How to choose the right sofa

How to Choose a Good Sofa or Couch?

A couch or sofa is a significant investment that you have to “live with” for 5 - 10 years. For Singapore, with limited living spaces, it becomes even more important. You are likely to spend a lot of time on your sofa. It is where you sit when you watch TV, work on your laptop or take a power nap. Spending time to do your homework before buying a good sofa is essential.

Style preferences are a personal matter where your own criteria matters the most. But, when it comes to buying a good sofa, there are some important factors that you need to consider.

In this article, we demystify those important factors to take into consideration. We come up these factors after visiting many sofa manufacturers in Malaysia and China.

How to interpret information provided by sofa retailers, key contents we will go through:

Too Long, Don't Read

Overview of how to select a good sofa

How to Interpret Information Provided by Sofa Retailers?

The first thing that you might do is to search for sofa listings available online. IKEA, Fortytwo, HipVan, Castlery, Shopee and Lazada are places you might have visited. Comfort Design, Mega Furniture, Bed N Basics are other options in a crowded online space.

If you prefer seeing the actual stuff, you might have visited many retail outlets already. Castlery, IMM Mall, IKEA and Tan Boon Liat building are popular locations in Singapore.

The options listed above are some avenues that we explored when we were buying our own sofa.

Common Information Provided by Sofa Retailers 

All sofa retailers in Singapore share some common information to support customers in their decision making. They appear in the product descriptions section for online sofa retailers. The salesperson will also introduce them when you visit offline retailers.

There are two broad categories of information shared are:

  • Sofa materials
  • Sofa dimensions

Below is a compilation of common information we saw when we were doing our own shopping.

Sample product descriptions that you will come across online

Not sure what to make out of these? We were the same then. Read further for tips direct from the sofa manufacturers that we hope we knew when we were buying our sofas.

Understanding Sofa Materials Descriptions

The materials used for building the sofa determines the durability of the sofa.

Fabric Upholstery Information

Material composition

Most Singaporean retailers provide information about fabric material composition.

There are two broad categories of fabrics, common terms we see in Singapore include the following:

  • Man-made fabrics:
    • Polyester
    • Acrylic
    • Olefin
    • Viscose
  • Natural fabrics:
    • Linen
    • Cotton
Different types of man-made and natural fabrics

What we recommend?

Choose upholstery materials made with man-made fibres such as polyester, acrylic or olefin.

Man-made fibres are more durable and easy to maintain compared to natural fibres. Compared to natural fibres, they are also more affordable.

In general, they are the material to go for if you are looking for a sofa that lasts for 5 years under regular use.

If you want the comfort provided by natural fibres, look for sofas that use fabric blends with elements of natural fibres.

Cotton blends make the sofa softer and more breathable. Linen blends provide a natural luster and smooth touch. Choose the man-made natural fabric blend based on what you value most.

What information to dig further if it is not already provided?

Do note that even fabrics with the same composition can perform differently. Fabric durability vary widely based on their weaving tightness and material density.

There is no need to go too deep into all these details. At least, check with the retailer for the rub count of the fabric. This indicates when the fabric starts to show signs of wear and tear when the fabric is rubbed against an abrasive surface.

Look for fabrics with over 15,000 rub counts under the Martindale test if you plan to use the sofa for more than 5 years.

Leather Upholstery Information

Material composition

Common terms used to describe leathers in Singapore include the following:

  • Bonded leather
  • Eco leather
  • Faux leather
  • Split leather
  • Genuine leather
  • Top grain leather
  • Full grain leather
  • Semi aniline leather
  • Full aniline leather
Different types of man-made and natural leathers

What we recommend?

Choose leathers made with 100% cowhide that applied a thin layer of protective pigment finishing.

These leathers offer the best compromise between durability, affordability and ease of maintenance. Top grain, full grain and semi aniline leather all fulfill these conditions.

Avoid bonded leather, eco leather, faux leather and split leather. They are not made with 100% cowhide and are less durable.

Genuine leather is an ambiguous term. It represents any leather with >60-70% cowhide composition. It may be less durable if it is not made from 100% cow leather. Be sure to probe further if you want to buy a genuine leather sofa.

Full aniline leathers are the most expensive. However, they do not have any thin layer of protective pigment finishing to protect the leather. Stains, scratches are easier to happen on these sofas.

