You know all about the cubicle where you spend your working hours.
But what about the place where many Americans spend another 20-odd hours each week – watching TV from the friendly confines of that living-room anchor, the sofa? If you haven’t stopped to consider yours lately, take a look at where you’re sitting.
Lucky for you, if that sofa doesn’t really seem to suit your lifestyle anymore (not to mention the sagging upholstery and mysterious stains), you can order up a new version that perfectly fits your style and your space – all without getting off the couch.
The way we buy sofas is changing, as trends toward customization of even basic brands continue to evolve and grow. Witness the career of Marta Calle, past president of traditional retailers CB2 and Crate and Barrel, who now holds a post as board chair and chief merchant at Interior Define (interiordefine.com), a primarily online vehicle that allows customers to design and build a sofa based on selections of legs, fabrics and frames in sizes customized in 4-inch increments.
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Where Crate’s customization programs are positioned as a sideline to the main retail furniture business, Interior Define is carving out its niche as an exclusively custom sofa retailer, at standard-issue prices and with the ease of online shopping.
“Millennial customers are the next big buying power,” says Calle. “And they want a product that has longevity, and they want to make it their own. And they know more about design than any other group, thanks to Pinterest and Instagram.”
Of course, in spite of that Pinterest-born design savvy, all those choices can be daunting. Which is where Calle’s sofa savvy comes into play – we asked for her tips on shopping for a sofa in a world where the options are endless.
First, focus on the frame. “Do you want traditional, classic, modern? Because the color can change, and the size can change to fit your space. So you can choose based on shape and style. Most people today have a modern sofa with an ornate table or some combination that is an eclectic mix. It’s very personal. My own style tends to be more modern, masculine maybe, but we offer a traditional English roll-arm that people love. You realize there’s also a need for things to be soft and pretty.”
Think about comfort. “There are so many levels of comfort, and we have very specific requirements about the way the seat will sit. My husband and I have a pair of sofas that we’ve had for 15 years, and we call them “Euro hard.” They’re very firm, and they’re in our city house. But we have a little house in Michigan with a CB2 sofa that I reinvented with a slipcover and a million pillows, and you can just sink into that. Consider what you’re going to do with the sofa and how you’re living in it. In the living room, maybe you want a harder sit; you sit up straight with your cocktails and have parties. In the family room, maybe you want the sofa you settle into for a nap.”
Consider fabrics. “Do you have kids? Because there are fabrics that are dog- and kid-friendly. I believe in durability of fabric, fabric that can last a lifetime. At home, we went crazy and got mohair because it’s durable and lovely to touch and sit on.”
Look for double-needle stitching. “It’s always a little sign of quality, because it’s a little more expensive to do. Not so expensive that manufacturers won’t do it, but if they are willing to do it, it means they care more about a quality product.”
Check the alignment. “Look for alignment of seams, whether they are straight, and whether the pattern in the fabric matches up. Carefully matched seams mean quality.”
Get a solid wood frame. “It should be heavy, and it will last 10 to 15 years. When you put your hand on the arm or back, you should not feel wood.”
Make it your own. “Pillows are how you do it. Pattern is lovely to layer on top, even with modern interiors. Think of (textile designer Alexander) Girard. Throws … I’m not so sure about. If you’ve got a cozy, cozy home and you’re a cozy person, and this is a comfy sofa, then go ahead. But maybe the throw is more for the family room than the living room.”