If you're in the market for a new sofa (or sectional), you've probably realized there are quite a few things to consider before you buy! We tend to spend a lot of time hanging out on our couches these days, so it's important to devote some time and energy figuring out what you truly want before you invest your hard-earned dollars in one.
I'm guessing you've been asking yourself things like how big should it be? What fabric should I go with? How do I pick one that will stand up to the beating my kids and pets will give it? How much should I spend on it?
Those are all great questions and I know it's not always a straightforward decision-making process, but I'm here to tell you it's worth doing your research. My goal today is to be your guide through the research phase so you can be sure you're heading in the right direction. I've got lots of sofa buying tips to share with you today and I want to take a look at this from a bunch of different angles so that by the end of the post, you'll have a list of criteria for what you need to look for to find your perfect couch. With those in mind, you'll be able to easily home in on good options as you start shopping and quickly exclude the ones that aren't a good fit.
So grab a piece of paper, and get ready to take some notes and answer some questions as we get into this! Let's dive in.
via West Elm
1. What room is this for? And how do you "live" in that room?
The answer to that first question should be pretty obvious, right? 😉 If you're shopping for a new sofa, you've probably got a room in mind for it! The second question is definitely the one you need to spend some time on though - it's all about thinking through what activities take place in that room and how you're going to use that sofa. Knowing that information will give you some general guidelines in terms of type, size, and fabrics to consider.
For example, the sofa you would choose for a formal living room is likely very different from the one you would choose for a family room. Formal living rooms are typically designed more for conversation than for lounging and so a shallower, more supportive sofa might suit it best. Family rooms, on the other hand, often serve multiple purposes and may be more geared towards lounging and comfort, especially if it's the primary room for watching TV or binging on Netflix. Because of that, a deeper, cushier sofa may be what you want.
Only YOU can speak to how you'll use that sofa, but making a list of that room's purposes and who will use it (adults, kids, pets?) is a good starting point as we go through the other things to consider today.
via Danielle Moss
2. Let's talk about sofa size
Size definitely matters here. You want to not only think through the sofa's size itself, but you also want to think about its size in relationship to the room. Scale is important - you don't want to put a puny sofa in a large living room and you also don't want a giant sofa to swallow up a small one! This rule also applies to sectionals, which can get really large, really quickly. Be conscious of that!
An easy way to make sure you get the scale right is to mark it out on the floor using painter's tape. This visual can be really helpful in making sure it fits well and that it works nicely with other pieces of furniture that you have in the room.
When you're deciding on a sofa size, think about how many bottoms will usually need to fit on it and if you want it to be long enough to lie down on - those will help dictate the general size of the sofa. From there you can get into more specific width, height, and depth measurements.
But! Remember that overall width, height, and depth measurements are different from the actual width and depth of the part you sit on. A bigger sofa overall doesn't always mean that you'll have more seating area! Be sure to take a look at the interior seat measurements to figure that out. Sometimes a sofa that has is very deep overall ends up having a fairly shallow seat thanks to the a chunky frame itself plus the back pillows.
If you're not sure how wide and deep you want the seat to be, go to a furniture store and try some out. Make note of your ideal interior seat measurements and use those as you're shopping for your perfect sofa.
via Emily Henderson
3. What's your personal decorating style?
This is where things start to get a little less analytical and a little more fun! Your decorating style obviously plays a big role in the sofa style you choose. Do you like a more tailored look? Or are you more of a loose slipcover person? Straight lines or curves? Mid-century? Farmhouse? Traditional?
If you aren't sure exactly what your taste is, try browsing Pinterest and see what catches your eye. Make a board for your sofa hunt and start pinning away. Once you've spent some time doing that, go back and look at the board and see what patterns emerge in terms of sofa style. The characteristics you note in this exercise will definitely help guide your search.
via Studio McGee
4. On choosing the right fabric and color
For many people, choosing a fabric for their sofa feels like THE big decision. You can spend a ton of time browsing swatches and searching for the one that's the perfect color, texture, and style. If you're buying a quick ship sofa, you'll be more limited in your choices than if you buy a made-to-order or custom sofa, but either way, you'll need to make a choice in the end.
