The right sofa can transform your entire space, becoming the deciding factor between "house" and "home." Whether you're seeking a basic furniture set or high-end elegance, your sofa is a major investment, and it's one you'll live with for years to come. So how do you find the perfect fit? A few savvy tips can help you navigate the marketplace's many facets, so you can select the sofa that suits both your home and your lifestyle.
Regardless of your lifestyle or aesthetic, budget is the most important factor in selecting your sofa. Decide what numbers you're willing to work with before you go shopping, and stay within that range. This will help you rule out over-the-top options — don't even let them tempt you — but it also allows you to upgrade to new colors or fabrics you might not have anticipated; when you have a firm limit, the options you discover might just surprise you.
A sturdy frame helps your sofa maintain its shape over time — a must-have if it's the center of your living room! Look for joints that are glued, screwed, or dowelled; these are the strongest options on the market. Hardwood is best, since softwood can break down or shrink over time. Look for denser options like alder, maple, and walnut, which do an excellent job of working with and not against the staples and glue.
Think of it this way: the frame is your sofa's skeleton, while the springs are its ligaments and tendons. Both are equally important, yet many furniture buyers ignore the springs; don't be one of them. These vital components help alleviate stress, prevent cushions from flattening, inhibit shifting, and provide that intense sense of comfort you feel as soon as you sit down. Not all springs are equal, however; look for traditional eight-way hand-tied springs, which lead to all of the above results. Avoid cheaper options like drop-in or pocket coils, which don't distribute weight well, leave indentations, and wear down quickly.
Your sofa's filling can make or break your seating experience, so pay close attention. One of the most popular options is high-density polyurethane foam — the higher the density, the firmer the cushion, and it maintains its supportive shape well. This foam can also be wrapped in additional materials for a softer, more plush feel. Look for high-density foam only though, as the low-quality stuff breaks down, sags, and rapidly wears down your cushions. Feathers, springs, and memory foam are also available, so if you prefer an ultra-soft or ultra-firm feel, there's something for everyone.
Upholstery is the exterior surface you sit, lie, and play on. With a good maintenance routine, high-performance fabrics can last a lifetime, so know the look, feel, and care required. On most sofas, you'll notice a Wyzenbeek or Martindale score — the fabric's abrasion or rub count and wearability indicator. Since a high score in one test doesn't indicate success in the other, ask your retailer about the range for each test type, and see where your chosen upholstery falls. For the Martindale test, for instance, experts recommend a standard rating of at least 50,000, with high-performance marked as 100,000.
Measure all entryways and passages to ensure that your new sofa will fit; this lets you know how it will be moved into the room and allows you to envision it within the space. Don't be that buyer who springs for the jumbo sofa only to have it stuck in your hallway! Measure once, then measure again, and research formulas for angles and fit; the right angle can make all the difference, positioning-wise. If your couch is delivered, the movers will likely have experience, but it's still good to give them some guidance, especially if it's a bit of a trek from the driveway to the living room.
Sofa shopping as a single person is an entirely different experience from buying for a family, so consider your everyday seating situation. How many people will be sitting at once? How do you like to sit or position yourself? How do others? Think about how your sofa will be used on a day-to-day basis; arm and back height make a notable comfort difference, while some cushions are more ideal for lounging than others. This piece of furniture is meant to be lived on and used, so lifestyle weighs heavily on your selection.
Testing reclining parts before purchase answers these vital questions: does the recliner work reliably each time? Does it move easily? Is the mechanism convenient enough to find/use? If you notice the seat dipping down, the recliner doesn't lift high enough, or you have difficulty with the mechanism, then this sofa isn't the most reliable option. Better to know now than come crashing down during a movie or afternoon nap!
Do you want removable cushion covers, or would you prefer that they all stayed in place? How about the cushions themselves: attached to the sofa, or completely detachable? Multiple cushions, or an all-in-one setup? Kids, pets, and everyday life impact the wear and tear of your cushions, so give them close consideration. If the covers are removable, make sure zippers look well-sewn. While you're at it, you can check the stitching in general; if it's already loosening or there are stray threads, that doesn't bode well for years of flopping down onto it.
Even if you're buying online, always know your options. That perfect sofa you spotted at one shop might be significantly cheaper at another, or you might find a piece with bells and whistles you never would have considered otherwise. Not sure what "suede" really means or feels like? Get yourself to a furniture store so you can run your fingers along all the different textures. Browsing in-store gives you a better idea of the market, an overview of colors, shapes, and types, and knowledge of what falls within budget. Sales associates also tend to answer more quickly and precisely than the bot on the online chat.