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How to Pick a Sofa If You’re Planning to Have Kids

My husband and I, for being educated adults, make really dumb choices when it comes to couches. Our first couch we got when we got married had pillow-type cushions on the back, which the dog quickly made her favorite spot to sleep. Those cushions quickly got squashed — and hairy. That couch landed in the dining room (which is a playroom) of our current house, and we got something else for our living room with a solid back. Only, we got it in a super light color that is no way fit for kids. Now, even with a cover over it, we cringe at the stuff that has seeped through over time. We vow that next time we won’t get it wrong again. Here today as part of Guest Bloggers’ Week is Rob Royer, founder of Interior Define, a custom furniture brand. With his tips, hopefully you can get this purchase right even if I never can…

How to Choose a Sofa that Will Hold Up to Kids

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Your sofa is the centerpiece of your living room and can truly define your space. A well-constructed sofa can be the focal point of your space for for seven to 10 years, or even longer if it looks great. There are several considerations to take into account when searching for the perfect piece, including materials and construction.  A little planning, combined with knowledge of the key elements of a great sofa will lead you to a piece that seamlessly adapts to your evolving space and lifestyle.

Let’s start with the fun parts:

Pick the right design. We’re firm believers that no single style fits everyone (we are a custom furniture brand, after all). We do believe a modern and timeless design point-of-view effortlessly blends into into a broad range of interior styles. Clean lines and subtle finishes, such as a quality metal or wood leg can adapt to any space (even a more traditional setting).

Select the right materials. Fabric is a bit trickier, as color and texture are subjective preferences, and often align more directly with lifestyles (e.g. having young kids or pets). A sofa will usually face heavy traffic at some point in its lifespan. Durable fabric blends with a 20,000 (or higher) rub count are a good idea and will help prevent pilling. Leather is a good option for durability, but can seem more “man cave” from a design perspective. For stain resistance, pre-treating fabrics with a poly-guard spray is often sufficient. We lean towards timeless and modern design and neutral colors, which can adapt to most lifestyles (think greys, subtle blues, and beiges). If you have a neutral-colored sofa, you can always make your space pop with colorful pillows, throw blankets, or a bright accent wall.

Check the construction. There are four key sofa construction areas to examine:

  1. Frame: The sofa frame should be constructed with kiln-dried hardwood. This process removes excess moisture from the frame, making it much less likely to warp over time (even in more humid conditions). To test the strength of a frame, lift up a corner of one end of the sofa, and see if the entire frame lifts up evenly. If one end seems to sag under the weight, it can be an indication of lower-quality wood or poor construction.
  2. Corner-blocked and glued (and/or stapled) frame corners are important for longer-term durability.
  3. The merits of 8-way hand-tied springs over sinuous springs are debatable. While 8-way is a time honored (and more expensive) approach, good quality sinuous springs hold up beautifully and provide ample and even support over time. For this reason, they have become the de facto standard across both the upper and lower end of the market.
  4. Cushions: High-density (or high resiliency) foam cushions will hold up best over time, regardless of the material wrapped around them. It is tempting to select the softest seat cushions available. That said, very soft seat cushions will require more maintenance such as regular fluffing, while medium to firmer cushions typically break in over time, providing a more consistent sit.

Last but not least, engage with the retailers you are considering to ensure they stand behind their product quality. Always first order fabric swatches to see how the sofa materials will fit within your unique space.

Thanks for the tips, Rob! Anyone else made an error in couch choice and then see it get pawed with sticky fingers? Seriously, next couch I’m going for man-cave leather! —Erin

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!

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  1. Lady T says:

    Good article! We learned the hard way and found that leather is better for us. It cuts down considerably on smells and stains. The 4yr took a pair of scissors to one of the cushions and put a small cut in it. But it hasn’t gotten any bigger (thank God) and that was 10yrs ago.