Part I: Introduction
A place to lie down quietly at the end of a hard day at work and a place where you catch up on your favourite TV series, there is no denying that the sofa is the epicentre of domestic life in Singapore. Sofas, when chosen correctly can turn out to be a great investment. A good quality sofa can last for a long time hence it is important to pick one that is suited to both your home and lifestyle. There are so many reasons why a sofa is considered an important piece of furniture, but here is our most compelling one: It is the most used piece of furniture at home.
Part II: What Makes A Sofa Comfortable?
Sofas come in a wide range of materials with each offering different benefits. More often than not, most people in Singapore find it overwhelming when it comes to picking a sofa material and style that is right for the home. For example, a leather sofa is ideal for households with children due to its durability and ease of maintenance, as compared to fabric ones. You can also pick a suitable material for your sofa by considering other factors such as placement and frequency of use.
Aside from upholstery, the filling and framework of a sofa is just as important. They act as the foundation of your sofa and are two main factors determining the longevity of your sofa.
2.1 The Frame
A sofa’s longevity and retainment of shape are largely dependent on its frame. A common feature that all high-quality sofas have, be it leather or fabric, is a strong, sturdy frame to withstand the test of time. Here are some points to consider when looking at sofa frames:
- High-Quality Materials
One of the best materials for a sofa frame is kiln-dried hardwood. Unlike softwoods that are derived from pines and cedars, hardwoods are known to be stronger and hence are considered better suited to most types of furniture making. But what sets kiln-dried hardwood apart from the rest is that it undergoes a process of kiln-drying to remove all moisture from the wood, minimising the risks of mould growth. This process enables the wood to retain its shape and stability throughout the years.
- Sturdy Joints
Another important factor to consider when investing in a good-quality sofa frame is the joints.
In a sturdy and good-quality frame, the joints are often glued, dowelled, and nailed. The corners of these frames are then further strengthened with the addition of reinforcing blocks, or cut to fit a certain corner for extra support. One of the strongest methods of joining is known as Mortise & Tenon. Mortise & Tenon is a method used to piece two pieces of wood at a 90-degree angle, with one of the pieces having a hole, and the other cut specifically to fit into that hole.
Another common method of joining is the Double Dowel method. A small, wooden cylinder, also known as a dowel is inserted into a small, round hole that is drilled into two pieces of wood to hold them together. A double dowel follows the same joining method yet instead of one, it uses two dowels at each joint. While it is not considered as sturdy as a Mortise & Tenon method and is likely to loosen over time, this method can be found in many upholstery frames.
- The use of plywood
One of the more commonly used materials in the furniture industry is plywood. Plywood is considered a form of engineered wood and can be strong enough for a sofa frame when several layers of it are glued together. Construction plays an important role in sofas that use plywood as a frame.
2.2 Seating Support of Sofa
The seating support is the second most important component to determine the quality and long-term comfort of a sofa. It works hand-in-hand with the frame and the filling of a sofa; a sturdy frame provides a good foundation for seating support while the filling augments it. It is ideal to choose a sofa that is firm to provide good seating support.
One of the best and most common seating support options is the sinuous spring, also known as the no-sag spring. In this support option, each spring is connected with a strong twine at an adjoined angle. The twine will then pass from front to back, side to side before going diagonally in both directions to ensure that it is secure.
2.3 Cushion Filling
After considering the frame and seating support, it is now time to delve deeper into the filling for your sofa. One of the most common fillings is high-density polyurethane which results in firmer sofa cushions. Cushions made from this material can be wrapped in softer material such as polyester fibre or feathers. High-density foam prevents the cushion from sagging. Sofas using coil spring often have high-density foam surrounding the springs, before it is wrapped in down pads. The result of this is a soft surface with strong, resilient support inside, ultimately preventing the cushions from losing their shape easily.
If you are considering getting a softer seat cushion, then we recommend down-filled cushions. These are considered to be a premium choice and are often proof-ticked under the upholstery fabric to prevent the feathers from poking through. To retain the shape and comfort of these down-filled cushions over time, we would advise patting them every now and then to even out the feathers.
Now that we’ve got the foundation of what makes a quality sofa, it is time to move on to the upholstery.
Part III: Choosing the best materials for your sofa
Upholstery refers to the attachment of padding, cushion, fabric, or leather textile covers onto furniture like a sofa. Unlike the interior elements, the material used for upholstery plays a significant role in providing the sofa with a visual identity.
3.1 Leather Sofas
Leather sofas remain a popular choice amongst homeowners in Singapore and for good reason. Similarly, like all other big-ticket items, buying leather furniture requires thoughtful planning. Considered a durable material from tanning hide and animal skin, leather mostly comes from cattle. Natural leather can be divided into buffalo leather and cow leather. Cowhide is known to be a versatile material with abrasion resistance properties, making it a good choice for sofas. On the other hand, buffalo leather is considerably thicker and stiffer, thus it tends to have more defined patterns like groves and cuts. Buffalo leather is also known for its durability and cannot undergo as much stretching as compared to cow leather.
