How to Choose the Perfect Sofa

Orange Modern Templeton Sofa Jonathan Adler

The average sofa, or couch, is in our living room or media room for seven years, and they aren’t inexpensive, so it makes sense to give consideration to what you need before buying. When I bought my sofa, my primary concern was something that would look good in my living room, and would fit the space well.  I succeeded well in those regards. But the sofa is so uncomfortable that nobody wants to sit on it. Now I’m looking at additional accent chairs, but I know I need to address the problem, so here is a list of things I will consider when I replace it.

Size

Size is the most important thing to consider, as the couch has to fit and seem appropriate for the space you have, considering what other furniture we want in the room along with it. If your primary interest is having a good sized, comfortable couch, then buy it first, and see how it works in your room before getting other furniture to know how much space you have. However, if you have accent chairs, a coffee table and end tables, then you need the size of the sofa to work in your existing space. If you’re not sure how the sofa will fit, make a template from newspaper or craft paper and set it in place and see how it looks.

If you want to be able to have a nap on the sofa, look for one at least 90″ long. In order to curl up with a book, you’ll want a seat up to 40″ deep. Sofas shallower than 35″ can seem uncomfortable. If you’re in a small space look at apartment sized sofas which are usually 77″ wide or less. Sectionals can seem a bit imposing, so buy a low back (maybe 32″), and look for one with minimal cushions (less fussing). Don’t forget to make sure that whatever sofa you buy will fit through the entry ways into your room.

Standard living room furniture sizes

  • 3 seat sofa – 35” D x 84” W
  • Apartment sofa – 66″ to 77″ arm to arm
  • Loveseat – 35” D x 60” W
  • Armchair – 35” W x 35” D
  • Coffee Table – 30” W x.48” L
  • Square end table – 24” W x 24” L
  • Rectangular end table – 24” W x 28” L

In these pictures below, the sofa on the left is a whopping 281 inches (suitable for a huge living room in either an S shape or circular) , while the apartment sized sofa on the right is only 74″. The left couch would take almost quadruple the space of the one on the right.

Vig Furniture A94 - White Leather Sectional Sofa Set      Handy Living Milan Sofa, Plum Velvet

Comfort/Primary Use

My mistake was thinking that comfort wasn’t much of an issue if the primary use of the sofa was only for company, being that I tend to have my living room to myself and tend to sit in an occasional chair. Its become a source of amusement to watch my guests’ tactful ways of avoiding actually sitting on what has now become known as the “Uncomfy Couch”. Some will pull a chair into the living room from the dining room.  A small child’s antique rocker has become quite popular, even with grown men. I will definitely not discount the necessity for comfort again when choosing a living room sofa.

For a media room, where people lounge for hours (although they rarely admit it), its even more important to go for comfort. I would recommend a minimum seat height of 20″ to make it easier for people to get up and down. There are many styles that are made for comfort while watching television. Also consider whether you will have extra guests sleeping on the couch occasionally, in which case you may want to consider a sofa bed, day bed or futon or go for the 90″ length. And if you have a busy household, and people often perch on the arm of the couch, make sure you get arms with room and strength for it.

Blu Dot Couchoid Studio Sofa - OceanBlu Dot Couchoid is reputed to be one of the most comfortable couches available. It comes in a cow-friendly leather alternative with a chrome-plated base. I love the funky style of this studio sofa, and it would fit into almost any room. W75″ H28″ back H15″ seat, D34″ overall D24″ seat.

Bobkona Manhattan Reversible Microfiber 3-Piece Sectional Sofa with Faux Leather Ottoman in Sage ColorBobkona Manhattan Reversible Microfiber 3-Piece Sectional Sofa with Faux Leather Ottoman in Sage Color is a very stylish sofa and was made with comfort in mind, on the small side as far as sectionals go. Dimensions: 35.00″ h x 65.00″ w x 83.00″ l, 174.00 pounds.

Shape

3334 Black Ultra modern sectional sofaI chose an L shaped sofa because I have one long wall facing the open area of my home, and wanted people to be able to all see each other. With the availability of sofas with either one or no arms now, also consider whether people may be approaching the sofa from the side, in which case you may want a low shallow side table next to that location to allow ease of access. As far as location goes, I like the saying “always put a sofa in the farthest part of the room.” Why walk around the largest piece of furniture in the room?

