Casco Bay Furniture – Sofa Cushions… Should I Choose Attached or Loose?

I received an email last week which said… I am in the process of shopping for furniture. I have always liked loose cushions, but I am seeing LOTS of pieces now with attached cushions and the salespeople say that these tend to wear better because of how they are constructed. I am mostly concerned with wear-ability and comfort. Any thoughts?

To distinguish the different kinds of cushions, when we are talking seat cushions, there are either loose or attached and for the back cushions, there are loose, attached, or semi-attached cushions.

Here are my thoughts about each:

Seat Cushions – Loose or Attached? As a rule, the higher end pieces are built with loose cushions. As strange as it may seem, it is cheaper to build a cushion sewn into the sofa. At Casco Bay Furniture we prefer loose cushions. Why is a loose cushion better?

You can rotate the cushion. You can fluff them up. You can easily refill them if its ever needed. Loose cushions are often more comfortable and when moving your sofa, removing the cushions will make the sofa much lighter.

Most importantly, you can repair the loose cushions, if your fabric or leather is still available. I always suggest ordering a few extra yards of upholstery fabric to keep on hand when you buy your sofa. Many quality leather manufacturers will sew a swatch into the seat deck in case you need to order leather for repairs or want to order more pieces that match. At Casco Bay Furniture we do sew a shade match swatch into every leather sofa which is located under the center seat cushion.

On a quality piece with a proper pitch, loose cushions will stay in place. However, on the minus side, with sets not made as well there can be a tendency for cushions to slide forward. (By the way, should you have this problem with an older sofa, try putting a piece of mesh sticky carpet pad under the cushions.)

Loose cushions may also be a huge temptation for children who want to build forts or put them on the floor to jump on. This might cause extra wear and tear.

Back Cushions – Loose, Attached, Semi Attached? For the back cushions, “loose” of course means you can take them off, “attached” means they are sewn in and not removable, and “semi- attached” means that the tops of the cushions are sewn in, but the rest of the cushion is not.

 Again, loose cushions are found on higher end sets that are more costly to build. The loose cushions on the backs have all of the pros and cons of loose seat cushions. You can rotate the cushions and remove the cushions for easy repair or refilling. Sofas with loose back cushions are also much easier to deliver as the cushions come off, plus they will be much lighter. And I also think in general loose cushions are more comfortable.

Note some companies will Velcro back cushions into place. In my opinion, this is not a good idea as this puts a lot of stress on the cushion and back as a result of the Velcro and the movement of the cushion and back and forth against the Velcro.

Attached back cushions are sewn into place, and as we mentioned, you will find these on lower priced pieces as they are cheaper to make. So the pluses are that they cost less and they generally stay neater. I think an attached back cushion is also going to have a somewhat firmer back and may give better back support to some people.

The main disadvantage of the attached back cushions is that, if they get damaged, they are much harder to fix.

Semi-attached back cushion. This is kind of a compromise in which the top of the back cushion is sewn or zippered into place. In this way, you have access to the back for refilling as the cushion will usually have a zipper at the base of the cushion. If the cushion is zippered at the top you can remove the cushion, if needed. The cushion stays neater, as it is held in place and as a result it may have firmer back support.

I think the main disadvantage with this type of cushion is the stress along the top of the cushion where it is sewn into the back or zippered into the back. I have seen these seams open up particularly if you have kids jumping on the backs of your cushions. As I said at Casco Bay Furniture we do feature loose cushion seats and backs however we do carry some tight backs and a few semi-attached backs in our nailhead trim area.

If you have any questions or concerns about cushions sewn, zippered or loose, please email us or give us a call at Casco Bay Furniture. If we don’t know the answer, we will do our best to find one out for you.

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38 Comments

  1. Kathy Raney

    I am worried that loose back cushions will lose their shape and. Have to constantly be “fluffed”.

