Armchair advice on how to cast your couch

Every day of our lives, we sit, nap and entertain ourselves on the sofa. The couch maybe the most important purchase you’ll ever make in furniture. Yet, how much do we actually know about it?

Published: 28th October 2012 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th October 2012 08:36 AM   |  A+A-


Every day of our lives, we sit, nap and entertain ourselves on the sofa. The couch maybe the most important purchase you’ll ever make in furniture. Yet, how much do we actually know about it? All we see is the fabric and the upholstery and most of us do not know what actually goes into the making of a sofa and the correct way to decorate it. For starters, you can divide a sofa into three sections: the framework, the padding and the upholstery.

The framework of a sofa conventionally is most often made with hardwood, which is highly recommended and forms a very sturdy and long-lasting base. In today’s new materials age, however, steel is often used as a replacement. Intertwined jute webbing is then used to form the base of the sofa, along with springs which is then covered with burlap, a thick fabric to prevent the frame from cutting into you. Following this, foam is added to the entire sofa or to the areas that need to be padded. It is then covered with a muslin cloth and finally ready to be upholstered with the fabric of your choice.

Choosing a fabric is the fun part of sofa-making. Usage of the sofa is the most important point to consider while making a decision. If your sofa will encounter heavy traffic, choose leather or any Teflon-coated material that makes cleaning easier. Jacquards, chenille’s and brocades are richer and more durable fabrics to use, while cottons and linens though they look great, maybe difficult to maintain.

Blended fabrics are much more easy to manage and last for a longer period of time. An average upholstered armchair requires around six metres per chair and an average three-seater sofa will require around 12 metres. Take the average and get a little more fabric as sitting to calculate the exact amount can get quite tedious. Extra fabric, if left over can be used for cushion covers or as trims and borders on cushion seats. When buying fabric, do make it a point to tell the salesperson if your sofa has fixed or loose covers, fixed or loose cushions.

When it comes to deciding on what cushions you need for your sofa, there is a rule of thumb to follow. You may display as many pillows as you like depending on the look of your sofa and how cozy and comfortable you need it to be. Measure the distance from the top of your sofa seat to the top of your sofa and your largest pillow should be five inches smaller than that number. The next set of pillows should be three to four inches smaller than the large ones and the next set two to three inches smaller than that. These would be square in shape and then you can accent and highlight by changing the shape of your pillows. Try out rectangles and round shapes to add a bit of fun to the set up.

When it comes to taking care of your sofa, the easiest way is to make a slipcover for it that can be removed when dirty and thrown into the machine, fabric permitting. If making a slipcover is too much of a hassle, get arm covers made for your sofa. Arms are the areas that fade out first due to constant usage and you do not want to have to change the entire upholstery because of that. In this vein, spread open a throw on the seat and back of the sofa again to prevent stains and dirt from constant usage. Regular vacuuming helps get rid of dust from the crevices and sometimes wiping the sofa down with a damp cloth will also do the trick.

Finally for some trivia. The term sofa is a derivation from the Arabic word suffah which means a raised platform used as a bench.

The writer is an interior designer, with offices in Delhi and Mumbai. E-mail her at

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