At Home With Style

Finding Comfort in Your Upholstery


This morning I had a second meeting with lovely clients who are redecorating their family room.  I presented them with a floor plan to scale and we all agreed on the ideal placement.  The next step, of course, was to discuss furniture selection.  I was reminded during that conversation of how vitally important it is to understand all the right steps to finding just the right sofa.

The sofa is the heart of the family room.  It's where loved ones gather to watch a movie together.  It's where couples sit with a glass of wine at the end of a long day to catch up with each other.  It's the place for a quick cat-nap and sometimes even where an overnight guest might settle in for the night.  As such, finding something that is comfortable is at least as important as finding something that is pleasing to the eye. 

The challenge with this is that, unless you purchase the floor sample off of the showroom floor, the piece you sit upon in a furniture store is NOT necessarily going to feel the same as the piece that is actually delivered to your home.  It will either come from a warehouse if it is a lower-priced piece or it will be made custom to order at the time it is chosen.  The one you sit on in a store will likely not be covered in the same upholstery.  The diference between sitting on a tapestry fabric, a velvet, a leather and a chintz is profound.  They all have their own density and texture and this will in fact impact the way it "gives" when the weight of a human body comes into contact with it.  Furthermore, there is really no way to know how many human bodies have sat on the cushion before you did and it, too, may be quite relaxed as a result.

When working with a client to find a seat that will be comfortable for them the first thing I do is ask a few questions.  Do they have a piece of furniture now that they find particularly comfortable.  Do they have any family members or regular visitors who are either particularly large or small in stature?  Are there any issues that would require a firm back support?  How many people typically will sit on the piece at one time?  The answers to these questions, when coupled with the ideal and already determined dimensions from a floor plan, are the key to finding just the right piece.

What truly makes an upholstered seat comfortable is a combination of its interior dimensions and its cushioning.  If you have a piece of furniture that you absolutely love for its comfort measure the height from the floor to the top of the seat and the depth from the front to the back of the seat.  It is this combination that works to provide you with the right match for your body.  Also, look at the arm height.  Are you someone who likes to rest your arm on the chair's arm?  If so, be sure to take that into consideration when looking at the aesthetics of potential new pieces.  Something with a high and dramatic arm may appeal to your eyes but not to your comfort sensibilities.  Also of note, no one piece will be comfortable to all people.  If for example you have someone in your life who is rather short, consider adding a chair in the room that has a shallower seat depth to accomodate their comfort.

Back support, which can be a significant issue for some, should be addressed by the style of cushion.  A "tight" seat and back cushion (meaning that you can not pick the cushion up off the piece) will give you much firmer support than a detached or semi-attached cushion.  By contrast, if you are looking for a piece to sink into you will be quite dissatisfied with anything but the latter.  The number of people who will typically sit on the piece is also important to consider.  In the case of a sofa, there might be a bench (single) cushion, two cushions or three.  Nobody wants to sit in the gutter.  So if there will typically be two people sitting on the piece, consider either a single or two cushion style.  If three will be the norm, a two cushion style will force the person in the middle to sit right in the gap where the cushions meet and is not the right option.

The good news is that the answers to the questions addressed here are pretty black and white.  Once you have taken the time to do a quick inventory of your requirements you can look for the right pieces with the confidence of a well-informed shopper.  Happy hunting!