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What Goes Into A Quality Sofa And What You Can Expect To Pay

The internet is riddled with retailers who can offer you a sofa for under $1000. Heck, I have even seen them for under $500 with no shipping. While I am not knocking the fact that a $1000 sofa is where someone's budget needs to be at this point in time, I also want to set their expectations about what they can expect from that sofa.

Tiger striped sofa with silk draperies and green grasscloth wallpaper
Tiger Striped Sofa At Casa Vilora Interiors Studio. Designed by Veronica Solomon. Photography by Colleen Scott

There is a reason why that retailer can sell the sofa for that price. He certainly is not making a loss on it. Therefore his net price has to be around 50% or less of the retail price. Typically, he would pay somewhere around $300-$500 for a sofa that he is selling for $1000. So that leads me to believe that the materials and craftsmanship are subpar at best, and the lifetime of the sofa is not expected to last more than a couple of years with light use.

Some consumers are ok with that. They may be at a stage in life now where it makes sense to get a lesser expensive and therefore lesser quality sofa to fill an immediate need. I have even worked with young professionals who are fresh out of college and starting out in their first apartments and a lesser quality sofa makes sense for them for a short while. As long as they know what to expect about the comfort, quality and life expectancy of the sofa, or should I say - as long as the retailer has educated them about what to expect, then it's all good.

The problem I find however, is that retailers are passing off the sofa (sometimes a knockoff of a higher end version), as a quality piece of upholstery when this isn't the case. So when an interior designer like myself, shows a client a sofa that is made with the highest level of quality for a reasonable price, some consumers may feel like they are paying too much. It's like comparing apples to a loaf of bread at that point. It is the illusion that the internet retailers are creating in the market place. And they are making designers out to be the bad guys.

So, I am taking to the blog to educate clients as to what goes into a quality sofa, and what a reasonable cost should be.

Living roiom with monochromatic color scheme and Bernhardt 108" sofa
Living Room Vignette Designed By Veronica Solomon

As designers, we don't just want to sell you a sofa. Anyone can do that. We come into the relationship with the goal to help you live your best life in your home. This takes into account your lifestyle, functional needs, phase of life, family life, budget etc. We really get to know you and your needs, dreams, goals and vision, and we design a space based on that, including the furnishings we specify. The furnishings, including the sofa, is just a small part of an overall cohesive plan for your home and lifestyle. This is after we have considered your budget as well, so in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn't matter how much you are paying for a sofa if all your needs are met and exceeded with a design plan that falls within the budget you and your designer has established.

Too often, consumers get too caught up on prices of individual items and not trusting their designer with the big picture.

Ok, I think I am going off on a tangent here. Let's focus on what goes into a great quality sofa and what you can expect to pay. I am using Kristin Drohan's Collection as a guide to showing you just what goes into quality construction. I have had the pleasure of sitting in on a webinar Kristin presented to a group of designers, and she really knows her stuff. She is very passionate as well about educating both consumers and designers about what to look for in the construction of upholstery.

Kristin Drohan started her upholstery business about 8 years ago to provide the interior design trade with a stylish, sustainable upholstery line that was crafted at the highest quality level at the best possible price. Her collection includes a curated selection of frames and styles, over 50 best- selling velvets and Crypton/Sunbrella performance fabrics and 8 finishes, available in 3-5 weeks. These are pieces that you know will last the test of time

Let's examine what goes into a quality frame

Kiln dried hardwood frame by Kristin Drohan Collection
Quality Upholstery Frame Via Kristin Drohan Collection

I would liken the sofa frame to the bones in the human body. You need strong bones to be truly healthy, right? Well, same here. Without a strong frame, your sofa will not last as long as it could, so it has to be constructed at the highest level possible.

A high quality sofa frame should be made from sustainable forested kiln dried maple, which is so strong that bowling alleys are made out of it. Kiln drying keeps the wood from warping so it always stays level, even if you move houses a zillion times. Corners and high stress areas should be reinforced with corner blocks and then double doweled, glued and screwed in place for superior strength. Your manufacturer should be so confident in their frames' construction that they will offer lifetime warranty on it.

What you will see from these online retailers, and actually they will go as far as touting it as good quality, is engineered frames, engineered hardwoods (aka plywood). Plywood frames are not kiln dried and therefore not as strong. Also frames made from poplar or rubber wood are not as high construction as kiln dried maple.

What goes into a quality foundation

8 Way Hand tie by Kristin Drohan Collection
8 Way Hand Tie Via Kristin Drohan Collection

What's under the hood of a car is what will determine the performance of a car. Same for what's under the deck of a sofa. The foundation matters. What you will find in a quality constructed sofa is 8 way hand tied coils done by hand. This helps to distribute the weight evenly and prevents your seats from sagging. The height and location of the coils can be adjusted to get the perfect “ride”. It is secured to the frame 8 times for strength and durability.

What you will find in a lesser quality sofa is webbed and sinous coil spring foundation. Clearly lesser quality and will not last as long. You can expect sagging after a few years, if not sooner.