    • Kathy, There are pros and cons with choosing an attached or loose cushion. Attached cushions can rip where they are attached and are difficult to repair or replace. Loose cushions do occasionally need to be fluffed, but are much easier to repair,and maintain and in my opinion more comfortable. The amount of maintenance and fluffing is related to the quality of the cushion core. Our loose back cushion cores have a combination of down, feathers and fiber. The fiber keeps everything in place and the down and feathers provide comfort. An all down cushion will require a lot more maintenance and fluffing as the down will move to the edges. That’s why some all down filled cushions begin to look like bean bags with no shape, no support and not much comfort. An all fiber back fill will hold its shade but doesn’t have the comfort of the down, feather and fiber mix. An overfilled back cushion will tend to feel too firm and an under filled cushion will not hold its shape or have good back support. What you need to look for is a well constructed back cushion made with high quality materials. You have to weigh the pros and cons of each and decide which would work better for your family. Hope this helps, Richard

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  3. Boohyung

    Thank you. That’s good information I want.
    I am about to buy a sofa, so I decided to buy loose seat cushions sofa. Thanks again.

  4. Hello,can you tell me the cons of leather seat cushions on my sofa which only have leather on top and sides of cushions and 2in leather all around on bottom which is then sewed to a material for the rest of bottom. Oviously I cannot reverse these cushions but is there danger of material coming apart from the leather or is it no worse than leather sewed to leather. Thankyou for your advise.

    • All leather cushions have fabric on the bottom of the cushion. If the underside of the cushion was all leather and did not have fabric on the underside the cushion wouldn’t breath, the cushion would sit hard and it wouldn’t be comfortable. The fabric on the bottom is not getting much wear. I have never heard of sewing issues from any manufacturer along the seams on the underside of the cushion.
      Thank you for your comment

  5. Sadhana

    Thanks for your tips.

    buy sofa cushions

  6. Thanks for the column, Richard. I am wondering—it is cheaper for the manufacturer to make non-removable cushions? We did buy a leather couch with the sewn-in cushions, but I think for our active, large family, with pets, I would prefer to have the loose cushions.

    • Richard

      Karen that’s a good question. For the most part you will find loose seat and back cushions in high end furniture (scatter backs are an exception). As strange as it may seem it is cheaper for a manufacturer to sew in the cushions. Richard

  7. Richard, this is an excellent article. Thank you for taking the time to help the rest of us make better choices.

  8. If I can take back time when we purchase our couch I should go read your article first then pick the loose one.
    Why it is because the loose one is very easy to stuff and clean we purchase the attached one it very hard to clean fluff specially having a toddler spills here and there need to clean.
    If we’re buying a new I will buy the loose one.

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  10. Washington Mvu

    I have been looking for loose cushion leather sofa for 2 months, but all I see are attached. Any idea where I can get them?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Richard

      Washington most of our sofas are available with two loose cushions. Give us a call at 207-272-0557

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  12. Michelle

    Would love to hear your thoughts on tight back vs cushions? I love the look of both, maybe tight back a little more but I’m afraid of the comfort factor? Also how do tight backs weather and age? Does the back leather sag with time?

    Thanks!

    • Richard

      There’s a place for both. A tight back cushion is neater and I suppose cleaner. A loose back cushion is more comfortable and more easily repaired should you have a mishap. If you damage a loose back cushion for example you can simply take the cushion to your local upholsterer or back to the retailer where you purchased the sofa and fairly easily get the cushion repaired. On the other hand should you damage a tight back sofa the repair would be much more difficult.

      As far as wear and tear a tight back cushion should wear very nicely over time. The loose back cushion will by the very fact that it is loose take on a more casual appearance.

      Ultimately the choice is your the loose back cushion is in my opinion more comfortable. The tight back cushion is neater.

  13. I have had both, and would go loose back from now on. I have found the attached back loose their shape quicker, the stuffing gets dragged down or indented. I have six kids and a dog and we will never buy a sofa with attached backs because of the risk of stress on the seams that hold the cushion in place…and stain risk too. I can flip the unattached cushions around.