Upholstery

Coaster Zebra Print Convertible SofaI’m not a big fan of leather for a couple of reasons, primarily being cats. Almost every cat I’ve known has been fond of scratching leather. I also find it a bit cold. However, it is consistently in style, and wears well. Suede can be a poor choice if you have pets or small children, because of hair and spills, as can white furniture. However, there are many suede and other type fabrics with extremely good stain resistance, so do look for these resistant fabrics when making your selection. I tend to prefer neutral sofas and add a splash of color in the accent chairs, but go with your own personal taste, keeping in mind whether the sofa will blend well with other furniture and the existing wall color. Sometimes getting a new sofa is a great excuse to paint the walls too!

Also take note as to whether the upholstery covers the back of the couch if you anticipate needing to locate it away from a wall. Under the upholstery you will likely find down or foam. Down can feel more comfortable as you sink down into it, but the cushions will need regular plumping and fluffing.

Style

I have eclectic taste but my home itself is a combination of modern, rustic and industrial, so I opted to go with a modern style sofa. If your home is traditional style, a modern sofa could look out of place.

LexMod Florence Style Sofa in White Genuine LeatherModern

Sleek, low flat look of art deco or 1950s-1970s furniture, usually in brown, black or white upholstery, often with chrome trim. This LexMod Florence Style Sofa in White Genuine Leather is a 1950s Florence Knoll reproduction with genuine leather tufted seat and back, metal frame and legs, dimensions: 32.00″ h x 90.00″ w x 31.00″.

Victoria Sofa - 500681 - Coaster FurnitureTraditional

Rooted primarily in 18th century England or France, ornate furniture with elaborate carving, curved arms, often covered in floral or damask type prints with trims and fringes. The Victoria Sofa – 500681 – Coaster Furniture has classic button tufted tri-tone leather with decorative moldings and over 1,000 individually placed nailheads to highlight this set’s gentle curves.

Nolana Sofa CitronContemporary

A blend of late 20th century styles, understated softer lines and deeper upholstery than modern, with clean lines, slim but not dainty, natural fabrics and colors but with colorful cushions or throws. Nolana Sofa Citrus is a comfortable version of a classic contemporary design. Note: three guests are less likely to sit on a two cushion sofa than one with three cushions.

Coaster Alexis Transitional Chesterfield Sofa in CharcoalTransitional

One of my favorite styles – a blend of traditional and modern, resulting in subtle pieces with distinctive style.This Coaster Alexis Transitional Chesterfield Sofa in Charcoal is upholstered in a low pile micro velvet with reversible seat cushions and a decorative tufted back, including comfortable lumbar pillows. The back of the sofa is upholstered so it is suitable for location away from a wall. Reviews indicate that this is a high end looking sofa for the money. Dimensions 32.50″ h x 35.00″ w x 86.00″.

Ikcco Flared Arm Crimson Red Microfiber SofaCountry

Rustic or primitive furnitureis typically in muted/greyed down colors in red, white or black, milk paint finishes, often a floral, checked or striped pattern,with stuffed, rounded arms. This Ikcco Flared Arm Crimson Red Microfiber Sofa features stain-resistant microfiber upholstery with foam cushioning and pocketed coils for comfortable seating as well as high performance. Dimensions: 36 inches high x 74 inches wide x 33 inches deep. Note: this sofa is engineered to fit through a 10″ opening!

Color

Acme 57038 Hamar Microfiber Adjustable Sofa, PinkUsually you have a neutral sofa, and put some pattern on your accent chairs or rug, or if the sofa has pattern the rug and chairs more likely would be neutral. A sofa and love seat and two chairs all done in a bold floral pattern can look very busy in even a huge living room. At the other extreme, for a really calm, neutral look you can do the sofa, walls and curtains all the same color. I think its best to go with a neutral sofa, because they are one of the more expensive items in a living room, so if you go with a trendy, bold chair and tire of it in a few years, it is less of an expense to recover ore replace it.

You can always bring the bold color to the sofa in pillows. Just make sure the pillows are a decent size, the little 18″-20″ pillows can look very small on a sofa. A colorful throw also livens up a neutral couch.

Construction

A good furniture frame will be made of kiln-dried hardwood such as oak, maple or poplar, to help reduce warping and cracking, and if you lift one leg 5″-7″ off the ground the other leg should also lift. The wood should be screwed and glued at all joints, and corners should be reinforced.

Sofas with eight-way hand-tied coil suspensions can have a higher price tag. A good, durable alternative is the drop-in coil system inserted in the base and fastened at the corners. For a firmer seat (not for those who like to flop heavily onto their sofas), a suspension of zigzagged or S-shaped wires attached to a frame and stretched from to back or top to bottom is another option, with less likelihood of sagging over time.

A good warranty will often accompany a well made sofa.

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