Sofas are one of the biggest furniture investments you'll make — and one of the most permanent. Even if you're just buying one for a temporary fix, it'll eventually get demoted from the living room to the family room to the basement and, finally, the dorm. Before you know it, a decade or more has passed, and that impulse purchase has become part of your life. So give some thought to it before you buy.
Quality furniture should feel solid and heavy. The same goes for a sofa. Flop around on one to test its sturdiness, then lift it up by the corner and shake it a bit. If it feels light or wobbly, take a pass. Look for a frame made from a kiln-dried hardwood such as oak, alder, birch, maple or, alternatively, high-quality hardwood plywood or marine plywood. Eight-way, hand-tied springs are a hallmark of fine furniture, but sinuous S-shaped springs can provide nearly as much comfort. Drop-in coil springs are a less costly alternative.
Most cushions have a core of polyurethane foam; the denser the foam, the heavier it is and the longer it will last. In the cheapest furniture, the cushion is filled with just the polyurethane foam core. In better furniture the core is wrapped with Dacron batting. Higher-quality options include poly-down cushions, which have down mixed with the batting; spring-down cushions, which feature a core of springs surrounded by foam and feathers; and all down, which is all feathers (and all work, so avoid this unless you have servants).
The best sofas have joints that are double doweled and fitted with corner blocks that are both glued and screwed (not stapled) into place. Quality pieces have legs that are part of the frame, not just attached to it (although removable feet do make it easier to get items through doorways). But if you still need more convincing on purchasing a sofa for an extra $2-10k try this NYTimes article on for size.
Think about your style of living:
If your interior is traditional, look for a sofa with rolled arms, a contoured back, skirting, tufted cushions or arms.
Contemporary and modern sofas tend to have cleaner lines, fewer flourishes and understated upholstery. Keep in mind with fewer tucks and bedazzles quality stuffing, stitching and even accent pillow choices is what will make this type of sofa shine.
Eclectic sofas tend to come in patterns or bright colors, this is where fabric choice is very important. Be sure to find the material tag and check: 1) Double Rub Count: The durability of a fabric is best defined by this count, which is tested by a machine that runs back and forth until the fabric is worn down. 30,000 double rubs is a great place to start for residential upholstery, while commercial projects generally require fabrics to be over 100,000 double rubs. 2) Repeat: If you are looking at anything other than a plain fabric you will want to pay attention here. The repeat is the distance that the entire pattern will run in the fabric before it repeats again. 3) Fade Resistance: This is rated on a scale 1-5, with 1 equaling a high level of fading and 5 with no fading.
When it comes to fabric here is some advice: As a rule, synthetic fabrics are more durable, colorfast and cleanable. Tightly woven fabrics and fabrics that are heavy (such as true leather) will wear and tear better. Avoid satins, brocades and damasks unless the sofa won't get much use.
Whatever fabric you choose, ask the store for a sample or cutting that you can take home on approval before you buy. (If no sample is available, ask for a cushion) That way you can see the material under the light in your room and with other pieces of furniture. When you are spending a large amount of money the last thing you want is a surprise.