    • Sarah I agree with you. I think the loose back cushion is a better option as the cushions last longer, are easily repairable,less likely to tear along the seams as you have suggested and if you have a fabric sofa as you have noted the cushions can be turned. Richard

    • Agree, with kids and spills..I have in desperation removed the stuffing and washed (even though it says not to) a cushion cover after my 4 year old vomited all over it. It turned out so great, I washed all of the cushion covers on my couch. Its lasted 15 years by doing this. Loose cushions are the only way to go. We purchased a sectional with attached cushions before this one and you can only wash with a cloth or sponge so well, kids are well, gross!

      • Cris as a rule dry cleaning is suggested on cushion casings. I am happy to hear it worked out for you.

  14. Thank you for the informative article. We did purchase sofa and love seat with sewn in cushions. Now I’m wishing Inwoukd have investigated more.
    Now the question is, are there particular sofas Inshould look at that are not so deep seated, high enough from the floor so one can get up without “scooting” forward, with removabke cushions ? How much money shoukd I be looking at when I go sofa shopping.
    Thank you for reading this.

    • Richard

      Dani the most important feature of any sofa which will determine how long it is going to last is how is the sofa constructed? The gold standard in furniture construction is a true 8 way hand tide hand knotted spring system with a 5/4 solid hardwood frame. Here is where you have to be careful. Many manufacturers and retailers will say that their sofas have a hardwood frame, what they are not telling you is the frame is often hardwood plywood. Then again about 95% of the sofas in the industry have a sinuous spring suspension systems or what are called drop in spring units. If you want to see what these look like google them and add the word picture on the end of your search. Many of the leading retailers in malls and catalog stores are using plywood frames and no sag or drop in units. There are some that might have differing opinions on this but if you look at the well know high end lines you will see than many are 8 way tied and a few have 5/4 hardwood frames, but not many. You should then look for a quality cushion as these will tend to support your weight better. We like what is called “Ultrael” foam with a down wrap or a “Springdown Ultracel” foam and spring core. As far as depth if you want something that isn’t too deep I would suggest a 23″ seat depth, not to shallow and not too deep. I would also avoid what is called a spring edge where you have an extra set of springs often called lip springs below the front of the seat cushion. In my opinion this type of spring sinks along the front edge as you stand up creating a wash-boarding effect. For this reason very few companies use a spring edge any more.

      As far as how much you should spend? This may vary depending on if you are looking at a fabric or leather sofa. You should be able to find a quality fabric sofa in the $1500 to $2000 range. As far as leather I would say in many cases a sofa built like this would be in the $4000 to $6000 range and not to feather our nest but at Casco Bay we make leather sofas built this way in the $2699 to $3299 range in high end Italian leathers with a variety of optional “Ultracel” cushions. We also carry quality slipcovered sofas in the $1299 to $1499 range including delivery and a service plan.

  15. Hi Richard, I have been doing my research on finding the right sectional for my living room. I had a huge confusion about getting loose cushions vs attached which is solved after reading your article.
    I am having difficulty deciding the side of the sofa should I put it against the wall or against the window. How to place the sectional sofa in a room that has wall on the right side windows on the opposite (left) and the rest is open. It’s a connecting room.. kitchen, informal dining and living area which is huge all in one line. I hope you got an idea.
    My other question is about the size of the sofa. The length of the room is 198inch and width is 168 inches. Would 120inches by 95 inches or 138 inch by 95 look good considering the size of the living room

    • Zehra just to be certain I am looking at your room the same way you are lets determine for certain which direction you want it to go. I can see that you are looking at an “L” sectional. If you were standing in the room looking at the imaginary sectional and looking at the corner which side would be longer your right hand side or your left hand side?

      Also keep in mind that you don’t have to fill up the room with Furniture even if it is a large room. Also keep in mind that with a sectional 95″ on the shorter side does not give you much room to create the sectional and let me explain why. When building a sectional you have to determine the size of the corner which has a direct correlation to the depth of the sofa. For example if the depth of the sofa is 42″ for example than the corner will be 42″ by 42″.

      If the shorter side was only 95″ and the arm of the sectional was lets say 8″ that doesn’t leave much sitting area. 95″ less the corner of 42″ less the arm on the end of 8″ leaves only 45″ of sitting area. This is workable but a bit longer would be better. Then again in the depth was only 38″ the 95″ length would work better as you would have 95″ less 38″ less 8″ for the arm or 49″ of sitting area.

