Furniture Guides | Sofas

How to Choose a Sofa

Sofas or a couch might be one of the biggest purchases you make when furnishing your home. There are good reasons for this. Your sofa is often a focal point in your living room. Positioned so you can watch television, play music or even play video games, it’s a place where you and your family members might spend a lot of time.

What to Think About Before You Start Looking For a Sofa?

  • Begin with Your Budget: Interior designer Annie Elliot is quoted as saying that you should expect to spend around a thousand dollars on a good quality, new sofa. Anything less than that, and you are probably not going to get a piece of furniture that will last. It has been observed, however, that after $3,000, the improvement in quality is slight.

  • Sit on a Lot of Showroom Furniture: Even if you plan to purchase your couch online, test showroom sofas to see how they fit or feel. Make notes about the brands that you like and the ones that you do not.

  • Think About How Many People Will Sit on the Sofa: Is this a couch just for you? Is it for you and your life partner? Is it going to be for a large family of children? Should I allow room for pets? These are all considerations when buying a sofa.

  • Get Fabric Samples: If you are shopping online, fabric samples are extremely important because you cannot assess the feel of a fabric from a picture. Will it be comfortable? Will it feel scratchy? Is it colorfast? Some interior designers are now recommending that you get indoor/outdoor fabric because if something will hold up to your patio, then it should survive your living room.

  • Write Down the Upholstery Choices That You Like: Whether it is because it feels good on your skin or because it is tough and you think it will wear well, make notes.

What to Measure When Shopping for a Sofa?

  • Measure Yourself: A comfortable sofa should be deep enough that you can sit back in it, and perhaps even pull your feet up into it. But it should not be so deep that when you are sitting in it normally, you have no back support. You should be able to sit upright and have your feet flat on the floor, without having your knees pushed unnaturally toward your chin. Tall and short couples might need to develop some sort of compromise on sofa size.

    For sizing the couch to you, measure from the back of your hips to the inside of your knee. That is the depth of the couch. Measure from the inside of the back of your knee to the floor. That is the ideal height of the seat.

  • Measure Your Doorways, Hallways, Stairways: To get the couch into your home, measure the width, height and cross-section of any door your couch will need to go through. Nothing is more disappointing than having picked out the perfect couch, only to not be able to get it into the house. Consider alternative means of bringing it in, if necessary.

Polyester Blend Solid Wood Loveseat
Polyester Solid Wood Flared Arms Loveseat
Polyester Velvet Solid Manufactured Wood Chesterfield Rolled Arm Sofa

What Types of Sofa Upholstery Fabric Are There?

Pet and Kid Friendly Fabrics

  • Textured Synthetic Weaves

Polyester that is woven into a textured weave, especially if it has multiple colors of thread in the weave, is easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth. You might need to go over it while wearing a rubber glove to pick up cat and dog hairs. A good canister vac or any vacuum cleaner with a cushion/crevice wand will help keep up with crumbs and stains. The textured multicolor strands are also a preventative when it comes to stains.

  • Poly-Cotton Blends, including Soft Velvets

If texture is important to you, these soft, short pile velvets feel great. They can be sponged clean with a damp cloth if there is a spill. Use a stiff brush to bring up the pile afterwards to help hide the spot that needed sponged.

Velvet Solid Wood Standard Recessed Arms Loveseat
Cotton Polyester Blend Solid Wood Rolled Arm Sofa
Velvet Solid Manufactured Wood Tufted Back Convertible Sofa
Gray Cotton Metal Stainless Steel Square Arm Sofa Bed
  • Indoor/Outdoor Synthetic Fabrics

Originally created for patio or poolside furniture, these fabrics are great in family rooms or other high-traffic areas. They are easy to clean, stain-resistant, and slow to fade.

Polypropylene Olefin Solid Manufactured Wood Standard Rolled Arms Loveseat
Polypropylene Olefin Queen Sleeper Sofa
Ivory Rayon Viscose Terylene Acrylic Solid Manufactured Wood Recessed Arm Sofa

Not as durable as you might think, but if you are only looking for a fabric that will hold up a year or two, it will do well until it gets a crack or a puncture in it. For this reason, it is relatively kid-friendly, but not so great for animals, especially cats. Once punctured, it tends to crack and tear from that spot. Unless you admire duct tape patching on furniture, this does not work well for pets or even for some children.

Faux Leather Solid Manufactured Wood Standard Square Arm Sofa

Fine Fabrics for the Parlor

  • Natural Fabrics Such as Linen or Cotton

Heavily woven cotton or linen looks great in light-colored fabric. Amazingly tough, it can even withstand well-trained pet abuse. However, these natural fabrics will be more vulnerable to stains. If you have a problem with synthetic fibers, a good, heavy canvas duck can stand up to almost any kind of household traffic or abuse.

  • Silk

Silk comes in many different grades of fabric, from airy gauze to heavy-duty twill. It usually has a pleasing texture. It is not, however, spill or stain resistant. But if you have a corner that is beautifully decorated yet comfortable, a silk satin is smooth and pleasing to the touch, as well as beautiful.

  • Natural Leather

Natural leather is marketed in several different grades. The creature from which the leather originated makes a difference, too. If you are socially conscious, you will probably want to stick to leathers that originate as by-products of the meatpacking industry rather than specialty leather where the whole animal was not used in some way.

Cow Hide can be whole and sometimes can even have the fur left on for a primitive effect. This can be a little wild, but if you are going for a US Western effect, it is tough and durable, if a bit of a challenge to clean.

