Design WiseShelagh Duncan


by Shelagh Duncan

Design Wise logoSectional sofaBuilding or purchasing a house can be one the most exciting times in your life, especially if it is located in a beautiful coastal area in Costa Rica! Once you have your design, the building begins and then you need to find furniture. Choosing new furniture can be a surprisingly daunting task, so where do you begin…?

Many of us are often unsure about what to look for when it’s time to buy a new sofa. It may have been over a decade ago that we purchased the last one and typically our new home will look quite different from the ones we lived in back home. After all, this is the tropics!

There are many things to consider before you buy; what style do you want to incorporate into your new home, what colours, and how will you to arrange the furniture. One of the most important considerations is space. What is going to fit in your space while still giving you the maximum amount of seating, and the look and feel you want?

Another more specific consideration is the climate here. Everything seems to wear out and degrade much faster than back home, so durability is a big factor, and with any sofa ‘Comfort is King’.
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Here are a few tips to help get you started on your hunt for the perfect sofa.

When searching for the perfect piece or pieces of upholstered furniture, have the room and doorway dimensions handy.
You won’t get far in your hunt if you don’t know what your measurement restrictions are. It would be ideal not only to have your measurements with you, but also a small sketch with the floor layout, showing the dimension, the location of walls, doorways and windows. If you want a large sectional for example, make sure it will fit into the room through the door opening.

Have an idea of seating configuration.

Are you looking for a sectional, or a sofa and loveseat? Will the layout reflect cozy relaxed seating, or large group entertaining? Should your sofa face the view – or the TV? It’s okay if you don’t know. Look for advice from an experienced salesperson or designer who should be able to suggest various options based on lifestyle, wants and needs.

Style and Comfort

Sofas come in myriad of different styles and choosing yours will probably depend more on your personal comfort than your design esthetic. Do you prefer the feel of a high or low back sofa, does the deeper seat depth work better for you, and is the arm height okay to lie on? Are loose back cushions preferred over a tight back sofa? Try out the options until you find a good ‘fit’.

Fabric swatchesWhat is the best type of fabric to use?

Once you have discovered your ‘style’, this is the next question. Some homeowners know beforehand what they want; most are challenged by our climate and the local conditions. However, comfort, durability and maintenance are paramount. Leather is durable, but can easily attract mold, which means more care and cleaning, especially if the piece is not used all the time. Some people have great success with their leather furniture, others do not. It all depends on the quality and finish of the leather, the amount of use it gets and even the location of your house! Leather is a natural material so is more susceptible to the humidity and heat here.

Generally fabric is considered the most practical option and those with synthetic fibers work best in our climate. Fabric is also a versatile option as there are so many colours, textures and patterns from which to choose. The latest addition to the residential market is commercial grade fabrics for the home. Sofas upholstered in these high *Performance fabrics are very hardwearing. The fabric is soft and luxurious to the touch, designed not to stain and is bleach cleanable—perfect for rental properties!

All-weather fabrics like Sunbrella are also available, and these have a similar look and feel to regular fabric, although at a higher price. Cheaper, water resistant versions can be found but they have a stiff, waxy feel and are not as comfortable. Microfiber is probably one of the best upholstery options. It is reasonably priced, available in many colours and textures, and as it is synthetic it’s very durable and easy-care.

Blue sofaFind out about how and where the sofa was built.

You will want to look for furniture that is well constructed with a solid hardwood frame using wood that has been kiln dried. This not only gives strength, but also ensures the frame will not warp or split with time. The springs under the seat cushions are also important as they do all the work! There needs to be the right quantity and spacing of good quality metal springs, which are professionally attached to the frame. The foam and padding must also be good quality, and suitably dense to provide comfort and support, yet with a softness when you sit.

Some people prefer a softer more cushy seat, and others like a firm seat, so always try a sofa before you make a purchase. Ask where the sofa was made and if there is a warranty. Does it come with throw pillows? What is the fabric content and is it cleanable? The better informed you are the smarter the purchase you will be able to make, so ask the right questions and talk to the people who have the knowledge to help you make that important decision.

Couple relaxing on sofaWhen you can’t find what you want, custom upholstery may be the answer.

Are you trying to find a particular style or colour in a fabric you like? It may be a difficult task, especially if you add the specific size you need and want to include that in that equation – you may be looking for something that might not exist. However, you can have sofas and other seating custom made.

It is even possible to find a furniture store that can have something made especially for you in the USA, with guaranteed US quality!

I often say that sofas and mattresses are the two most important pieces in our homes. They are investment pieces that will be used constantly and will be around for many years. Having a comfortable place to sit and relax, and a comfortable place to sleep are basic to our lives, so invest some time in choosing these pieces wisely.
Having a new house or condo should be a time of great enjoyment, and furnishing your new home, should be too! With these tips on how to choose upholstered furniture, you will minimize the stress of buying, while maximizing the fun of finding the pieces that are just right for you.

*Performance fabric sofas are available at Royal Palm Interiors.

Until the next time…
Royal Palm Interiors – Uvita  – 2743-8323
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