A sofa is more than a piece of furniture. It’s the hub of the room, and a spot where you and your loved ones gather to relax and chat. That’s why it’s so important to choose a sofa that suits your lifestyle, feels comfortable, and looks good. We’ve put together some tips and guidelines to help you navigate all the available options so you find a sofa where you’ll love getting cozy.
How Do You Choose a New Sofa?
Think about the role your sofa plays in your home now, as well as what you’d like to change. Is the couch your go-to spot for an afternoon nap? Are you in need of a sleeper sofa for overnight guests? Do you want compact seating for a studio apartment or are reclining seats a must-have for your new couch? The answers to these questions and more will help you choose a sofa that’s the right fit for your lifestyle.
Types of Couches
As you start shopping, the first step is to determine the type of sofa and features that work best for your space and your needs. Take a look at these sofa types to start narrowing down your choices:
A loveseat is a smaller sofa that typically seats two. Loveseats come in armless, high back, and bench designs, as well as the traditional sofa style with arms. This versatile piece has hundreds of options to choose from including size, back style, pillow style, material, reclining features, or the ability to convert to a twin-size sleeper.
A chaise lounge was once seen as a luxurious spot for relaxing all by yourself. Today’s sofa styles have combined that comfort into the chaise sofa, giving you the best of both worlds. Stretch out and lounge on one end or sit upright on the other. This design is ideal for couples, a small family, or pet owners who want to share the sofa.
If you have a large room or a large family, a sectional sofa is a great choice. These couches often seat six or more, so they’re ideal for entertaining, watching TV, or family game night. Whether you choose leather or fabric, reclining, armless, or a sleeper style, a sectional makes a statement. Read the Sectional Sofa Buying Guide for advice on sectional options and measuring tips.
You’re a smart shopper — so why not let one furniture piece do the work of two? A sleeper sofa does just that. You get the look and function of a sofa with the versatility to remove the cushions and pull out a bed when needed. This sofa style is ideal for sleepovers, a guest room, or even a movie marathon. Take a peek at today’s sleeper sofas and read How to Choose the Best Sofa Bed for even more ideas.
For the ultimate in comfort, a reclining sofa or loveseat is sure to please. Today’s models offer a variety of features including built-in cup holders, storage armrests, USB ports, and wall hugger designs. Ready to relax? Choose a power reclining sofa to rest and recline with the ease of a push button.
A sofa is a piece of furniture you’re likely to have for many years, so consider both your current needs and how the sofa fits into your overall decorating plan. For example, if you share the sofa with kids and pets, consider a sectional sofa that’s big enough to seat everyone comfortably. On the other hand, if you’re putting the sofa in a formal living room that you really only use for entertaining guests, finding a sofa that fits with the room’s decorating scheme might be more important.
How to Select a Sofa Size
After you know how you’re going to use the sofa, it’s time to figure out exactly how much room you have to work with. If the sofa is too big for the room, you may not have enough space to walk around or fit other important pieces of furniture nearby. If it’s too small, you may have wasted space that disrupts the design of the room.
Measure the room’s dimensions, including the length, width, and height of the walls. Be sure to also note the width and height of the doorways leading to the room, since the furniture has to fit through one of them. Plan to leave at least 30″ of space between the sofa and other pieces of furniture, and around 16″ of space for a coffee table.
Sofa Size Guidelines
Standard sofa sizes typically range from 72 to 96″ long and 30 to 40″ deep, depending on the style and the manufacturer. Most sofas will seat three people comfortably, but the length determines how many people can sit on the sofa… and who can stretch out for a nap on it.
The sofa’s depth will affect your comfort, too. A shallow seat depth may feel uncomfortable when you sit for extended periods of time, especially if you have long legs. Your ideal sofa size will have the right amount of hip room and leg room, plus leave space in front of the sofa so it’s easy to walk around, and enough space for other living room furnishings.
Popular Sofa Designs
Choosing between different sofa designs is the fun part of sofa shopping. Let’s start with the basics. Sofa styles usually fall into three categories: modern, traditional, and transitional. Modern sofas have clean lines and low profiles, usually with few embellishments. Traditional sofas may have curved silhouettes along with ornately carved legs, upholstery, and skirts. Transitional sofas combine elements of both modern and traditional furniture with sophisticated designs that often lack embellishments.
