Couch Shopping 101
By Grace Urban
If you’re like me, your apartment is currently furnished by Craigslist purchases and furniture cast-offs that your parents no longer deemed suitable for their home. While the eclectic design look can be nice for a while, at some point, it becomes obvious that you need to grow up and buy your own couch. Buying a sofa is on that list of things you thought only “old” people did–like renting an apartment or having a full-time job–but here you are, several years into adulthood, and it’s time to take the plunge. If you’re going to go couch shopping, make sure you know what to look for.
Couch Shopping 101: Style
When you first start couch shopping, stepping into a furniture store can make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon Wonderland. But if you haven’t decided what style of sofa you’re looking for before leaving your apartment, the process can quickly become overwhelming. Is your living room contemporary or classic? Which type of arm style do you prefer? What about fabric? And cushions? There are a lot of decision to make, and it’s better if you don’t make them in the store.
Couch Shopping 101: Frame
The more sturdy its frame, the longer a couch will last–that’s why it’s so important that you choose one made of a solid wood like oak, ash or beech. Pine may be inexpensive, but you’ll find yourself couch shopping again in a few years. The frame should be thick (about 1 inch), heavy and one whole piece. You can check the durability of the frame by lifting one front leg of the couch. After raising it 6 inches or so, the other front leg should lift off the floor as well.
Couch Shopping 101: Joinery
It may sound like a made-up word, but joinery helps keeps couches together. Frames are connected by joints, and you want to make sure that they are solidly constructed–if you see wooden dowels and corner blocks or metal screws and brackets then you know you’re in good shape. You can get this information from a salesperson.
Couch Shopping 101: Springs
If you want your couch to be comfy (and who doesn’t?), you’ll want to ask about the springs. Most sofas have serpentine springs–you know, those coiled pieces of wire that look like slinkys. If you remove the couch cushions, you should be able to feel them. Make sure the springs are close together and firm–push or stand on them to test their durability.
Couch Shopping 101: Cushions
While springs have an important role to play in comfort, cushions are really what make the couch. If you’re on a budget, you’ll likely have to settle for polyurethane foam, which is low-cost and easy to care for, but not very soft. On the other end of the spectrum we have goose down, which is extremely comfortable but needs constant fluffing to maintain its shape. Cushions with inner-foam cores surrounded by a cover filled with goose down are a nice compromise.