Split Leather is just what it sounds like. The natural layers of hide have been separated so the result is thinner and more supple. This makes it more comfortable to sit on, but perhaps not quite as durable.

Suede has the rough side of the leather split turned outside so you can feel the soft fibers. (It is a little more complicated than that, but that is essentially how it works.) To parody the Elvis song, please don’t step, spill, or turn wild pets loose on that blue suede couch! With that said, it can be incredibly comfortable and pleasing to the touch.

Which Sofa Style is Your Style?

Sofas are made in a variety of styles and shapes. They can be part of a living room suite, or they can be stand-alone furnishings with which you mix and match other furnishings. Some of them are just plain what you see is what you get seats, while others might be hiding a pull-out mattress, a pop-up mattress or a folding back or arms that can turn a couch, sofa, or loveseat into an extra bed.

Here are a few of the many options:

  • Classic Victorian

It might not be the most comfortable seat in the house, but it is oh, so very elegant. With lathe-turned legs partially concealed behind ruffled or pleated skirts, wooden arm and back decorations, it is perfect for sophisticated entertaining. The upholstery fabric could be silk, damask, brocade, or even a simple linen.

Brown Espresso Chenille Faux Leather Solid Wood Standard Sofa
Solid Manufactured Wood Standard Curved Rolled Arm Sofa
Burgundy Velvet Solid Manufactured Wood Recessed Arm Sofa
  • Three-Seater, Modern Couch

If you are a fifty’s or sixties child, you might think “square” when you see a couch or sofa in this conservative style. Its geometric lines are clean and straight, including the lightly padded arms and button-tufted back. Fabrics covering this kind of couch are often a nubbled tweed, textured canvas or even a wide-wale corduroy if you wish to be bold. It is also a good candidate for that indoor/outdoor modern fabric, especially if you are re-upholstering an older furnishing.

Microfiber Microsuede Solid Wood Standard Flared Arm Sofa
Blue Linen Solid Wood Modern Standard Square Arm Loveseat
  • Sectional Couches

These can be geometric, too, but a favorite kind of upholstery for a family sectional is the super-over-stuffed puffy look that became popular in the late 1980s and 1990s. Subdued cotton or cotton/poly blend velvets can make a sectional a sensuous experience to lounge on. Thanks to a sectional’s flexible arrangement options, it can also be a great place for kids, dogs, fantasy adventures with doll or stuffed animal collections and similar events, so durability is important.

Faux Leather Polyester Plastic Stationary Reversible Sectional
Linen Blend Solid Manufactured Wood Reversible Sectional
Polyester Metal Stationary Reversible Sectional
Linen Manufactured Wood Left Hand Facing Sectional With Ottoman
  • Professional Office Couch

You’ve probably seen these in waiting rooms for law offices or doctor’s offices, or even in children-have-never-touched-this homes of upwardly mobile professionals. They can be more comfortable than they look, especially if they are made of real leather. You can easily soften the look with pillows or an occasional throw, if desired. They tend to be low maintenance and moderately durable.

Polyester Blend Solid Wood Office Standard Tuxedo Arm Sofa
Cream Velvet Solid Wood Office Flared Arm Sofa
Black Velvet Solid Wood Office Curved Sofa
Polyester Blend Solid Wood Office Round Arm Sofa
  • Wild, Wild West Frontier Look

Combine leather, twig furniture arm styles, and perhaps even cowhide with the spots left on for a rugged frontier look. Great for country or western styles, but can also be worked into eclectic or shabby chic décor. Probably not your best selection for Victorian living rooms, unless you are incorporating a Big Game Hunter look. If you like the colonial vibe, but prefer an earth-friendly lifestyle, synthetic suedes or plush can net the look without endangering wildlife.

Brown Cotton Wood Wild West Standard Round Arm Sofa
Dark Brown Cappuccino Bonded Leather Wood Wild West Sofa
Top Grain Leather Vintage Brown Solid Wood Wild West Standard Square Arm Sofa
Brown Genuine Leather Solid Wood Wild West Square Arm Sofa

What Are the Best Sofa Colors?

Most interior designers agree that neutral colors are best for something as large as a couch. Remember, you are going to be living with this couch for a long time. It is a major investment. You can always give it a splash of color with pillows or a nice afghan, especially one that is suitable for wrapping up in on a chilly evening.

How to Avoid Expensive Sofas That Fall Apart in a Year?

There are two things to look for when thinking about couch durability. One is the inner frame. Make sure that it’s made of real wood, not pressed wood or some other substitute. Second, read the manufacturer’s recommended weight limit. If the person who is going to be sitting on it the most weighs more than three hundred fifty pounds (a frequent weight limit) look for sofas that are rated for more than that person’s top weight.

Making That Final Selection

Don’t buy the first couch you like right away. Look at it, consider the brand. Go home and measure everything again to be sure that it will fit. Think about whether you would want to entertain your boss or an important company client when sitting on it. Think about whether it would be comfortable to lounge on when you have a day off. Is this a sofa for family comfort or is it a place to entertain important visitors?

When you do finally select a couch, do pick one that you like. You will be living with your choice for many years. You want something that fits not only the lifestyle you currently have but also the one that you hope to have in the future.

Your perfect couch might need to survive small children, large dogs, frisky cats (with claws), and a variety of life events that go with having an active, busy life. Whether you are a family of one or a dozen, your couch should be the one that fits your lifestyle.

Foter Magazine is a premier architecture, decoration, interiors and design website. We inspire and guide you to make your home a more attractive place.


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