Of course, you can also take a look at the latest sofa trends to see what appeals to your inner designer. If you’re looking for a unique sofa style to change up the look of your room, here are a few favorite styles:
- Mid-Century: This style emphasizes function and clean lines, but novelty abounds with fun geometric shapes, tapered sofa legs, and organic curves.
- Farmhouse: Country-chic textiles and distressed, antique styles combine with modern conveniences for comfortable, oversized sofas in neutral colors.
- Rustic: Distressed woods, rusted metals, and natural fabrics are the hallmark of this rugged aesthetic, peppered with hints of color.
- Coastal: This breezy, beachy style often blends maritime motifs like stripes, nautical accents, and weathered wood with shades of white and blue.
- Glam: Chic and elegant, opulent glam décor uses velvet, metallics, shimmer, and shine to turn up the luxe factor in your room.
Sofa Construction Basics
How a sofa is made may be the last thing on your mind when you’re shopping. However, it’s something to consider if you’re looking for a piece of furniture that holds up over time. Here are a few design elements to consider when you look for your new sofa online:
The sofa’s frame may be either wood or metal. Hardwood and metal frames tend to be more durable since they’re less susceptible to damage from moisture and pressure. Particle board frames are lightweight and affordable. You should also check whether the frame is held together with staples or dowels. One with a dowel assembly is more durable, but it takes more time to build and costs more.
Sofa arms not only help define the sofa’s style, but they also play a role in your comfort. Tall arms that are even with the sofa back give the piece a dramatic shape. They’re also handy if you like curling up in a corner or need some extra support when sitting on the end of the sofa. Low arms double as a headrest to support your neck and head when you’re napping or lounging on your side. Here are a few key terms to know:
- Rolled arms: gently sloping rolls that give the sofa a traditional look
- Saddle arms: padded arms that look like additional seating on the end of the sofa
- Track arms: straight lines that form an L shape on the end of the sofa and easily fit in tight spaces
Standard sofas have two or three seat cushions. In most cases, the number of cushions tells you how many people can comfortably sit there. Along the back, the sofa may have an attached cushion (or cushions) or removable pillows. Although attached cushions provide more support, removable cushions make it easier to clean the sofa and customize the look. Cushions usually have multiple layers underneath the upholstery that determine how firm or soft the cushion feels.
The core of the cushion is low- or high-density foam. The higher the density, the firmer the feel and the better the cushion holds its shape. This core is surrounded by a fiber or down wrap that adds a touch of softness to the foam. Just under the upholstery is a layer of ticking. If you like a soft sofa, look for a cushion with layers of down surrounding the foam. For a firmer feel, choose a cushion with higher-density foam and fewer layers around it.
Comfort may be key to your sofa purchase, but you also want to make sure you’re choosing the right material. While some fabrics can stand up to daily use, kids, stains, and pets, others require a gentler environment. For more insight into each choice, read our Understanding Upholstery from Fabric to Frame article. Here are a few pros and cons of common sofa materials:
- Leather: Leather upholstery can vary greatly in price and quality, depending on its grade and treatment. Be sure you know which leather type you are purchasing and how you can expect it to perform over the years.
- Faux leather: Made from polyurethane and more eco-friendly than vinyl, faux leather is more breathable than PVC, and it’s also degradable.
- Fabric: This category covers a wide range of materials, from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and chenille, to synthetic fibers including nylon, polyester, and rayon. Be sure to check the fiber content and care labels since durability and cleaning methods will vary.
- Microfiber: Microfiber looks like suede but it’s easier to clean, durable, and moisture resistant. Typically a lower cost fabric, microfiber is ideal for sectional sofas and other casual styles.
- Velvet: Soft and luxurious, velvet adds a touch of glam to your room. A standout for its comfort, texture, and rich color, velvet can also be more difficult to clean.
The sofa you choose makes a big impact on the look of your living room, family room, or den. Using these helpful tips to determine the right sofa size and shape will make it more fun as you choose the perfect style. Then you can customize your pick with your own style preferences as you select the upholstery, color, pattern, and pillows, and get ready to spend years enjoying your new piece of furniture.