I always get asked, how I keep my sofa white even with a toddler. Or how I keep my whole home white for that matter! Because as you know I love #whiteliving. So I decided to create a WHITELIVING SERIES to help anyone who wants to have an easy time maintaining a white home.
So the very first post in the series is TIPS FOR BUYING A FOREVER SOFA. Lots of people would love to have a white sofa, but are scared that it is high maintenance. I’ve always had a white sofa because I love how it looks and how much easier it is to maintain than a dark sofa that can fade over time – especially here in the tropics. The secret is to choose a high-quality sofa that is easy to maintain.
I hope this post helps you make the best decision for a piece of white furniture that can give you a lifetime joy and comfort.
Many of my family’s happy memories happen while snuggling in our forever sofa. In fact, my water burst and I started going into labor while we were watching a movie, sitting on our brand new one-week old WHITE sofa… and I’ll never forget my first thought as I quickly waddled off the couch: Must not stain my new couch! LOL! And guess what? My sofa is still white after 5 years.
CAN SOFA’S REALLY LAST A LIFETIME?
I remember my grandma’s sofa set in the province. She bought it in the 70’s and I noticed that the fabric still looks amazing to this very day – no pilling at all – and the cushion is still very comfortable, with a really solid hardwood frame. I realized if you choose well, you can have a couch that can last a long, long time.
TD and I always dreamt of having a Scandinavian L-shaped sofa so when our favorite Scandinavian brand went on super sale while we were in Berlin, we quickly sold our Indonesian Teak Sofa (see pic below) and finally made our dreams come true.
Here are important things to consider when investing in a sofa that you would want to keep and enjoy for life:
1. CHOOSE A DESIGN WITH REMOVABLE & WASHABLE COVER
We spent a little more to get a fabric that’s washable because most sofa covers are dry clean only and that ends up super expensive in the long run.
If you can wash it, that means you can also bleach it. White sofa’s with washable covers can be bleached, no problems! This is our beloved Scandi sofa after 5 years.
Sometimes when you spot clean colored or dark fabrics, the spot ends up lighter than the surrounding fabric. I know this would totally drive me crazy! This is why white is still the best color for me. On my next post, I’ll be talking about how I keep sofa white, even with a toddler and a dog!
Also remember that dark colors, and natural materials, will fade over time if it’s by the window.
2. IF THE COVER IS NOT REMOVABLE, PROTECT IT.
This is really important. Use a fabric protector regularly so in case you spill something on it, you can easily wipe it off and it won’t stain. If the store has fabric protector and fabric cleaner – like Bolia did – better to buy it together with the sofa so you know that they are compatible with the fabric.
I always half-jokingly say that I only serve white wine when we have guests. This is partially true because I love Riesling especially in our warm climate in Manila. But if you do serve red wine and it spills, be sure to have a red wine stain remover. This is good to have no matter what color your couch is. This is the brand that I personally use.
3. CHOOSE A STRONG FABRIC.
Fabric strength is measured in Martindales. Yup this is something I learned from our Bolia store staff. Ours sofa and throw pillow fabrics 100,000 Martindale. Normal cheaper sofas are probably only around 10,000. Our sofa is as old as our son who is almost 5, and the pillows and surfaces still look new – not a pill or tear in sight.
The Martindale method, also known as the Martindale rub test, simulates natural wear of a seat cover, in which the textile sample is rubbed against a standard abrasive surface with a specified force. The test equipment works in intervals of 5000 cycles, totalling the wear number (unit: Martindale) of abrasion cycles that leads to the material being worn to a specified degree. The higher the value, the more resistant the material is to abrasion.Wikipedia
Trust me I did not know any of this, but I had to ask the lady why the washable fabric was costing more and she explained to me that if we were having a boy (which we knew we were), even if he jumped up and down on it, it will not tear. Yup this has also been tested a lot of times. I think 25,000 Martindale and higher should be very good.
Sidenote: We bought a cheap sofa from SM Home for a unit that we were renting out. The tenant came with one child and 4 years laters he had 3 kids. All the couches we bought from SM had huge holes in the middle from the 3 children jumping up and down on them. I couldn’t believe how large the holes were. No wonder they had a blanket covering the sofa.
4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT CUSHION OR FILLING
Feather is the most comfortable but super high maintenance. You will have to fluff and plump it out regularly to avoid getting misshapen. We literally tested fluffing out the seat-cushions in the store and boy was it heavy and difficult to do. I do not recommend it. Fluffing the back cushions is much easier because they are smaller.
Foam/fiber isn’t as high maintenance but it will flatten out over time. The store staff recommended getting the best of both worlds: foam seats + feather back cushions. We are very happy with this combination because it’s really comfy without being too high maintenance..
Once in a while we do remember to fluff the back cushions and turn them around.