Next is the cushions.

Cushion Cut Away Via Kristin Drohan Collection
Cushion Cut Away Via Kristin Drohan Collection

The cushion is where you truly experience a luxury sofa over its lower quality counterpart. A luxury spring down (or spring down alternative) will have recycled coils core clamped together so they don't roll and create hard spots. Then a layer of high density foam is added and an inch of down, all encasing the coils for a luxury sit and longevity

You will typically have options for cushion types depending on your comfort level.

The Fabrics

Hampton Settee By Kristin Drohan Collection
Hampton Settee By Kristin Drohan Collection

The fabric is also a very important part of the overall construction of a quality sofa. It is not just for the look, but a fabric should be carefully chosen depending on how the sofa will be used. For example, it would not be wise to use a fine silk fabric on a sofa that will be used everyday in a household with kids and animals. You would want to choose a performance fabric like Crypton instead.

Also the fabric choice can affect the overall comfort level of the sofa and over time, some fabrics will wear differently. A good designer will take these factors into consideration to give your sofa a long life. Fabrics should always be upholstery weight at the very minimum, and these days, performance fabrics are just as beautiful with great hand, just as regular fabrics.

Kristin Drohan Collection has chosen the finest velvets and performance fabrics to ensure your upholstery looks beautiful and is durable. Their fabrics are Oeko tex rated, which means they are tested for harmful chemicals that contact the skin. They are also rated for low chemical emissions (Low VOC finishes)

Watch this video about Crypton performance fabrics courtesy of Kristin Drohan Collection website

Ability to customize

Most luxury and well made sofa lines will provide you with options.; meaning that they are customizable, where you can choose the type of cushion that works for your comfort level - whether you want firm or plush. You can choose skirt or not, leg type, finishes, pillows etc. You can also choose the fabric you want to use, and in some cases, can even send your own fabric to the vendor. Some lines may even allow you to make slight changes to the dimensions and some lines you can order fully custom from a drawing, sketch or CAD file. Your designer will take into account other fine details like the pitch of the sofa and the depth that will work for you and your spouse. This is something you will never get from a local or online retailer. They are simply selling you from stock that they purchase to appeal to their mass consumer base.

With these custom options, you can have a sofa that is perfectly tailored for you and your needs. That is what ultimate luxury is all about. And imagine that you can get this type of luxury for a reasonable investment. Imagine having a sofa that you can pass down to your children, and many many years from now, they may choose to reupholster or not, because the frame and cushion are still intact

So what does a good quality sofa cost?

Living room vignette with white skirted sofa in linen fabric by Lee Industries
Living Room Vignette Designed By Veronica Solomon

Well, I am glad you asked. The craftsmanship and quality materials that go into creating a sofa that will last a lifetime will come at a greater cost than a mass produced piece with materials that are not durable and where corners were cut in the manufacturing process. You can expect to pay anywhere from around $3200-$4000 on an average, and it could go up from there depending on your fabric choice. In most cases, if you work directly with an interior designer, you may receive a discount off the retail price.

What about free shipping? Well, I am here to tell you that nothing is truly free. What I know that consumers know but sometimes choose to overlook, is that the "free shipping" that they see advertised and what pulls them in, almost always means that the real cost of shipping is built into the cost of the sofa. I think consumers find it appealing because if they ever need to return the item, they won't have to deal with shipping costs they can't recover. But here is the kicker - when you deal with a designer, you won't ever have to worry about returning an item. We make sure it is right the first time. And no, we cannot offer free shipping like those online retailers who use that as a selling point, and here's why? Your sofa needs to get to your house. The costs to do that are direct costs that we pay, therefore we have to pass them along to our clients. Some designers will add a 10% or so admin charge for that, although in my firm we don't.

Not only are we paying anywhere from 12-20% freight on a sofa (which is the cost from the manufacturer to our local receiver), but we are also paying for a receiver with a loading dock to receive the sofa, inspect it for damages (because freight companies are known for doing that), store it in a climate controlled area, and then deliver it when we are ready to put your home together. All those activities cost us money, and usually will add another $300-$500 on a sofa. Of course, we are usually ordering a sofa as part of a large project and the overall cost (which is more because there are more products) would be spread over several products.

This is the reality and the truth behind what you can expect when you bring a designer in to create your ideal home for you. We are actually advocating for you, and despite what online retailers will have you believe, you are paying a reasonable price for a superior product.

We want you to enjoy your home and not worry about how your sofa sits, and whether the kids and the dogs will destroy the fabric. We take care of all those details upfront so that you can relax and enjoy the home that you have invested in. It is a part of our commitment to you here at Casa Vilora Interiors. Yes, we do realize that a $3500 sofa is more than what you can get a sofa for online, but we are not interested in filling your home with disposable pieces. We want everything to last and bring you years of enjoyment and fulfillment

Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about any of the pieces shown or any questions in general. You are welcomed to book a FREE 30 minute discovery call HERE

Thanks for stopping by!


#Sofa #QualityUpholstery #WorkingWithADesigner #KristinDrohanCollection

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