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Major investment in home design requires careful shopping

August 15, 2013

There are certain home goods, including sofas and hardwood flooring, that have to be chosen very carefully because they are expected to last a long time and will command lots of attention in any home. The Urban Loft collection by Anderson Floors, for instance, contains subtly textured wood floors that would be as compatible with contemporary furnishings as traditional ones.

That's the kind of versatility that consumers should also expect when they buy a well-constructed sofa. While they don't always know what constitutes good construction for a couch, loveseat or sectional, it may help them to follow a formula that many designers observe.

Core construction
San Francisco interior designer Courtney Jones calls this sofa guidance the four F's - form, frame, fabric and fill. While form dictates the right fit for a room, and fabric needs to be attractive as well as durable, it's the frame and fill that affect a sofa's longevity most.

The frame is the nuts-and-bolts construction that determines a sofa's quality and durability. Solid construction of hardwoods such as alder, maple and oak results in the sturdiest sofas.

While most people prefer cushion fill that has a foam core surrounded by materials such as wool batting and Dacron, others are choosing sustainable choices such as soy or organic cotton fabrics. In addition, cushions wrapped in goose down require plumping and can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

New York city designer Timothy Brown told Dwell magazine that he prefers a hardwood frame with hand-tied springs, which evenly distribute the weight of those sitting on the couch.

How it's used
Choosing the right sofa also should take into account how the sofa is used, its unique design and how much space it needs to be attractively situated in a room. That's where form comes in.

The lines of the sofa, its back height, style of arm rests and number of cushions all make up the form. Those factors will determine whether a sofa can fit into a certain space and match the homeowner's style preferences.

The fabric of a sofa may be the most decorative feature, but it also needs to be durable to stand up to regular use. When choosing an upholstery fabric, thought should be given to the variety of finishes and colors that are part of the existing room design. Many homeowners prefer a neutral fabric that can be updated periodically with a variety of pillows or decorative throws.