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How to choose upholstery for your sofa

Need to upholster your sofa? The Pure Concept’s co-founder Chanya Kaur tells us how it’s done

“A sofa is forever…,” said no one ever.

But most of us behave as though they are, in fact, meant to be forever. With the choice available in the market today, re-upholstering your sofa is really not as uphill a task as you imagine it to be. Chanya Kaur, co-founder, The Pure Concept explains what you need to keep in mind if you’re thinking of an overhaul for your existing sofa.

Check the framework:
The first thing she suggests checking is a sofa’s hardware- the wooden frame and the inner spring that holds the foam inside. As a rule, checking this every three to four years for wear and tear is a good idea. For the upholstery fabric itself, this can be updated on an annual basis if you are bored and want to change.

If the framework is worn out, it needs to be changed. Its is important to check the quality of wood at this point, to see if the right quality was used in the sofa’s making.  Fix the framework with the help of your carpenter if you aren’t satisfied.

Fabric Meterage:
Call your local tailor to understand the fabric meterage that you need for the reupholstery. Chanya says this is a good opportunity to take a call on restructuring the sofa if required. If you want to extend the height of the sofa’s back or extend the armrest- so that the tailor can suggest the fabric requirement accordingly. The width of the fabric that you are buying will determine the quantity you need. In India, the width of fabric typically available in the market ranges between 48, 54 and 60 inches, with 48 and 54 inches being the most commonly available width.

For a three seater sofa which is fully upholstered without any wooden parts visible, Chanya feels 10 meters is appropriate for the amount of fabric required. For fabric that has a print on it, where the repeat pattern has to be matched in its re-upholstery, getting a little extra fabric will always help, since there will be a bit of wastage in the process. 

Please bear in mind, though, that sofa shapes vary from piece to piece and for final purchase, consulting your local mattress maker is a good idea.

Choice of Material:
Natural fibers work very well across a country like India. But regional weather conditions dictate the preference of one fabric over another. For a city like Mumbai with a high humidity rate, Chanya says cottons are a preferred choice. “This is especially true for areas of high movement in a home with a large family. Formal fabrics like velvets are not very comfortable in this case,” she says. For cities in the north, Chanya observes that materials like jute, chenille, and silk are popular. “For common areas, cotton is always a safe choice- it is very easy to maintain,” she adds. For worries about staining light coloured fabrics, Chanya points to the use of services where you can scotchgard your furniture- a spray-on product that prevents the fabric from absorbing stains immediately.

Lastly, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with a term like the Rub Test when you’re considering buying upholstery fabric. Rub Test (or martindale – more commonly used in trade circles) refers to the abrasional quality of an upholstery fabric. “A good upholstery fabric should have a rub count of 20,000 and above. The higher the rub count, the better the fabric,” says Chanya.

With this exhaustive re-upholstery checklist, you can consider yourself a certified couch potato now. Time to update that sofa, we think.

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