The sofa is probably the hardest working piece of furniture in any home. It has to withstand the demands of the entire household, from grubby hands to lumpen teens to lazing pets. In addition, it should provide decent back and seat support at heights that are comfortable.
As the place where we go to drop anchor, or to escape our working lives it is up to the individual to define the level of comfort he or she wants, says Gerard Crofts, managing director of The Sofa Factory in Dublin 12. He says the best way to test a seat is to “buy blind”.
He suggests wearing a blindfold when trying out different seats for size so that you can concentrate on how each ‘feels’ rather than be taken in by its good looks or tactile fabric. Specialist shops should know their product and ranges inside out and be able to give immediate answers to questions on the content of the cushions, what the frame is made from and where the materials were sourced.
When it comes to trends curved seating is having a moment. Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos’ new Bombom collection for Roche Bobois’ 60th anniversary is a vibrant example. Her statement seats have fluid, generous shapes, come in Licorice Allsorts colourways, and look great when used to subdivide a large, open-plan room. The design comes with removable, stretch covers and prices start from €3,060 for a 240cm, three-seat. London decorator Alessia Mainardi is another fan of curves, setting one in a mirror image of the other to create a subtle, circle of trust, arrangement.
The sofa is no longer a matchy, matchy piece of furniture, says Rachel Morgans, the buying director for Living at Arnotts. “The idea of the three-piece suite or two sofas in the same finish in a room is over.” She has introduced several new brands in seductive shapes in fashion colours from Normann Copenhagen and Polish, linen-clad models from Sits. If you order this week the Danish brand can deliver in time for Christmas.
The Plush, a pillow back, right-hand facing, large chaise-end sofa in inky blue velvet, pictured, €1,549, to order from DFS, is another, more affordable way to buy into this trend.
Leather is making a comeback with butter-soft tan or cognac-coloured hides warming up neutral interiors in a subtle way. Bo Concept’s Amsterdam, in a rich, conker-colour hide, from €4,241, for a three-seat size, is a good example.
If you love the idea of cuddling up with your other half on the couch but are of different heights and sizes how do you accommodate these differences? “In a corner sofa format there are ways of customising the Filip’s seats to suit each of the couple’s firmness preferences,” explains Mary Ryder of Sandyford-based Curated. “The sofa also deals with the issue of depth preferences. If you have long legs you can push the weighted back cushion out to the perimeter of the seat. If you have short legs you can pull the cushion forward so you don’t feel like a doll.” Prices for the style as pictured start from about €5,500. If you order this coming week you could have in time for Christmas, Ryder says.
The Sofa Factory will tailor seating to accommodate ailments such as knee pain, back pain and hip replacements. Targa by Weiner GTV Design ticks a lot of support boxes while also having a bentwood frame, gentle elliptical curves and rattan detailing. Its structured form, polyurethane foam of differing densities topped with goose feathers in seat and back cushions, will work in contemporary or period homes. It costs from €5,345, to order, from The Design Seeker in Monkstown.
In an era of TV dinners removable sofa covers really make sense. If you invest in two sets, a dark shade for winter and a lighter, brighter option for the summer months it allows you to change the mood of the room with the seasons.
Many Scandinavian brands already offer covers that are machine washable or have zip-on and off options. Gubi’s Wonder, for example, is a contemporary reimagining of 1970s lounge furniture by Space Copenhagen, that is pictured upholstered in tactile, wool-mix, bouclé fabric in báinín that should have messy, red wine drinkers breaking out in a sweat but, fear not, it can be ordered with removable covers through Minima. The large form, pictured, costs €13,470.
Reupholstering an existing seat is a far greener option than consigning it to the recycling centre but it often costs as much as buying a brand new mid-range design. But if the sofa you already own is of a high quality it’s still the smarter option, says Ken McDarby, manager at fabric emporium Brian S Nolan. “In addition to retaining that quality by choosing to reupholster you’re championing the greener option.”
He says you should expect to pay upwards of €1,500 to have a two-seat sofa recovered and €1,800 for a three-seat. An affordable and natural choice of fabric is Baird McNutt’s stone-washed linen, which is woven in Ballymena and available to buy online through J Hanna with prices from about €14 per metre.
Any good sofa supplier should offer a range of after-sales services. These can include replacing stained cushions to offering full reupholstery services when your purchase starts to look a little tired. The big designer brand names offer similar levels of customer service.
Before you buy be sure to check it will make it to your living room, says Emily Maher of Dún Laoghaire-based Lost Weekend, which sells numerous modular seats that can break down to fit into smaller spaces. “Will the sofa fit through your front door, hallway or any sudden returns if it has to be carried up a flight of stairs?”
“Make sure the company you buy from offers a proper delivery service too,” Crofts advises, “One that delivers to the room it’s destined for not just to your front garden.” During lockdown it would make sense to have help at hand to manoeuvre the new purchase into place.
What to ask when buying
Where was the sofa made? Harvey Norman has a range of Irish-made sofas made exclusively for it. Pictured is its Oasis, a three-seat, €999, with matching footstool, €349.
What is the frame made from? An aluminium frame will be far lighter to lift than a solid beech design, for example. But a chipboard or particleboard seat will also feel heavy to lift so the weight of the seat isn't necessarily a benchmark of quality. Finline Furniture's sofas use kiln dried beech wood for extra durability.
What is the stuffing made from? The denser the foam the less sagging you will experience over time.
What are the back and seat cushions made from? There may be hypoallergenic options.
What is the cover fabric? Is it machine wash or dry clean only? Has it been coated with a stain-guard or can it be spot cleaned? A second set of covers can help change the mood of your room between winter and summer.
How long will delivery take? It can range from six to 16 weeks and Covid has delayed some orders so be sure to double check if you want something in time for the festive season.
What is the after-sales care? Warranty, repairs, cushion replacements and reupholstery services.