As a general rule, the harder and heavier the structure, the sturdier (and pricier) the sofa. Cheap, thin particleboard is always a no-no for the high-end crowd; beechwood is a bit better; solid oak, like that used on the Roche-Bobois Ultra-Mobile, is better still. Other couches skip wood entirely in favor of steel, which is durable enough for commercial use and much more expensive to produce. Finally, some models, like the Minotti Hamilton, are built with a hybrid wood-steel frame, ensuring they withstand multiple moves and lots of abuse from various kids, pets, and committed couch surfers.
Extravagant couches are typically filled with feathers or foam. But not just any
feathers or foam. On costly models, each individual feather is de-spined, leaving only 100 percent soft down (and ensuring against those maddening sharp tips that poke out of cheap pillows). High-density foam won’t flatten over time, and some models, like the Rolf Benz sofa, feature different densities in various parts of the sofa to guarantee precision comfort. Piecing these parts together is a time-consuming process—again, bumping up the cost.
Most high-end fabrics are treated with powerful stain protectors that can guard against the deadliest spills (think tomato sauce and red wine), and a few, including the Minotti Hamilton, are sealed with moisturizers, so their textures become softer and more supple over time. Additionally, many pricey seats’ seams are hand-stitched multiple times to ensure a firm hold. This intricate stitching looks great, but also drives up the price.
As with all of the finer things in life, you’re paying for a brand name and the manufacturer’s reputation (see Knoll). Sofas are coveted status symbols, just like Rolex wristwatches, Jimmy Choo sandals, and speedy BMW roadsters. Customers are essentially paying for the privilege of being able to show off to their friends. All of our chosen sofas also come with hefty import fees (the costliest pieces are German and French), Prada-esque showrooms, and glossy advertising campaigns.