  16. Lillian Paez

    Our children are all grown and gone from home. It is just my husband and me. We recently bought a couch and loveseat with both seat and back cushions attached. It is a very comfortable couch but reading about the pros and cons of attached vs loose cushions, I am concerned about the durability and continued comfort this couch. I would like your input. The couches are in our den and we spend most of our time in there relaxing and watching TV.

    • Lillian as a rule I prefer loose cushions. One of the main advantages of loose cushions is they are easily repairable and replaceable. Loose cushions usually have zippers which also make it easy to maintain and replace the cushion cores inside the cushion casings. If you have small children who may sit on the back cushions, attached cushions are also more likely to tear along the seams where the cushions attach to the outside back. All that being said if two adults live in the home it is unlikely that you would have any issues with the attached cushions. The advantage of the attached cushions is that they stay in place and always look neat.

  17. FurnishingsDesigner

    Hello Richard, I’m a professional furniture designer who works with major USA furniture manufacturers in all price categories. I design a lot of upholstery and would like to point out that cushion construction and pillow construction is not always determined by price, but your info is very accurate and informative to consumers. The style of back pillow and seat cushion is frequently determined by the design and “look” we want to achieve UNLESS we are designing very inexpensive upholstery. As you stated, inexpensive upholstery typically utilizes attached pillows and attached cushions due to cost savings. Loose seat cushions will always be more comfortable due to having more fill / foam / feather. Also of note is the “tight seat” and “tight back” designs often seen in contemporary upholstery. Tight seats and backs have no visible cushion or pillow, just tight and tailored upholstery. This seat and back will have foam / fill / springs under the upholstery and utilize throw pillows for extra comfort. They sit (ride) quite stiff, and you obviously will have a very difficult time repairing them. Nice blog 🙂

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  19. Illona Sargent

    I am looking to by a new couch the seat cushions have springs in between the stuffing i was wondering if this is a good ideal

  20. Eleanor Kay

    I asked my decorator for a taller back on a custom sofa and love chair. He measured sofas I had and liked and said I needed to add 4 inches in height to the design I chose. He ordered that. When the sofa and love seat were delivered, they had extra tall back cushions, but the same low back. The cushions stick up a foot higher than the back, and thus little support behind them. The sofas look bizarre with this short back and the tall cushions sticking up because my designer says, “They were not going to change the frame for you.” What is the definition of a “custom” sofa? Is it acceptible in your opinion to make a sofa back higher by just making the loose cushions taller? Who should I blame, the designer or the custom sofa manufacturer? What should I do?

    • Eleanor I believe Robert sent you an email on this. My suggestion was to produce a new set of cushion with a lower back and perhaps you could reach a compromise with your retailer.

  21. Leather loose cushions will not stay in, we have tried all kinds of ways to keep them in, doesn’t work.

    • Dane our cushions do stay in place. In fact I can’t ever remember hearing from a customer that they haven’t stayed in place. The cushion has to be correctly sized and I suppose have sufficient weight that this does not become an issue. It could also have something to do with the proper pitch of the back. Our back cushions are made from a mix of down fiber and feathers. You might try changing out the cores to a better core which you can purchase from online cushion core companies. Although I have no personal experience with this company one such company is Cushions Express. You might also consult with the manufacturer of your sofa. Is your sofa fabric or leather?

  22. Nancy Phegley

    My Copenhagen sofas have no loose cushions and I LOVE them. They were quite pricey but have held up better than any sofa I’ve ever had. I completely disagree with your recommendation of loose cushions. They’re a nightmare in real life.

    • Nancy its a matter of personal choice. They both have pros and cons. Personally I find that attached of semi attached cushions stay in place better but tend to rip away from the back over time. The other advantage to removable cushions is they are much easier to fix if you ever need to work on or replace the cushions. If the sofa is well built with heavy stable cushions such as the ones we make you will find that they don’t move around much.

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