5 Things To Look For in a Sofa

Woman sitting on sofa in furniture store.

Marc Leon / Getty Images

Choosing a sofa sounds pretty easy. You just go to the store, pick one out, and get it delivered. Or even better, order it online and take care of it with the press of a button. But not so fast. Getting the right sofa for your home is not quite so easy. Sofas are one of the most expensive decor items you will purchase for your home, so you need to make sure you are making the right investment. Before you buy the first sofa you fall in love with, make sure you have done your due diligence.

The Right Size

Never underestimate the importance of size when choosing a sofa. There are three things you need to think about when it comes to size: the number of people you need to accommodate, the size of the room, and the physically being able to get the piece of furniture into the room.

  • Seating needs: How many people will be using it on a regular basis? One, two, three? This will directly affect how roomy your sofa needs to be. If it is just for one or two people you can be pretty flexible, but if it is more than that, you might want to consider an L-shape that provides additional seating.
  • Size of the room: How big is the room where your sofa will go? It is important to make sure that the sofa is well proportioned in relation to the rest of the room. Many people who live in small spaces opt for small "apartment" size sofas, but depending on how you have decorated your room, this can be a mistake. Sometimes too many smaller pieces can make a room look cluttered. Even in a small room consider a regular size sofa in order to fill the space and make it look full and complete.
  • Physically fit: Make sure to carefully measure the doorways, hallways, and staircases to make sure that the sofa can physically get into the space. Make sure the sofa can fit inside and around corners. The main reason large furniture pieces get returned is that they do not fit, so measure carefully before you buy.

    Quality of Construction

    Quality is a huge factor when buying a sofa, and the term "you get what you pay for" should always be top of mind. 

    Sofas vary in price from anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. If you are on a budget, you will want to stick closer to the low end, but always keep in mind that the less you pay the more likely it will be that you will have to replace it in a few years. So while it may seem cost-conscious at the time, you will still end up paying more in a few years. That is not to say that you have to spend thousands of dollars on a sofa, but be aware of cost and quality. Remember that a high-end sofa should last more than 25 years, while sofas on the lower end will likely only last up to 10.

    When trying to determine if a sofa is of good quality there are two things to check. Ask the manufacturer if it has 8-way hand tied construction. This is a sign of excellent quality and most high-end furniture is made this way. The other way is to run your hand across the back of the sofa. If it feels hollow it is an indicator of cheap quality. Remember, cost and quality often go hand-in-hand with sofas and other major pieces of furniture, so it is always a good idea to buy the best quality you can comfortably afford.

    No matter how good the quality, if you do not take care of it, it will not last. So make sure you do not do anything that will ruin your sofa.

    Color and Pattern

    While size and quality are hugely important, perhaps nothing will have a bigger impact on the room than the color and pattern of your sofa. Conventional decorating wisdom tells us that since sofas take up so much visual space—and they are expensive to replace or recover—it is best to play it safe.

    Stick with easy-to-live-with neutrals, and simple, minimal patterns. While bold colors and trendy patterns can be fun for a while, it is likely that over time it can begin to look dated or you might get tired of it. Financially, it makes more sense to stick with a neutral base and dress it up with colorful pillows and throws. Keep in mind that neutral does not have to mean plain. Subtle textures like tweed and herringbone can give neutral palettes a bit of depth. 

    Style and Shape

    There is a huge variety of sofa styles and shapes currently available. There are traditional William Birch, roll arm, and camelback versions; modern tuxedo, slipper, and midcentury versions; and a seemingly unending array of others that fall somewhere else on the spectrum.

    If you do not know exactly what you want, think about the overall style of your home, the room it will go in, and what kind of look you want to achieve. As a general rule, you do not put a traditional sofa in a modern house, but in some cases, that might be just the look someone is going for. Think about the arm style, the cushion style, the shape of the back, and the base style. Look at photos of how certain styles look in rooms similar to yours and determine what you like best.

    Comfort

    The number one consideration when it comes to buying a sofa should always be comfort. No matter how good it looks, how perfectly it fits, or what a great price you can get, if it is not comfortable to sit in, it will not do you any good. Far too many people make this purchase only to discover they cannot use it the way they intended. So before you buy a sofa test it out. Sit in it, lie down in it, and spend a few minutes trying to get comfortable. And be honest with yourself about how you will use it. If it does not feel right in the store, do not buy it.