6. Back it up. Whether the back of your sofa has cushions or a straight back also depends on use. For crashing and lounging, pillow backs are most comfortable. They're also the most traditional. Tight-backed sofas look more tailored and formal. Tufted backs are handsome, but are not the best choice for everyday use. When selecting a tufted back, know that the wider apart the tufts, the plusher the padding. Smaller tufting creates a tighter, more rigid the back.
7. Now choose color and fabric. Because fabric choice has a big impact on final price, ask to only see fabrics in your price range. A lower-cost, durable, solid neutral on the main sofa, can give you lots of mileage and versatility, and let you spend more on fabric for pillows. If the sofa will get a lot of traffic from kids and dogs, seek tightly woven, family-friendly “performance” fabrics. Formal spaces can take something a little less sturdy. Beware of loud patterns. Solid, neutrals are the best investment, says Payne, “which is why they outnumber prints and stripes 10 to 1.”
8. Add finishing touches. Nail heads, piping and trim give sofas personality. Nail heads are standard these days, said Payne. Their finish is important: Brass, whether shiny or aged, is traditional. Distressed finishes look rustic (think lodge), and pewter goes in transitional to modern settings. Piping or welting can be in the same fabric (self-welt) or different (contrast welt). Monochromatic looks work well in transitional or modern interiors. Contrasting piping offers a more relaxed, casual look. Higher-end and traditional sofas often have a cord or trim instead of piping. Decorative tapes on pillows or around the base of the sofa is a popular, custom detail.
9. Get your fill. Cushions filled with high-density foam offer a firmer sit and hold their shape. Spring-feather down gives you that great sink-down feeling, but needs to be plumped into shape afterward. High-density foam with a feather or down wrap feels good and recovers well.
10. Maintain it. To keep your sofa looking good longer flip the cushions often — because who wants to go through this again?
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.