When shopping for a leather sofa in Singapore, you will encounter different types of leather. Top-grain leather is from the outermost layer of cowhide and is considered the highest quality part of the cowhide. Because it does not contain the split, a fibrous second layer, it is softer, more pliable, and has a higher tendency to soften over the years. Top-grain leather is known to be an exceptional choice for sofas due to its stain-resistant properties as well as easy maintenance. Aside from top-grain, split leather and bonded leather are also frequent choices for sofa. Made from the layer that remains after the top-grain is removed, split leather is natural and often used to make suede.
The finest of all, full-grain leather comes from the outermost layer of a cow’s hide. It undergoes very minimal processing before being used to upholster high-quality furniture such as a sofa. This material is stiff, durable but also breathable. Full-grain leather is often available in two finishes – aniline and semi-aniline. Semi-aniline leather has a protective topcoat making it even more impervious to stains. For a more natural option, you can opt for aniline top-grain leather. Even though it is considered a more natural option when compared to semi-aniline, it has a lack of protective coating, making it softer and more susceptible to stains. One such example is Nubuck leather. Nubuck is aniline leather that has undergone buffing and sanding, making it incredibly soft with a texture similar to that of velvet. Its downside is that it is one of the most difficult leather to maintain.
Out of all the variations, pigmented leather is highly treated and is considered one of the most durable leather in the market. After the refinement process to remove scars and veins, the leather is coated with a colour pigment before the embossment of grain pattern. The end-product is a blemish-free leather of high durability.
3.2 Faux Leathers
Because of the rigorous process that goes into finished leather for upholstery, genuine leather sofas in Singapore are quite costly. If you are looking at having a leather finish for your sofa, but are concerned with the cost, consider faux leather instead! Faux leather, also referred to as vegan leather, is considered a more affordable alternative to genuine leather. Faux leather can be classified into 4 different types:
1. PU faux leather
PU leather is made by applying or laminating a 100% polyurethane finish to a base material. Some of the typical base materials include polyester, cotton, or even nylon. A roller is then applied to create an artificial grain pattern that is similar to the look of genuine leather.
2. Bonded leather
Bonded leather, is a term used for a manufactured upholstery material that consists of ground-up leather scraps combined with binding materials. After going through the mixing process, the surface of bonded leather is embossed with a leather-like texture or grain.
3. PVC leather
Similar to PU leather, PVC is made using a combination of polyvinyl chloride with stabilisers, plasticisers, and lubricants to ensure durability and softness. The mixture is then applied to a base material like cotton, polyester, and nylon.
4. Bi-cast leather
Made with split leather backing that is covered with a layer of polyurethane, bi-cast leather has an artificially consistent texture that is easy to clean and maintain. Unlike genuine split leather, bi-cast leather lacks the strength and durability of the natural product.
3.4 Fabric Sofas
A smart approach to adopt when selecting a fabric for your sofa is to match it to your lifestyle and budget. The lifespan of your sofa is determined by the situation at home. For example, delicate fabrics such as velvet or silk can be considered in small households without pets or children. Durable and easy-to-clean fabric is preferred for households with children, pets, or that host guests frequently.
As part of the design, some fabric sofas come with removable, machine-washable covers making them easy to clean and a great choice to be placed in high-traffic areas like your living room. However, the material of these removable covers tends to shrink easily, hence machine-wash for new sofa covers are not advisable. Instead, the first few washes should be done by hand in cold water.
Known for its versatility and soft touch, cotton is breathable and the ideal material for fabric sofas in Singapore’s hot and humid climate. One of the downsides is that it is generally more prone to wrinkles and may look less appealing with time. As cotton is a natural fibre, it has very low stain resistance. This means unless a fabric or stain protector is applied to your cotton sofa, stains may be difficult to be removed. Thus, most sofa specialists would not recommend cotton sofas to big households or be placed in high-traffic areas at home.
Some fabric sofas use a mix of cotton and polyester to make them sturdier and more stain-resistant, while the cotton component keeps it more breathable in Singapore’s humid weather.
2. Linen fabric
Even though it is pricier than cotton, linen is a more sustainable choice amongst homeowners in Singapore. This natural fibre is made from flax and is more resilient as compared to cotton fabric sofas. Ideal for the tropical and humid climate of Singapore, linen is breathable and cool to the touch. However, linen is easily stained and is more prone to wrinkles.
To ensure the longevity of your linen sofa, you need to vacuum it regularly to prevent crumbs and dust from damaging the fabric. Plus, if you own a pet then you can use either furniture or clothes brush to remove pet hair as well as dirt. Linen sofas are best placed away from direct sunlight to prevent weakening the fibre’s integrity.
