Which is the best SOFA?

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Choosing the best sofa might look like an easy task, and once it was because the selection was reduced to function and a few variations in models; but on today’s marketplace it may be overwhelming. So, I thought it would be useful to break it down and see the most important aspects to be considered when choosing a sofa for your homeplace.

1/ The seating depth is very important for your knees and back comfort. Most producers have taken this in consideration and are offering choices:

  • regular (85-95 cm)
  • comfort (105-110 cm)
  • enlarged (120-140 cm)

The taller the person is, the deeper seating I would recommend choosing. The reason is that your knees deserve the maximum comfortability!

Today we can have TAILORED pieces (jewelry, suits, shoes, sofas, and more) that will be made exactly to fit your shape, weight, size, to minimum details. That is very exclusive, rare, unique, and costly.

But for most of us, therefore for the mass demand, worldwide producers create STANDARD pieces, that can be varied in upholstering, finishing, modules, detailing, sometimes even sizes, and these items (different categories, starting from same jewelry and finishing to sofas and more) will be considered common items and cost-effective, reachable by most customers around the world.

Sofas, as thousands of other common things of regular use (garments, shoes) are sized up in “standards”. When it comes to sofas, the “standard sizes” were decided based on an average person, meaning that if 85% of the population is high between 165-170 cm (5.40 - 5.60 feet), the producers of sofas calculated to create sittings with a “standard” depth of about 85-95 cm (2.8 - 3.1 feet) because this way, such a person can sit straight on the sofa, holding feet on the ground, ankles at 90° and a straight back, meaning can hold a relaxed and comfortable positioning.


But if a person is taller, or, on the contrary, smaller, then how depth a sitting must be? – When a person is higher, then he/she will have longer legs; that means, to sit comfortably, will need a deeper sitting. Here most producers will offer options: models with “upgraded sitting depth”. It may not be possible for all models (especially for the bed sofas), but for most models, you can choose. So, when you will go shopping for your next sofa, check this aspect to get an item that will overcome your expectations.

2/ The seating size makes a big difference in aesthetics and comfortability. Smaller modules allow making the maximum of small spaces, composing the size that will fit at best into any room. Bigger modules, particularly one-piece seating, will be aesthetically more pleasing, look more glamorous, and proportionate to big, opened spaces. 


The upholstery is very important – it must hold the shape, and at the same time be comfortable, being not too rigid, not too soft; that is the reason producers usually use a layer of polyurethane or micro-springs to hold the shape, and a top layer of feathers, memory foam, or other modeling materials.

3/ Armrests are necessary to define the design of the sofa, but also to fit the exigencies of fitting into limited spaces. This is the reason why most producers offer a minimum of three standard options: a slim size (about 5 cm thick), a medium-size (about 10 cm thick), and a large size (over 15 cm). Plus, more and more companies in search of appealing design and distinguished style, offer a series of complements and accessories, they can be attached to the armrest or fixed to it, such as coffee tables, libraries, lamps, and more.


Less space you have at disposal, smaller/slimmer armrests you should choose. This will give you the possibility to take the maximum utility for choosing big and comfortable sitting modules and slimmer armrests. It will not compromise the overall design but be functional and great-looking. See some examples below.

4/ The backrest height is important for a person to sit comfortably:

Low backrest – is perfect for lounge rooms and relaxed interns, a time to relax, lay down, enjoy long conversations in friendly atmosphere. A low backseat will make you feel comfy and enjoy good moments, even watching tv will be more pleasing.

Medium backrest – normal/standard height, offering a good back support; one can add some cushions of 60x60 cm to support even better he backrest.

High backrest – is the perfect solution for clubs, bars, and restaurants – offer more privacy and help enjoy the good company, great food, and overall relaxed time.


The backrest is very important, so choose according to the purpose of use. In any case, you can have some extra-upgraded accessories you can add and subtract at any moment, to help you adjust to the needs you may have, for example choosing a pliable back cushion, or a backrest that has a foldable mechanism, or a simple roller-cushion to fill in the backrest structure, not to mention ordering a bunch of extra pillows to have at hand any time you might need them. 

5/ Fixed vs Opened sofas – which is better? Well, to begin with, they have two different purposes. If you are looking for a sofa to place in the living room for enjoying long-time conversations with friends and family, choose a fixed model with comfortable large sittings, good back support, armrests, and coffee tables to create a pleasant convivium area. However, if you need to have an extra bed because you must host often someone overnight, maybe the friend of your son or daughter, a parent, a close friend, then you may need to have a sofa that can be turned into a bed when needed. These types of sofas will not be as comfortable as the fixed ones, mainly because of the opening mechanism it must hold inside, so the rigidity will be higher and there are limits to sizing and accessorizing such a sofa, but it will comply with the functionality you need. 

A fixed 2-seat and 3-seat sofa are usually a one-piece block having a specific size, so before acquiring one, please check it will fit into the door opening, otherwise you may get the unpleasant surprise that you will not be able to get it into your house.

