Sofa Buying Guide

Posted In Knowledge - 10/17/2017

Finding just the right sofa for your home can make all the difference in how you use your space. The right fit, construction and style will ensure you continue to love and make the most of your living room for many years to come. While this may seem like a daunting process, taking some measurements and answering a few basic questions can make finding the perfect sofa easy and fun!

1 - Find your Size

Determining what size sofa you need will depend on your room size and configuration plus any other furnishings you already have in your space. Measure to determine the ideal length, and keep in mind that your favorite style may be a bit bigger or smaller, so decide on an optimum range. Leave space for end tables, chairs and movement through your space.

Depth and height also matter. Again determine optimum depth and height, but leave leeway for smaller or larger based on comfort and style preferences.

Apartment living - look for scaled-down sofas designed specifically for tighter quarters. If space is an issue, consider a sectional or an apartment sofa. Sectionals can fit more seats into less overall floor space than a sofa/chair or sofa/loveseat combination and apartment sofas tend to have more compact dimensions than traditional sofas. However, by reviewing dimensions carefully when you shop you will find that trim silhouettes can be found in all sofa styles.

Pro tip: Look for styles with narrow arms so that more of the sofa dimensions are devoted to seating space.

For more about sofa sizing: How to Find the Right Size Couch for Your Room, What Do I Need to Know about Couch Depth? and Sofa vs Sectional

2 - How It's Made

Frame: Quality frames are made with hardwood construction that won't warp, bend or crack over the years. Look for hardwoods, steer clear of particleboard, soft wood, plastic or metal.

Frame Construction: Look for joinery techniques that will stand up to use. These include mortise and tenon frame construction, reinforced corner blocks, wooden dowels or even metal screws and brackets. An extremely strong and long-lasting choice is kiln-dried wood, with the moisture removed from the wood, these frames hold up very well over the years. Stay away from any sofa with a frame just stapled or glued together, this would be a red flag for a poor quality product that will not hold up over time.

Seating System: Sinuous springs provide support to the cushions. The springs are typically covered with padding and then fabric to complete the deck (the area under the cushions). Springs made of heavy gauge metal will continue to provide support with use, while cheaper lower gauge springs will lose their shape over time. Some sofas are made with mesh instead of springs, which will have a much stiffer feel and have a much shorter lifespan than springs.

Cushion Construction: Look for cushions that have high-density foam core; they will be firm and will last. Low-density foam cushions will feel softer in showrooms but have a tendency to compress and wear out more quickly. Polyester fiber is very inexpensive and feels fluffy at first but will compress quickly. Down fill is an expensive but very comfortable option, just be aware that it requires regular fluffing to maintain shape and comfort. If none of these options is the perfect choice for you, some sofas cushions will utilize the best of several materials to create a multi-ply result for comfort, longevity and economy.

Cushion Attachment - Attached cushions make it tougher to clean your sofa, but provide more structure and are unlikely to require fluffing. Loose pillow backs and reversible seat cushions can be rotated so that the high usage seats don't wear out before the rest of the sofa. Pillow back cushions often require fluffing to redistribute the fill.

Upholstery Options: Upholstery options abound, your choice here will depend on the preference of look and feel. However, remember that investing in quality for either leather or fabric will mean that your sofa will last considerably longer.

  • Leather - Top-grain leather is long-lasting and durable. It resists many stains but will need professional cleaning if it does stain.
  • Leather alternatives - Bonded leather is created from leather and is composited with other materials to create a much less expensive leather look and feel. This alternative is a cheaper option but it won't last as long as real leather. Ultrahyde and Microsuede are made of polyester Microfibers and quality versions of these products have very high thread counts, making them very resilient and durable with a soft, supple feel. While they don't look or feel exactly like leather, they will last much longer than bonded-leather.
  • Fabric upholstery - Cotton, wool, linen, nylon, rayon, polyester and blends give you a variety of looks and feels with unlimited styling options. Different materials have different strengths and weaknesses. Durability, comfort and ease of care will vary. Look for tight weaves that keep their shape. Man-made materials like nylon and polyester tend to be more stain-resistant and easier to care for than natural materials.

Pro tip: Keep an eye out for a layer of padding between the frame and the upholstery. This enhances the look of your piece and will help keep the upholstery looking great for longer.

Read these articles for more about these topics: Sofa Construction Quality, Upholstered Furniture Styles & Definitions, Leather vs. Fabric Couch

If you are considering a reclining sofa or sleeper sofa, be sure to test that the mechanisms are built sturdily and operate smoothly. More about What To Look For In A Sleeper Sofa.

3 – Fitting Your Style

Now that you know the nuts and bolts of what to look for, think about how you want it to look in your space.

Contemporary or Modern – with streamlined silhouettes and bold, angular or sleek styling.

Traditional or Classic – with ornate frames, curves, tufts, intricate patterns, carved details and embellishments.

Transitional– a mix of traditional and contemporary, featuring clean lines with classic embellishments or classic lines with streamlined finishes.

For more about sofa shapes: Find the Perfect Sofa Shape for You

And finally, make sure your sofa can make it into your room by carefully Measuring for Furniture Delivery