Photo: Ray Olivares/Chango & Co.

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How Can I Test This Monster at the Showroom?

Before committing to any model, first unzip its cushions. You should see a neatly packed cushion with separate, zippered compartments for the foam and feathers, Simonpietri says. This way, you can easily replace the foam when the seat flattens with wear.

A top-of-the-line couch also consists of a frame made of kiln-dried hardwood (in which most of wood's moisture is removed) and eight-way, hand-tied screws or sinuous, steel springs and joints that are doweled and glued, says Bud Caywood, a furniture design consultant and American Society of Furniture Designers member. Avoid furniture constructed with softer plywood, particleboard and staples instead of screws. To check the quality of the frame, lift one front leg a couple inches off the floor. If the construction is strong, then the other sofa leg should easily raise off the ground at the same time. Another test of longevity: Firmly push down on the back of the sofa. If it bends, that's a sign that the top rail isn't supported, says Caywood.

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