A sofa-bed will have one of the 2 standard openings: with folding slat and mattress, or pliable; there is also a third solution, which is a half-pliable mechanism, see photos below. These kinds of sofas are usually composed of two or even three parts that are assembled later inside the room space.


What is important to consider in a sofa bed is how the back structure and seating cushions are made if these are smooth or have cuts and stitches. These can be found without any decorations at all, or they may have stitches, buttons, or other kinds of decorations. This aspect is important, especially if it ones in a pliable way, because laying down on a pleated seating you will feel all the irregularities, so sleeping might not be as comfortable as if having simple smooth coverings.

6/ Relaxed mechanisms that can come with the sofa to make your experience more enjoyable:

      Headrest accessories for increased back comfortability

      Footrest accessories for relaxing feet and laying on the back

      Backrest mechanisms

      Massage mechanisms incorporated on the back and seating cushions


These kinds of accessories might sound “extra” to someone and even unnecessary but believe you will feel the difference!

7/ Coating and finishing are important, they define the style and give extra-value to the entire interior. Most producers offer the following options:

LEATHERS – What kind of leather? Vintage, Nabuk, full grain (soft and delicate) or hard leather, or a basic painted leather with no fuss? What difference it will make?


Vintage leather is usually soft leather with almost no visible grain, but most importantly, with a “consumed” coating, it looks like it was coated at least some decades ago. It’s a technology of fabrication used to turn simple leather in vintage by technical processing. But what is important to know is that this kind of leather will look fabulous in a classical interior, near walnut boiserie panels and marble flooring, but also in modern locations with beautiful parquet flooring and art pieces.

Nabuk leather will look exquisite on modern style sofas, particularly on big sizes. The nabuk gives a porous feeling and visually “grounds” the piece to the surface, making it look robust, “heavy and bulky”, that’s why it will be perfect on modern squared models.

Full-grain leather is the softest and most delicate: it is the center part of a leather piece, so it takes the best qualities remaining elastic and soft over a long period of time, but also it beholds the naturalness of a leather skin being irregular in graining and beholding natural folds. This leather is the most costly of all because of these qualities. It looks amazing on classical pieces, like Chesterfields, but also on modern minimalistic styles, and it is highly appreciated for its soft touch feeling and authenticity. The care for such a leather must be maximized since it will absorb fast any kind of liquids, and remain stained.

Hard leather (cuoio, IT) is great for straight-line pieces of a sofa (the base structure, armrests) and office furniture sofas because of its durability. It is the hardest part of the natural leather, rigid and almost invulnerable (apart from scratching). It will be ideal for office furniture and waiting room areas, but also barstools and chairs in public spaces (like bars and restaurants). Easy to clean up, has the longest durability in time.

A basic category of leather is the regular and most used in commerce. It is always a natural leather, but of restrained flexibility, thickness (usually 2-3 mm) painted full coverage to conceal all kinds of irregularities a natural leather may contain (different graining, folds, even holes from insects). Usually, this category of leather is first pressed under a stamp to recreate the homogeneity of natural grain and afterward painted. In such a way obtaining “perfect and uniform” natural leather appeal. It is the less expensive of all leathers, very diffused in commerce.

There is another category of natural leather, the furs, quite specific and mainly dedicated to accessories (pillows, plaid, blankets, carpets), but I thought I should mention it because designers do experiment with different upholstery, furs including. It is quite specific, quite expensive, and quite rare. But if you are looking for unique pieces, something to impress, just know that the best producers worldwide have at least some models available in this finishing.

FABRICS – What kind of fabric? – Natural fibers (cotton, linen, silk, viscose, wool, cashmere) or synthetic fibers (polyester, acrylic, microfiber)? - I would start by saying that MIXED fibers are the best because of the comfortability a natural fiber is giving and at same time a higher resistance. But let’s go step-by-step.


Natural fibers, pure cotton, linen, and viscose are a perfect choice for lining soft padded items in warm-climate areas. These fibers are 100% breathable, will not make you sweat, do not provoke erythema on the skin, are hygienic and easily washable. Perfect for city and countryside, particularly if you have the exigency to keep the hygiene at maximum standards.

Natural fibers as wool, silk, and cashmere will be the best choice for cold-climate areas. However, since these fibers will be quite delicate in 100% pure concentration, with the tendency to “shorten up” when washed, I would suggest choosing for coverings in mixed fibers, for example, 95% wool - 5% acryl for the upholstering of the entire sofa structure + some pillows in 100% silk. However, the only cleaning of such materials will resist is the dry cleaning, so be gentle and thoughtful, this way it will serve you a long time. And remember, that nothing will warm you up as good as these natural fibers, I guarantee!

For everyday use, I would suggest going for more mixed fibers, which will increase the abrasive power, calculated in “Martindale” – the higher the number, the stronger is the tissue, so it will hold more washes, create fewer spools, and overall will serve you a longer period.