Cushion or Filling Information

Material composition

Common terms used to describe cushions in Singapore include the following:

  • Foam, fibre and pocket spring filled seat
  • High density foam
  • High resilient foam
Difference between low density and high density foams

What we recommend?

Go for cushions made with high density foams.

Density is a function of the amount of chemicals used to produce the foam. Denser foams are more compact compared to foams with lower density. As a result, they are more durable and offer the best support and comfort.

There is no conclusive evidence that seat cushions made with foam and pocket spring are less durable or comfortable. However, seat cushions made with only foams are a relatively new technique which we recommend.

What information to dig further if it is not already provided?

Most retailers in Singapore do not further specify the exact density of the foam used.

Foams with densities ranging from 28kg/cbm to 45kg/cbm might all be called high density foams. However, the difference in densities can have large implications on durability of the cushions.

Also ask for the thickness of the foams used, especially for seat cushions. With thicker cushions, you are less likely to sit through the cushion and feel the suspension or sofa frame. As a rule of thumb, seat cushion should be at least 10cm.

For optimal comfort and durability, select cushions made with foams >35kg/cbm in density and seat cushions >12cm thick if these information are available.

Frame Information

Material composition

Common terms used to describe sofa frames in Singapore include the following:

  • Solid pine wood
  • Solid rubber wood
  • Solid teak wood
  • Plywood
  • Medium density board
  • Laminated veneer lumber
Different types of man-made and natural wood

What we recommend?

Most solid wood sofa frames are good enough to last for 5 years and above.

In our discussions with sofa manufacturers, they are confident of offering 5 year supplier warranties for most types of solid wood sofa frame. This applies for both hardwood (such as rubber wood, teak wood, birch wood) and softwood (such as pinewood) commonly used to make sofa frames.

Avoid man-made wood such as plywood and medium density board if you plan to use your sofa for more than 5 years. These generally have lower density, crushing strength and bending strength which have direct correlation with frame durability.

What information to dig further if it is not already provided?

Check with the retailer if the wood is kiln dried if it is not explicitly mentioned.

Wood explicitly treated to reduce moisture content is more durable.

Suspension Information

Material composition

Common terms used to describe sofa suspensions in Singapore include the following:

  • Webbing
  • Zigzag spring
  • Zigzag spring with webbing
Different types of suspension systems

What we recommend?

Go for zigzag springs with webbing combinations. They offer the best in terms of support and durability.

Do note that no sag spring and sinuous spring refer to the same thing as zigzag spring. They do not imply usage of different springs for suspension.

Understanding Sofa Dimensions Descriptions

Apart from overall dimensions, retails also provided a lot of other dimensions.

The important ones to check for include packaging dimensions and seat dimensions.

What to consider for overall dimensions?

Pick the size that best serves your plans for your sofa, such as relaxing and reading.

A golden rule for best room proportionality is that the sofa should be approximately two third of the size of the wall it’s going to be against. The sofa should not fill up the whole wall and there should be space on each side.

What to consider for packaging dimensions?

If you live on a high floor like most Singaporeans, packaging dimension is an important factor to consider. All retailers charge a staircase fee if the sofa cannot fit into the lift.

Generally, to fit into most lifts, ensure that the packaging dimensions fits the following sizes:

  • Width: 200cm
  • Short side of depth or height: <90cm (to fit through the lift door)
  • Long side of depth or height: <110cm

What to consider for seat dimensions?

Choose the seat width that is large enough to fit everyone in your family.

As a general rule of thumb, to sit comfortably, each person requires around 50cm of sitting space. So, for a family of 3, look for sofas with seating width 150cm or above. If you like to take naps on the sofa, go for a sofa that is long enough.

The depth of the seats is another consideration to think about.

Go for deep seats (>60cm) if you prefer to sit with your legs up on the sofa or take naps on it. Sofa with seat depths between 50cm - 60cm are generally safe bets for most Singaporean families.


Sofa depth based on sitting posture

Explore Our Sofa Collections

We hope you feel more confident about choosing the right sofa for your living room after reading our article! 

Want to shop for sofas that fulfill all the criteria that we detailed above but do not know where to start?

Check out our selection of sofas which all satisfy the criteria we listed above. You only need to worry about what type of sofa style you like the most:

Last update: 17th July 2023

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