Buying guide: The perfect sofa

Are you in the market for a new sofa? My sympathies. Sofa shopping is stressful. Not only is it a high-ticket item, but you’re going to be sitting on it — and looking at it — every single day. For years.  

But the good news is that finding the right sofa is a lot easier if you know what to look for. So, before you begin your quest, become a sofa ninja with this checklist of things you’ll want to consider.

The style of the arms

The back and seat cushions

After you’ve decided on the type of arm that’s best for you, think about the back and seat cushions. There are two main ways to go: loose cushions or a tight back and seat. A sofa with loose cushions is typically more comfortable — you can really sink into it. It’s also easier to maintain because you can clean or replace individual cushions, and you can flip the cushions to extend their life. However, they can look sloppy if you don’t keep the cushions plumped up. You also have to be OK with the reality that the cushions won’t be lined up perfectly level at all times.

The type of fabric

Typically, when you’re buying a sofa from a furniture store, you’ll be given a choice of one or two fabrics that the sofa is stocked in, but with the option of selecting a custom fabric if you’re willing to pay more and wait longer for delivery. 

What fabric is right for you? If the sofa is going to get a lot of use, and if there will be food and kids in the picture, make sure the fabric is easy to clean. Synthetics or cotton and wool blends are easier to maintain than silks. Velvets and microsuedes are wonderfully soft, but you have to deal with the nap — when the fabric fibers lie in a particular direction, depending on how you touch it. I like to do a scratch test on the fabric to see how it holds up. Go ahead and dig in there with your nails — whatever you choose is going to get a lot more wear and tear than that at home. 

And if you’re shopping for a sofa online, always ask for a swatch of the fabric you’re interested in so you can see the true color and actually feel it.

Test drive it

It should be a given that you should always try sitting on any sofa you’re considering — even lie down on it — but too many people buy based on a photo without even sitting on the sofa. Don’t do that. 

Here’s my cautionary tale: There is a particular furniture store in Los Angeles (that will remain nameless) that offers many inexpensive, stylish sofas that look beautiful in the advertisements. When I went into the store to kill some time before a movie started, I decided to sit on all the sofas to see how comfortable they were. To my dismay, they did not seem to be designed for people with normal bodies. The proportions were all off. I felt like Goldilocks trying to find one that wasn’t too shallow or too deep. 

In addition to sitting on the sofa, try lifting it at a corner to see how sturdy it is. If it’s very light and you can lift it like you’re Superman, the wood frame is probably not strong hardwood. Don’t hesitate to jiggle it around, too, to make sure it doesn’t sag or make creaking noises.

Choosing the right size

Measure ahead of time so you know what size sofa your room will accommodate. Use masking tape to map out where the sofa will be positioned, and check whether any pathways will be blocked and if coffee and accent tables will still fit the room.

Make sure, too, that your new sofa will fit through your front door. I found out the hard way how important it is to premeasure your doorframe: I once bought a sofa for a client that, when it was delivered, would not fit through the front door. The sofa hadn’t looked so big in the store. I was sweating buckets until the delivery guy suggested removing the legs. Fortunately, its legs screwed off and the sofa was able to squeeze through.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

Home: New decorating trends for the new year

Rosh Hashanah is all about new beginnings, so what better time to look at our homes in a fresh way? Whether you’re considering a new paint color for the wall, updating furniture or just buying new cabinet pulls, check out these hot decorating trends and make 5776 your most stylish year yet.

High-gloss lacquer 

Lucinda orange stacking chair from CB2

To instantly up the glam factor in any room, add a pop of high gloss to your furniture and accessories. The super-shiny look is not only a trend, it’s also one of the easiest looks to achieve. And we’re talking about more than black or white. A high-gloss shine can make saturated colors such as yellow, orange and pink look even more electric, whereas it gives an unexpected twist to subtle shades of green and blue. In fact, with a simple can of high-gloss spray paint, you can transform any drab table, chair, picture frame, candlestick —  you name it — into a statement piece. 