A common material used in both the fashion and furniture industry, velvet has been a go-to fabric for creating a stylish look. Don’t be fooled by the luxurious looks and feels of velvet because it is rather adaptable in the home setting. Contrary to belief that velvet is high-maintenance, the fabric is not as delicate and can last for decades if properly cared for. Just like leather, velvet only gets better with age.
One of the simplest methods to maintain your velvet sofa is to incorporate it into your regular cleaning routine. We recommend vacuuming your velvet sofa with the hand-held nozzle to pick up dust and dirt caught inside the pile. Stain repellents are recommended to treat your velvet sofa.
3. Polyester Sofas
Made with synthetic fibres such as microfibre, canvas and faux leathers, the polyester sofa is often used to upholster furniture because it stands up well to sun exposure as well as daily use. Its long-term durability and ease of maintenance make it one of the more popular picks for families with children and pets. When considering other synthetic options, polyester is more affordable, durable, and has scratch-resistant properties. It can also be blended with other upholstery fabrics to make them softer. Its durability is comparable to that of genuine leather sofas.
It is easy to clean and maintain your polyester couch. You can use a damp cloth to remove the dirt and debris that has built-up on the material. Unlike leather, polyester tends to dry quickly whilst maintaining the insulative properties of the weave. Contrary to belief, polyester sofas can withstand abrasion and discolouration. Polyester sofas are not as soft and comfortable when compared to natural fibres like cotton, making it less popular amongst homeowners.
Part IV: Caring for your leather sofa
Maintenance of leather sofas
Leather sofas may require more maintenance, which is why regular cleaning helps you enjoy more savings in the long run! A well-maintained high-quality genuine leather sofa can last for 10 years and more. The trick is to use a dry cloth to wipe your sofa daily. Remember that it shouldn’t be too wet as leather does not take kindly to large amounts of liquid. Once in a while, you should use a specialised cleaning product to treat and clean your sofa’s upholstery. Avoid using all-purpose wipes and sprays as they may contain chemicals such as ammonia or alkalis that can damage your sofa.
It is still best to identify the kind of leather upholstery you own and the recommended care that should be exercised. Leather cleaners are usually the go-to choice. After cleaning with a leather cleaner, remember to clean your sofa with a dry cloth and be sure to not sit on it till it is completely dry. This allows the leather to stay shaped around the contours of your sofa without any creases. And it doesn’t just end here! Leather upholstery should be positioned away from strong, direct sunlight to prevent discolouring.
Maintenance of faux leather sofas
Faux leather sofas follow the same cleaning routine as genuine leather sofas. Avoid using harsh detergents as they will cause the material to dry out. Instead, clean it regularly with warm water and dishwashing soap. It is important to ensure that the cloth is wrung out so that it is not dripping water. Cleaning your faux leather sofa regularly helps to slow down general wear and tear while reducing the buildup of everyday marks.
Part V: How To Choose The Perfect Sofa For Your Home?
Apart from deciding on the material for your upholstery and frame, it is important to consider the size and style of sofas that will match your living space. Here are three tips on how you can make a better decision.
1. Size considerations
If you have the luxury of space in your home, then it is important to decide exactly how much of the living room you want your sofa to fill. Are you looking to include a coffee table to match your leather sofa? If you’re looking to position your sofa as the focal point of your living room, then we would recommend you get a rounder sofa shape to take up a bit more room whilst catering for more seating. If your living room is small, then we would recommend a sofa that is small, practical and can give you enough space from your TV at home.
2. The orientation of your sofa
You need to analyse your lifestyle to be able to successfully organise the living space. Ask yourself questions – what do you do most in that space? If you are someone who likes to wind down in front of your TV then the position of your sofa is just as important as buying yourself a smart tv or a 55-inch/65-inch TV.
3. Colour of your sofa
When designing your living room, choosing your sofa first can help you better decide how you can decorate around it. A showpiece sofa can be upholstered in a vibrant, luxurious fabric, or colourful print to make it a focal piece. However, if you are adding a sofa to an already decorated room, then the choice of colours becomes important.
Because of the small living spaces of newly constructed BTOs in Singapore, some homeowners tend to want their rooms to look slightly larger, hence they will favour a sofa to match the colours of the wall to unify the entire room. While this may be favourable at the start, changing the wall colour may pose a problem in the future. Thus, it is recommended for homeowners to choose a sofa that complements the other furniture such as the coffee table or recliner chair.
Part VI: Conclusion
Whilst providing comfortable seating for you and your family, a sofa of the right colours, materials, and size also creates a more elegant living space. Pick a sofa that brings out the aesthetics of your home from Harvey Norman Singapore today!
Looking to get a comfortable, stylish, or functional sofa for your home? Head on down to Harvey Norman Singapore and let our experienced sales personnel help you pick out the best sofa to suit your needs and match the aesthetics of your home.