Ask the expert: Interior designer Deirdre O’Connell answers your decorating questions.
What are some key factors to consider when selecting a sofa for my home?
Choosing furniture that fits into your design style is key. Starting with the all-important sofa, details like arm and leg style, colour and fabric will make all the difference in choosing a sofa to suit your room. If you have a more classic or traditional home, a sofa with a rolled arm of back will work well. If you want something a little more contemporary but still classic, you might look for something with a sloping arm and more laid-back in style. A firm favourite of mine, the refined yet relaxed loose cover Hannah sofa from Finline takes the best of Belgian chic and pares it with a tailored style. With an elegantly sloped arm and feather wrapped foam seat cushions. It is contemporary and comfortable.
If your home is a little more modern, look for something with lower profiles and a wider arm. If your aesthetic is more eclectic, go for something that has more structure and a slightly bolder colour statement. If like most of us, you’re unsure or indecisive, go for something that’s streamlined and has a simple shape. It will suit most Irish homes and won’t date too quickly. The Sebastian sofa from Finline (The Sebastian Sofa by Finline, shown at the top of this article is “Plush Brick” fabric costs from €1,955) has a nod to mid-century design and is both understated and charismatic.
For sizing a general rule to follow is that your sofa should be two thirds the size of your room and if you have a coffee table, it should be two thirds the size of your sofa. Check the sofa depth too and make sure that it works for the space you have and for you and your family. Don’t forget to check the height to make sure you’re not blocking any windows or shelving.
How can I mix and match different styles of furniture while still maintaining a cohesive look in my home?
I avoid anything too perfect, or anything dated and fussy. I love to mix old and new in a contemporary setting with charming furniture and interesting touches. While you may wish to invest in new furniture for a variety of reasons, remember the world is already full of great quality furniture pieces which are looking for a new home. You’ll do your bit of the environment by re-housing pre-loved pieces from second-hand marketplaces, charity shops, antique shops, salvage yards and community markets.
A family heirloom like this beautiful painting is a focal point in the Living Room. The sofa is the Heidi by Finline in Layla Mist (3 seater is available from €2,250)
What is most important when you’re looking for a new sofa?
For me it is quality first, and trying to balance that quality with price. As the phrase goes, buy nice or buy twice. I will look for a solid wood frame and seat cushions that have some level of foam, this prolongs the look despite the wear. Only buy a sofa you have seen and sat on. You must be able to experience the sofa you intend to buy. I love shopping locally and for sustainability and economics, I will choose an Irish company producing furniture over an import. I visited the Finline factory in Laois and I witnessed a huge team all unrolling fabrics, cutting wood, building wood frames, sorting patterns, upholstering, stitching, edging, padding and finishing. It’s a lovely, cacophony of Irish craft and design and quality is their drive. My parents had a Finline sofa bought decades ago and it’s still going!
Can you recommend some furniture pieces that are both stylish and functional for a small space?
Anything that provides storage in a small room is most welcome and if that piece also contributes to the style, it’s a win-win. An upholstered ottoman with deep storage is handy in the middle of a living room. An end-of-bed bench which stores blankets or shoes is useful. Finline recently added the ‘Harper’ bench to their collection and it’s available in all of their fabric selections. Sofa beds and storage divan bed bases are also practical.