Choos­ing the per­fect sofa for your space

The Observer (Sarnia) - - HOMES - KIM COOK

Ask in­te­rior de­sign­ers what the most im­por­tant ele­ment in a room is and many will say that — af­ter wall colour — it’s the sofa.

So how do you choose this cru­cial piece of fur­ni­ture? Should you go for one big sofa or two love seats? What about ma­te­ri­als, arm styles and the all-im­por­tant ques­tion of how to po­si­tion the sofa in the space?

Start by think­ing about the shape of the room, says Elaine Grif­fin , who helms de­sign of­fices in Man­hat­tan and St. Si­mon’s Is­land, Ge­or­gia.

“In a long, nar­row room, place the sofa along the shorter wall far­ther from the door,” she ad­vises. “This seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but sit­ting it at the far end of the room on the shorter wall al­lows for way more fur­ni­ture to go in front of it.”

If your space is small, she sug­gests a 72-inch, apart­ment-size sofa with nar­rower arms. Pair it with slip­per chairs, nar­row arm­chairs or nice din­ing chairs.

Show off the pro­por­tions of a square room by float­ing the sofa and other fur­ni­ture away from walls, Grif­fin says. She sug­gests di­vid­ing a room into “zones” when you’re un­cer­tain about fur­ni­ture place­ment, es­pe­cially in an open plan.

Imag­ine draw­ing an X from cor­ner to cor­ner in the room, and then a cross from the walls’ mid­points hor­i­zon­tally and ver­ti­cally. “Your sofa or so­fas will sit ei­ther on or par­al­lel to one of those lines,” she says.

Need to seat a large num­ber of peo­ple com­fort­ably?

“Sec­tion­als de­liver like no­body’s busi­ness,” she notes. In small spa­ces, they can seat enough peo­ple to avoid the need for ex­tra chairs. In large spa­ces, they can fill space with­out look­ing awk­ward. And in awk­ward spa­ces, you can in­stall a sec­tional with an in­ter­est­ing shape, like one with a curvy back.

Christie Leu , a de­signer in Chevy Chase, Mary­land, also likes sec­tion­als.

“They aren’t all L-shaped,” she points out. “You can get a pair of arm­less so­fas and put a low ta­ble in the cor­ner, or you can have a ’bumper sec­tional’ in a nar­row room that will still pro­vide seat­ing but not im­pede a view or weigh down a room with a heavy arm on one side.”

In choos­ing a sofa, con­sider how you will use the room, Leu says. Maybe you want to be able to con­verse eas­ily, read and play games.

She’s a fan of sin­gle-bench cush­ions, so no one has to sit on a seam. And buy the best qual­ity you can af­ford.

“As the price goes up, you’ll feel the dif­fer­ence be­tween cush­ions and con­struc­tion,” she says. “A cush­ion with good, hand-tied, coil springs and high-den­sity foam will last longer than all-foam, which will flat­ten in time.”

Leu doesn’t care for all-down seats “be­cause no one has time to fluff them as of­ten as they need it.”

Some other hall­marks of a well­built sofa: hard, solid woods and joints in­te­grated into the frame.

For so­fas that will see hard use, choose a hardy fab­ric, says Court­ney Thomas , based in La Canada Flin­tridge, Cal­i­for­nia.

“We use lots of polyester and che­nille blends for so­fas where large fam­i­lies put them to the test,” she says. “Gen­er­ally, syn­thet­ics en­dure hard­ship bet­ter than nat­u­ral fab­rics, which don’t hold up as well.”

She says her firm of­ten Te­flon­coats fab­rics for ex­tra pro­tec­tion against stains and spills. She also likes Sun­brella up­hol­stery; the out­door-fab­ric tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced so tex­tiles are softer, and now well-suited for in­door use too.

Ali­son Pickart , an in­te­rior de­signer from Lark­spur, Cal­i­for­nia, ad­vises against huge so­fas.

“I don’t think you should ever have a sofa over eight feet,” she says. “Very rarely will more than two peo­ple oc­cupy a sin­gle piece of fur­ni­ture. Plus, if your sofa is too big, the op­por­tu­nity for other beau­ti­ful and in­ter­est­ing ac­cent chairs, ot­tomans, poufs and small ta­bles di­min­ishes.”

To fa­cil­i­tate con­ver­sa­tion, Pickart says, fur­ni­ture should be ar­ranged so that peo­ple are at 45-de­gree an­gles from each other.

“So the best liv­ing rooms are ones in which oc­ca­sional seat­ing can be com­fort­ably placed at both ends of the sofa,” she says.

She also likes arm­less so­fas in nar­row rooms; us­ing one or two cen­tre com­po­nents of a sec­tional can be an op­tion.

And don’t for­get ac­ces­sories, says Hous­ton-based de­signer Mar­garet Naeve.

“I love to style so­fas with oddly shaped pil­lows and a colour­ful throw to add some­thing un­ex­pected that also ties into other el­e­ments in the space,” she says.

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