(Side note: If you're buying online, I highly suggest you order fabric swatches if you can so that you can make sure the color/texture/etc. you're seeing on the screen is the same as in real life.)
When you're looking at fabrics, there are three main things to consider in my mind:
- Color: Start with the general color family and then decide between a few specifics within that family. For example, if you know you want a gray sofa, grab a few different gray swatches with different textures/patterns, compare them, and make your decision from there.
- Performance vs. non-performance: Performance fabrics are highly durable, stain resistant, and hold up really well to wear and tear. They're great for pets and kids, and heck, anyone who doesn't want to worry about their sofa! They're usually a little more expensive, but can be worth it. Sometimes these fabrics are called "family friendly," or are listed under brand names like Sunbrella or Crypton Home.
- Washable vs. professional cleaning: Always take a look at the care instructions for a fabric and make sure it aligns well with how you live. You may prefer machine washable if you think your sofa will need to be cleaned fairly regularly. If the sofa is in a room that's not used a ton or is mainly for adults, fabrics that require professional cleaning might be just fine.
via West Elm
5. How does it feel when you sit on it?
This part is all about comfort. And comfort can mean different things to different people. Some folks want their sofas to feel like they're sitting on a cloud, while others want something more firm and supportive. Just like a lot of other aspects of choosing a sofa, this one is totally personal preference!
The feel of a sofa (squishy vs. firm) comes down to what the cushions are filled with, as well as the structure of the frame and the springs within it. It also has to do with how deep the seat is (see point #2!). If you like a squishier feel, cushions that include down fill or down fill around a foam core may be a good fit for you. If you like a firmer feel, try a foam fill or polyester-wrapped foam.
Again, if you're not sure what fill is right for you, head to a few furniture stores and try out some different sofas!
via Pottery Barn
Ah yes, the price. This is a pretty important piece of the sofa buying puzzle, isn't it? Here are my two cents - in most cases, I recommend spending as much as you can reasonably afford on the sofa you'll use the most. You want to invest in one that's good quality, that will hold up over time, and that's comfortable. If you happen to have a secondary living area that you don't plan to a ton, spend less on that one.
If you ask ten different people how much you should pay for a "good quality sofa" though, you'll probably get ten different answers. My personal opinion is that I think you can get a pretty good sofa that will last you 5-10 years for around $1,500-2,500. Definitely don't make your decisions based on price alone though - do your research on the quality of the frame, springs, and fabrics. Read the reviews too if they're available.
via Amber Interiors
7. Make sure it will fit through the door (and hallway...and up the stairs...).
This last point may seem like a no brainer, but I've heard too many horror stories about someone waiting ten weeks for a sofa to arrive only to find it won't fit up the stairs! It's a real bummer (not to mention costly) to make that mistake of not checking those measurements. Measure every opening and tricky turn to make sure you can get that sofa all the way into the room. Most furniture companies provide a delivery guide that talks about how to do this. Here's a great one from Interior Define if you want an example.
Remember that overall measurements provided by the manufacturer typically take into account things like pillow/cushion overhang and furniture legs, both of which are usually removable. If it's looking like a tight squeeze based on the overall measurements, be sure to ask if the legs are removable and/or what the measurements are without the cushions. A quick phone call or email to the company should help you figure that out.
A few final words about picking out the right sofa
If, by the end of this guide, you're feeling like there are a lot of things to consider when you're couch shopping, you'd be right! Take it one step at a time though and start making your list of criteria. Once you get going, it will feel easier to start making decisions!
Also, looking for the perfect sofa can definitely be a lesson in compromise - especially if you're taking more than one person's needs and desires into account. Sometimes conflicts may arise, and it's important to try to strike a balance and prioritize the most important things so that you'll be satisfied with your pick for a long, long time. A sofa is definitely an investment, so be sure to think it through carefully!
If all of this is overwhelming to you or you want a designer's eye for your next project, be sure to take a look at my e-design services. I'd be happy to help!
*This post contains affiliate links, which means Mix & Match Design Company earns a small commission from your purchase at no cost to you.