofa. For throw pillows, make your own, using the same color but in different materials to create an orchestra of textures. A room filled with furnishings, constitutes a pattern all by itself.
Before choosing a sofa color, decide what you’re trying to show off. To draw attention to artwork, upholster (or slipcover) the sofa in a solid color that approximates the wall color. Your eye will go straight to the one thing that doesn’t match – the artwork. Conversely, if the sofa is a deserving antique, upholster it to contrast with the wall color. It will demand immediate attention.