By CATHI AYCOCK

I once bought a beautiful Pottery Barn couch.

A sofa can look beautiful but still not be right for you. Asking the right questions can help you make the perfect sofa selection.

A sofa can look beautiful but still not be right for you. Asking the right questions can help you make the perfect sofa selection. Sofa from Thomasville Bassett of Cool Springs. 

I imagined it residing in my family room, all cozy and perfect. What I didn’t factor in when choosing the sofa? The down-filled cushions were cloud-like, and required constant fluffing to keep them from looking like a lumpy sack of potatoes. And did I mention it was so huge in proportion to the room, it felt like the RMS Titanic-couch had just docked in my den.

Before the next shopping go ’round last year, I did my research on what I needed to know before purchasing by interviewing Joy Swinea, a design consultant with Thomasville Bassett of Cool Springs. And since I love you all, I’m sharing my knowledge.

First, there is no stupid question when it comes to buying a piece of furniture, according to Swinea. A sofa is a big investment, and you should feel comfortable asking the salesperson questions.

Below, Swinea shared the top questions you should ask before buying a sofa.

How is the sofa frame built?
Is it glued, stapled or does the manufacturer use dowel rods? Glue is the least sturdy, with stapling coming in second. Dowel rod and dovetailing joints create the sturdiest frame.

The best sofas will have dowel

The best sofas will have have multiple layers of wood in the construction according to design consultant Joy Swinea with Thomasville Bassett of Cool Springs. 

How many layers of wood are used in building the frame?
Each layer of wood doubles the strength of the frame. Six layers and above is the gold standard, four layers is fair and anything less than four might give you a sagging arm rest after a year or so.

What is the core cushion made of?
Solid foam cushions double wrapped are best at holding their shape. Avoid cushions stuffed with foam pieces, which flatten easily.

Double wrapped foam and core cushions with solid dense foam are the gold standard for a sofa that never loses shape.

Double wrapped foam and core cushions with solid dense foam are the gold standard for a sofa that never loses shape.

What is the cushion density?
Density is measured when the manufacturer compresses the air out of the foam, creating a strong base. The higher the density, the longer the cushions will hold their shape.

Are cushions upholstered back and front?
Some cushions are upholstered on the front, with a cheaper muslin fabric on the back. If you want to flip the cushions (spill!) you are out of luck.

How do you wash the upholstery fabric?
When choosing fabric, ask if the fabric is able to be cleaned with soap and water or if it needs to be dry cleaned. (The fabric grade tag will give you a fabric content and show washing instructions, a W is often used for soap and water, a S is used to indicate a solvent must be used.)

Love the fabric? Make sure the fabric content works for your home and lifestyle too.

Love the fabric? Make sure the fabric content works for your home and lifestyle too.

What system is used for springs on the sofa?
Webbing, wire or steel coils can be used to give your sofa bounce. Webbing is the least sturdy, with wire and steel both less likely to create a dip in your sofa over time.

If you are opting for leather, ask if the leather is bonded.
Bonded leather is a mix of about 20% leather and the rest plastic and other materials. While bonded leather is much cheaper, it also will split or crack easier than genuine leather.

What is the warranty?
Ask about the frame and the cushion warranty. Basset, for example, offers a seven year warranty on the couch cushions. If the cushions go down in size by an one and a quarter inch or more in seven years, they will replace the cushion. The sofa frame on a Bassett sofa is warrantied for five years.

Many furniture retailers allow you to choose your fabric and design elements to customize your sofa. Ask the right questions before you choose the aesthetic options.

Many furniture retailers allow you to choose your fabric and design elements to customize your sofa. Ask the right questions before you choose the aesthetic options for your furniture investment. 

“If you go strictly on price, you get what you pay for. When a salesperson doesn’t know how the piece of furniture was built, that might be a red flag,” says Swinea.

Swinea says you should always test the sofa you are considering buying. The most comfortable height for the seat and depth of the cushions will be different based on your height.

“Ordering a sofa online without sitting on it, even if you ask every question in the world, is never a good idea,” laughs Swinea.

With my questions in hand, I was ready to sofa shop and to say goodbye Titanic-couch, hello perfect sofa.

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