A bigger percentage of natural fiber (85-95%) and a small percentage of synthetic fibers (3-5%) or the other ways around? That depends:

1/ On the use you intend to make – if it’s for an item designated to a common area such as the living room, office, or other public spaces, and you know it will be exploited frequently and for a long time – choose a higher percentage of synthetic fiber and a lower percentage of natural fibers; this will guarantee a higher resistance to frequent washes and cleaning routine. 

2/ On the country you live in (warm or cold weather) – natural materials, such as natural leather and wool hold better cold-weather climates, while linen, cotton, and viscose are fresh and hygienic in hot climates. The rest is up to you.

By the way, ALCANTARA – is a very special and unique microfiber! So, for you, cats and dog lovers, I would suggest going for this material because of its high resistance to scratches and cleaning detergents. This fiber has a high cost, but it is distinguished from other microfibers because of the technological process that offers the highest resistance on the market today. 

ECO-LEATHER is a great alternative to natural leather; moreover, today’s technology and know-how allow the production of great quality, that is almost identical by finish, grain, and soft-touch appeal to natural leather.

Now arriving at the last, but always a top question many of you ask: Why the “same” sofa by aspect, size, and covering can cost X amount at one producer, and twice or even ten times more at another producer? Why is that? It is all about branding and commercial gain a company wishes to have? Or there is more than it seems at first sight?

Let’s take as an example a 2-seat Chesterfield sofa that is a cult model in the world of interior design, appreciated and loved around the world for more than a century. Today this model is produced by many companies in different parts of the world. At one producer it can be acquired for 1 000 euro (or even less), while at another producer, let’s take the Italian producer Poltrona Frau, the “father” of this model, who released its first Chester in 1912 and made this sofa popular across the borders, it may cost over 10 000 euro. To what accounts for this difference?

Before going into details, I shall make a statement, a very explanatory and simple one, that is valid for all companies: EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO SELL ITS GOODS/SERVICES AT THE DESIRED PRICE. This is a free market, free competition. Therefore, no one is obliged to “explain themselves” why they sell for a certain price point. Clients are free to choose what is best for them and take the product/service that fits best their desires, necessities, and values. So, NO JUDGEMENTS.

But, if we want to understand deeper how the price point is made, for sofas (but the idea is valid for most products today), here are the most inclusive reasons:

1)    Branding – yes, of course, it will take a good share of the total selling price. The stronger is the identity of a brand, the more expensive and valuable its products will be in the eyes of the worldwide public. A brand that is on the international arena for decades, creating new collections every year, using high-technology and top raw materials, confirming day-by-day its products are worthen your money, and a fresh starting producer company that has not confirmed yet its status on the market, who is “re-creating a similar design” to the first producer, will have a different value perception in the eyes of a customer.

2)    To this, we shall consider another priceless addition – the collaboration with the best designers and architects to make unique, creative objects. The fees of the creator (the inventor who is behind the idea, who used its creativity to make something new, who designed the product) is an asset to the company, incrementing the value of the brand, and adding value to the products released.

3)    Then, of course, comes the production costs (the hand-made work and the industrialized processes have different costs for the same process); the more phases are requiring hand-made working, particular applications, detailing, and other processes where particular skills are implemented (painting, handcrafting, etc), the bigger will be its final production cost.

For example: cutting leather by hand, implies engaging one or even two persons (so their work-per-hour pay) selecting the best parts of leather (and cutting out defects, like natural scratches, holes, and other damaged parts, which overall will take more time and will have more part remains), then stitching all pieces by hand to create the coverings for a sofa will have a certain cost; while if you place different leathers, let’s say 10 different pieces of leather, under a cutting laser-machine (used in the industrial process) that will cut at the same time 10 different layers of leather to make 10 exact sofas, the production expenses will be divided by 10 pieces and that will have a completely different cost (much lower). 

4)    The packaging is also a cost included in the final price and it may differentiate, from 1% up to 10% from the total selling cost. Some producers offer wooden boxes, other carton boxed with angle-coverings, others will provide simple plastic packaging; these materials have different costs, therefore, will consist in a different percentage share from the final price.

5)    Transportation costs can also play a non-indifferent cost. Is the selling point in the same region/country it is produced or is it an imported product? Plus, don’t forget about government taxes (vat, regional and local fees).

6)    Finally, marketing costs - the bigger the brand, the biggest is the share it can, and probably will invest in publicity, differentiating between tv spots, specialized articles for magazines, and other. The biggest players of Italian furnishings are known to invest up to 3% of their annual turnover in marketing costs.

7)    The selling costs in their mono-brand stores or dealer shops (including the rent cost, personnel, etc).

This is about all, at least the most relevant aspects regarding the production of SOFAS. I hope I could clarify some important aspects, from aesthetics to functionality and production. Let me know if you have further questions, I will be happy to answer as best as I can.

In the meantime, take care and stay well!



MetropolitanMe Blogger