Picking a sofa is one of the most important – and possibly most expensive – decisions you will make in your living room redo. There are so many options to choose from, from sleepers to sectionals, and it can be overwhelming figuring out what will work best in your space. What motivated me to take on my last sofa shopping trip was the deep-seated desire (no pun intended!) for a chaise. I really wanted to stretch out and face the TV when I was unwinding. The other motivating factor was that the seat on my sofa was a bit too high for me to be comfortable. I always felt like my legs were dangling and I wanted both feet firmly on the ground! So, I knew I wanted a seat that was closer to 18″ than 21″ – good information to have. When I started looking, I discovered that most sectionals with a chaise are a bit longer than the usual. While you can find smaller ones at 84″, most are wider. Fortunately I had the space, but it’s good to know this kind of thing in advance so you don’t get your heart set on something that won’t fit.
Of course style is important, and for this Pinterest and Houzz are invaluable resources. Do you like a Chesterfield arm? Tufted back or seat? A more boxy modern look? All this will help in defining what you are looking for when you’re hunting online, and describing what you like to salespeople when you are in the store.
Here are a few tips to break down the process of finding the perfect sofa. Your tape measure is one of your most valuable tools for eliminating oversize options – and that’s good news. Remember, honing it down to just a few possibilities will help you avoid the overwhelm of having too much to sort through.
1. Measure your space carefully, and write down the minimum and maximum size that will work (e.g. between 80″ and 84″ long, no more than 37″ deep).
2. Measure the height of the seat of your current sofa. is it comfy? too high? too low? I tend to like lower seats around 18” since I’m 5’3. some of my ‘tall’ clients like higher sofas.
3.Measure the depth of the seat of your current sofa as well. Is it comfy? do you want to curl your legs under you? Maybe something deeper? Do you like a few pillows in back of you?
4. Make printouts of your choices and look at them in your space (sounds silly, but helps with visualizing the style)
5.Look online first, then call the stores to see if they have them in their showroom (many will have it in one size only, so you may need to imagine).
6. Measure any doorways, elevators, and stairs that your new furniture will have to pass through to get to your home, and bring this information with you to the store.
7. Plan a concise, edited trip to view these pieces. Ask a salesperson to take you directly to the sofas you want to see. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not browse…(until you’re done)
8. Have a seat on your sofa of choice. If the floor model is to firm or soft for your taste, ask if there are other cushion options. Cushions that can be flipped are also a plus because you can rotate them for more even wear.When you’ve found what you like, get samples of the available fabrics and ask for a quote on the upcharge for your favorite non-stock fabric. The leap in cost may eliminate some options right away.
9. Bring the fabric samples home and look at them in the space. Does it work with your other furniture? Look at it in daylight and at night. Now spill stuff on the fabric sample. No kidding. Rub chocolate into it, wine, milk, whatever may happen to your sofa should happen to those fabrics. Wait until the next day and clean the fabric. This will tell you a lot about the real-life performance and help eliminate yet more options.
What about quality? How do you know what is well made? There are a few questions you can ask, and a few tests you can do yourself.
A sofa is primarily made up of a frame, seating (the cushions and filling) and the upholstery fabric.
FRAME: Kiln-dried wood is the main element you’d be looking for. Young or green wood tends to crack and split. If you can find out whether the joints are glued, dowelled and screwed, that would indicate a sturdy frame. Try to avoid particle board and staples, as these will not hold up as well.
SEATING: In addition to being comfortable, you want cushions that are somewhat resilient – that go back into shape when you push on them. If there are buttons, make sure they are sewn on securely. Make sure there is sufficient padding on harder surfaces like arms and backs, and that the upholstery appears smooth – bumps may cause uneven wear over time.
UPHOLSTERY: Look at seams, are they straight? do patterns line up? If there is welting (trim on the edges of the cushions) is it even or pulling to one side or the other? Are zippers secure and functioning well? I’ve already talked about selecting a fabric that is a good fit for your lifestyle, so keep that in mind as well.
Happy sofa hunting!