Gold and brass finishes

Stainless steel and nickel finishes are still prevalent, but warmer metallic tones such as gold, brass and bronze are surging in popularity. In addition to bathroom fixtures and hardware, we’re seeing these brassy metallics in lighting fixtures, furniture, barware and home décor (i.e. tchotchkes). Whereas a stainless finish is perceived to be more modern — and utilitarian — gold and brass lend a vintage feel to a room. 


Orbital pendant light from Lamps Plus

This mash-up of Victorian opulence and industrial-age machinery is red hot in the design world, but don’t worry, this doesn’t mean your home should look like Sherlock Holmes’ study. If you flip through a furniture-store catalog these days, you’ll see a lot of steampunk elements — leather chesterfield sofas and club chairs; lamps and tables made of industrial materials; world maps and globes; motifs of gears and clock parts; steamer trunks; framed botanical prints. Who knew we were so gaga for steampunk?

Dark walls

Painting walls a dark color used to be such a decorating no-no. The consensus among decorating experts was that dark colors made a room appear smaller, while light colors made a room more expansive. I never agreed with this theory, my argument being that the black ceilings in Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride did not make you feel claustrophobic, but rather created the illusion that you were looking up at infinite sky. Now everyone’s on the dark-wall bandwagon, if decorating magazines are any indication. I recently painted the walls in a guest bedroom charcoal gray, and I love it. Everything looks good against the gray — it’s a great backdrop for other colors to really pop.


If you’re not ready to commit to dark walls just yet, the “greige” trend may be for you. Called “the color that’s taking over Pinterest” by Business Insider, greige is a soothing blend of gray and beige. Unlike grays that have blue pigment, greige contains hints of brown for a warmer feel. It’s like a hug in a paint can. The muted color is not just popular on walls. — you may notice it on upholstery, bedding and even wood finishes. In fact, I’m seeing greige-wood dining tables in every furniture store these days. As much as I’m a crazy color guy, I do love the soft sophistication of greige. And I love saying it, too.


Wallpaper fell out of favor for many years, but it’s back now in a big way. And when I say big, I mean big graphics. The popular trend for wallpaper is bold, oversized patterns. Rather than being your grandmother’s wallpaper, the new large-scale designs actually look more modern and playful, even in a small space. And, if you like DYI, large-format digital printing enables you to custom-print your own graphics or photos to fill an entire wall, just by uploading a jpeg to an online wallpaper company such as 


LED Letter Light from Nordstrom

Designers also are having a love affair with typography, incorporating words, or just alphabetized letters in interesting fonts, into furniture, wall art and accessories. Walk into any arts-and-crafts or home-furnishing store and you’ll see a variety of giant letters for home décor — even some that light up. Spell out your name, your initials or your favorite phrase on your walls as a decorative element. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but these days it seems that a word is worth a thousand pictures.

Pattern on pattern

Just as with fashion, the somewhat arbitrary rule of not mixing patterns is no longer in vogue. Clashing patterns is indeed allowed — and encouraged. So go ahead and layer striped pillows over floral upholstery, with a toile wall pattern behind it. The key is to play with the scale of the patterns so that they are varied. Make one pattern the dominant motif, and let the others complement it.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

Sukkot in the City

Sukkot (“tabernacles” or “booths” in English) is one of three major Jewish pilgrimage festivals (shalosh regalim) and begins at sundown on Sept. 26. The eight-day festival, which ends with Simchat Torah on Friday, Oct. 5, is celebrated in a variety of ways. Here is The Jewish Journal’s guide to Sukkot around town.

Building a Sukkah
“On the 15th day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the Lord seven days…. You shall dwell in booths (sukkot) seven days; all who are Israelite born shall dwell in booths, that future generations may know that I made the people of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:39-43).
The first thing you might want to do is actually build a sukkah. It is a mitzvah to begin construction right after Yom Kippur (but some start sooner). Technically, the structure must have two and a half permanent walls, although most free-standing structures have four. (A wall of a house can be used as the fourth). You can buy a sukkah on the Internet, build one from scratch or purchase a premade one locally (and then keep it every year thereafter).