5. ALWAYS TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
The real test if a sofa is right for you is to sit on it. That’s why I would never ever buy a sofa online without testing. Each of us are built different and what’s comfortable for me might not be comfortable for a much taller person.
We sat on it with and without pillows, we lounged sideways, tried lying down in it and also put up our feet on the coffee table. It was so comfortable for us. We knew it was The One.
6. CHECK THAT IT FITS YOUR SPACE, DOORWAYS AND ELEVATOR/STAIRWELL
Measure the couch and then use a masking tape to outline on the floor the space it will occupy in your living room. Walk around it to be sure there is enough space to comfortably move around.
Before finalizing your payment, it’s also important to check that the item will fit in your doorway, elevator and stairwell so that it can be delivered into your living space. If it doesn’t fit, then it’s a no-go.
If it doesn’t fit your elevator but can go through the stairwell, most delivery companies will charge per floor they need to haul it up to. This extra cost is something to consider.
7. TO SOFA BED OR NOT TO SOFA BED
If you can afford it, I would hit 2 birds with one stone and get a sofa bed so that in case you have guests they can use it. We are currently in a 2 bedroom flat (one for us, and another for DiploBaby) so when we suddenly have guests, the sofa bed is our only option. It’s nice to have.
When the AC in our bedroom went kaput, I was really thankful for our sofa bed. Be sure to test the sofa bed with the cushion that you are planning to buy it with so you will know if it’s comfortable or not.
8. EXTRA NOTES FOR EXPATS/DIPLOMATS
For nomads like us expats/diplomats, I recommend getting a sofa that can be taken apart so it’s not a headache when you move. Our L-shape can be dismantled into 2pcs, and the legs can be removed. Modular sofa’s are also a great idea so it can adjust to different layouts in each new home.
Make sure that the frame is solid hardwood so it doesn’t break under the furniture stress of shipping. I wouldn’t get a particleboard or metal frame. The longer the guarantee, the higher the quality. Ours from Bolia has a 5-year warranty but we asked the German sales person and they said it would last much longer than that. One thing I love about German sales staff is they are so honest. They don’t just butter you up just for a sale like we expect them to. Some manufacturers even have a 15-year guarantee.
9. ALWAYS BUY ON SALE
Always remember when you invest in a high-quality sofa, wait for it to go on sale first. Visit the store regularly or ask them to email you when the specific item you want goes on sale. This way your high-end sofa will end up costing less than a cheap sofa, because a cheap sofa might look good initially, but it…
- Will cost more to dry clean in the long run.
- Will need to be replaced every few years because the fabric becomes pilled or torn and the cushion will be sunk in.
I remember going to the Bolia stores in Berlin each time there was a sale to check if the price was low enough for us to purchase already. It took me several sale seasons, until I think they went on 60% off. I think the price of this whole sofa is less than the regular price of a one seater.
This Scandinavian brand really resonates with me because of it’s dedication to sustainability, safety and craftsmanship:
- All custom and handmade in Europe
- Made using FSC Certified Wood from sustainable forests
- Using traceable leather and OEKO-Tex Certified Fabric that is free from hazardous chemicals
When we ordered our sofa, I think it arrived about a month after. But it was exactly custom built to our specifications in Denmark. It was really worth the wait!
Oh and if you happen to go to any of their stores, it’s really an experience on it’s own, the free coffee is a bonus!
OUR STARTER L-SHAPED COUCH
Our home in Jakarta was featured below on a magazine called LIVING ETC. You can see the full magazine spread here.
When we were in Jakarta, a truly Scandinavian couch was way out of our budget so we went for a modular L-shaped couch that was made in Yogyakarta by one of my favorite brands called Dunia. They are export quality and we were lucky that they were on sale when we went to their shop so we were able to get this display couch at an incredibly discounted price! The color was awful so I had high quality white, washable covers made. Display sales are another secret of mine for getting the best value for our budget.
I think the custom white covers might have been almost the same price as the whole couch (because the couch was super cheap), but the fabric was for outdoors so when we would drop liquid in it, we could wipe it off quickly and avoid stains.
So even with a limited budget, I still made sure that the fabric would be a dream to maintain. Whatever your budget is buy the best easy-to-maintain and-wash-fabric that’s in your budget range.
OUR HAPPILY EVER COUCH
We are really so happy with our Scandi couch. A well chosen piece that makes us happy every single time we use it. Every family member loves it – including DiploDog. We just make sure to put on a throw whenever he goes on. Dogs are not allowed on the couch without a throw.
I think this is the closest style to our sofa on Bolia, but ours is in London off white fabric.
Hope you learned something new from this post and it inspires you to choose not just a beautiful, but also a sustainable couch when you are ready to invest in one!
Please let me know if you have any questions about buying a sofa! My next post will be about how I keep my sofa white even with a kid. Stay tuned!