What Makes a Sofa Durable?

Rio Sofa

Pictured above: Rio Sofa

Nap spot, tv-binge locale, guest bed, desk, trampoline? However your sofa functions in your home, this high-traffic area needs good bones to withstand the rigors of daily life. 

Some drop serious bucks on this living room centerpiece without understanding what goes into well-made furniture, while others settle for low-quality pieces that need to be replaced every few years. We think that’s a bummer, so we put together some advice to make sure you’re investing in a high-quality, durable sofa (and not just an expensive one). The secrets lie in these five components: frame, suspension, filling, fabric, and finish work. If you ensure each of these are up to par, you’ve found yourself a keeper. Let’s explore.

#1: Kiln-dried, hardwood frames
Woodshop

Let’s start with your sofa’s foundation: the frame. Rule #1: long-lasting sofa frames should be made of kiln-dried hardwood—oak, ash, alder, and beech all work. Drying the wood in a kiln removes up to 95% of the moisture, which prevents the frame from warping or bowing. Cheaper frames made from softwoods like pine can’t help but warp over time, and frames made of particle board, plastic, or metal are prone to cracking and deforming: avoid!

Joint construction also contributes to frame durability. Look for frames made of wooden dowels, metal screws, or brackets, plus “corner blocks” (these are extra pieces of wood placed at an angle and screwed into place on the sofa frame’s corners for extra stability). Staples or nails may be present for extra reinforcement, but never buy a sofa that's held together solely by staples, nails, or glue.

#2: High-quality suspension systems

Pictured above: a Medley employee installing an 8-way hand-tied spring system

The springs of a couch not only absorb shock, but also determine the comfort and firmness of the sofa seat. There are three main types of suspension:

Sinuous springs: Sinuous springs are most commonly made with steel wires bent into a continuous line of vertical S-shaped coils. Medley sofas use a thicker gauge sinuous spring system beyond the standard gauge for sofas that have a narrow seat depth. In addition, we secure them with hand ties for extra strength. Lower-quality sinuous spring systems are made with thinner steel wire, which loses bounce and structure over time. 

Pirelli webbing: Made of natural rubber, Pirelli webbing is stretched across the sofa frame and fixed by grips into grooves or directly via tacks or staples—no springs here! If constructed poorly, this method can be prone to sagging sooner than later, but a high-quality job can hold up well—check reviews and look for warranties before you buy.

8-way hand tied spring system: 8-way hand tied spring systems are considered to be a top-of-the-line option for quality, upholstered furniture. This technique involves strapping and hand-knotting twine across the sofa seat’s frame. The twine is crossed from front to back using a diagonal pattern until each coil of the spring has been tied in eight different ways. Medley uses this time-honored technique on all our frames to provide a truly supportive, comfortable structure that prevents sagging and squeaking.

#3: Resilient seat and back cushion fillings
sofa-filling

Foam: let’s get comfy and squishy (but not saggy) with it!

Many sofa seat cushions on the market are made of foam, but that foam varies greatly in quality. High-resilience foams are known for their comfort, responsiveness, and ability to retain shape over time. At Medley, we offer two versions of these: a poly foam certified by CertiPUR-US® (the cleanest synthetic choice on the market) and GOLS-certified organic natural Dunlop latex foam wrapped in wool for softness—keep reading for a breakdown on both types. 

CertiPUR-US®-certified poly foam: Our CertiPUR-US®-certified poly foam is the cleanest synthetic choice on the market because it consistently meets updated emissions and durability standards. CertiPUR-US® leaves out unwanted chemicals like ozone depleters, flame retardants, formaldehyde, and phthalates. This material provides a medium-sit and holds its shape fooooooorever. 

GOALS-certified organic natural Dunlop latex: We use Dunlop latex, rather than Talalay latex, for a couple reasons. For one, it’s denser and more durable. And second, the latex produced by the Talalay process contains materials other than latex, including curing agents and ammonia that may be used to stabilize the liquid rubber. 

If you want to know more about natural latex, like a lot more, we explain in (painstaking! detail) for you here

Feathers: Down filling is popular for creating a luxe look and feel. Keep in mind that it’s normal for down filling to shift, and that the cushions will need to be fluffed on occasion to keep their shape. Check that your sofa cushions are constructed with baffling, a design that uses vertical walls of fabric to regulate the movement of the down filling and help keep it in place. 

#4: Fabrics that can stand up to spills, stains, pets, and kids!
Kaydan sofa

Pictured above: Kaydan Sofa

Durable, cleanable fabrics will keep your sofa from needing to be replaced every few years. 

Durability: In general, tight-weave fabrics with a high rub count stand up best to abrasion: look for a rub count of 30,000 and up as this is considered commercial grade. A lower rub count works if you’re considering a performance weave fabric, which tends to be synthetic—more on that below. Leather can weather years of use; scratches and scuffs can usually be rubbed right out with a clean, dry, soft cloth.

Synthetic v. natural fabrics: Synthetic fabrics are generally easier to clean (and keep clean) than natural fibers, making them a great option if you have kids or pets. Synthetic fabrics at Medley are Greenguard Gold Certified or OEKO-TEX® Certified, meaning they’ve been scientifically tested for VOC emissions and high product safety. 

If you’re looking for a totally natural fabric, we’ve got options! Our New Delhi 100% Cotton Slub fabrics are a durable option made from all-natural fiber yarn (if you’re wondering, “slub” is yarn that has thick and thin areas to create a natural, textured look). This line is also machine 👏  washable 👏, as are some of our other fabric collections: Smart, Melton, Deluxe, Texture, Mariposa, and Wawona. 

Texture: A couple options: if you’re worried about pet nails, toys, or whatever else that could catch and tear the weave, go for subtle to minimal textures that won’t be at their mercy. If dirt and spills are more your problem, texture is great for hiding spotting and discoloration.

Color: Darker shades are a safer choice, we’ll admit. If you’re set on a lighter shade, opt for a performance fabric with liquid-repellant features. On Medley’s fabric swatches page, you’ll find many options that incorporate Fibreguard yarn or a plant-based water repellent to lock out liquids. 

Tip: look for our durability icons (puppies and bubbles) on our swatches page to head straight for our most durable, kid-friendly (and pet-friendly 😊) fabrics. 

#5: Beautiful craftsmanship and finish work

Pictured above: Kirnik Sofa

A high-quality sofa that’s been thoughtfully constructed by professional craftspeople is more likely to last and look amaze from top to bottom—no question there. Every piece at Medley is handcrafted in California and made to order using top-of-the-line, sustainably-sourced materials. You’ll always find unique, handcrafted details from the inside out on our products, like the perfect pinch seam on our Nein sofa or tailored piping on our Kirnik model. 

We hope you'll love these details forever—and to back up that claim, we offer several warranties: a lifetime warranty on our frames, a 10-year warranty on fillings, and a 5-year warranty on fabric upholstery. 

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