Sukkah Kits Online
For easy-to-assemble, prefabricated and reusable sukkot in a variety of sizes, materials and prices, delivered directly to your door, visit the following Web sites:,,,,,,

Designing and Building Your Own Sukkah
Southern Californian Randi Rose was inspired by Patti Golden’s Holiday Workshop Series at her synagogue to create her own sukkah. Scouring building supply stores for ideas, she designed and constructed her sukkah using readily available materials and no tools, which she wrote about in an article for To decorate, she relied on her imagination and craft store items.

Simplifed Building Concepts
Create and construct your own sukkah with Google Sketchup and Simplified Building Concepts, a resource for people who like to build things. The Rochester, N.Y.-based company, an online distributor of slip-on structural fittings, will price the sukkah and ship materials directly to you. Call Sam or Dan at (888) 527-2278.

Sukkah Kits Sold Locally
Check out Shalom House and Brenco Judaica, below under ‘The Four Species.’

Every sukkah must be built under the sky (avoid trees, roofs, overhanging balconies) and covered by vegetation detached from the ground. Palm fronds make great s’chach, although many people use bamboo mats under which you can still see the sky. Some cover their s’chach with plastic tarp when not inside. (It always seems to rain on Sukkot, even in California.)
Materials such as bamboo poles and mats can be purchased from online sukkah retailers, such as those listed above. Palm fronds can often be obtained from local gardeners, florists or individual entrepreneurs who post signs in neighborhood bakeries and delis and sell from the back of their trucks.

Century City Flower Mart
Palm fronds are available at $2.75 each. Preorders are preferred and delivery is available Sept. 23-25. The mart also sells lulav and etrog sets, certified kosher from Israel, which range from $50 to $150.
Century City Flower Mart, 9551 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.
For more information, call (800) 576.7372 or visit

It is a custom to decorate the sukkah — a hidur mitzvah, or beautifying a commandment. Many people hang fall and harvest decorations, because Sukkot is a harvest festival. Others hang up their children’s artwork, High Holy Days greeting cards and other personal family memorabilia. Arts and crafts stores, such as Michael’s (, are a good resource for decorating materials.

The Four Species
“On the first day, you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40).
It is a custom to bless the four species (arba minim in Hebrew), which are the etrog (a citron, which is similar to a lemon), the lulav (a palm branch), aravot (two willow branches) and hadasim (three myrtle branches). You recite a blessing and wave the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down), symbolizing the fact that God is everywhere.
Etrog and lulav sets can be purchased through synagogues and Jewish day schools, online and at local Judaica stores, which also often sell sukkah kits and decorations. The price of each set varies, depending on the color, condition and fragrance of the etrog.

Shalom House
Lulav and etrog sets cost $65. Also available are prefabricated sukkot measuring 10 feet by 10 feet by 8 feet for $400, with delivery and assembly provided by Valley Beth Shalom’s USY teen group for a donation of $36 or more. The store also sells various decorations, including laminated posters, plastic fruits and plush and inflatable lulavim and etrogs.
Shalom House, 19740 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills.
For more information, visit or call (818) 704-7100.

Brenco Judaica
Lulav and etrog kits range from $45 to $200. Sukkot from Sukkah Depot are stocked in sizes 4 feet by 6 feet to 10 feet by 12 feet and cost $400 to $1,600, with local delivery and assembly available. Bamboo mats, for s’chach, as well as decorations, including posters and wall hangings, are also for sale.
Brenco Judaica, 7182 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.
For more information, call (323) 930-2222.

“And you shall rejoice on your festival, you, your children, your servants, and the Levite, the proselyte, the orphan and the widow who are in your midst. Seven days you shall celebrate to Hashem your God, in the place that Hashem, your God, will choose; for God will have blessed you in all your crops, and all your handiwork, and you will be completely joyous” (Deuteronomy 16:10-12).
Sukkot is a festival of joy. Synagogues, families, singles and children all celebrate it in different ways.