Essential Sofa Buying Guide

Essential Sofa Buying Guide

One of life’s pleasures is curling up and relaxing on a cozy sofa. But buying a sofa that will stand the test of time requires careful consideration. Your sofa will be one of the most-used pieces of furniture in your home. A high level of craftsmanship that delivers comfort and support is paramount. But there are other considerations as well: style, shape, upholstery and durability.

This sofa buying guide lists the most essential points to consider, so that when you finally make your purchase, and sink into your new sofa at home, it will not only provide an exceptionally comfortable experience but also will last for years to come.

Room Shape and Size

Measure the area you’ve designated for your new sofa, taking into account the size and shape of the room. If you have a narrow or small living room, for example, you don’t want to put in a huge sofa that leaves no room for anything else.

Once you’ve settled on a sofa that you think will fill the space, note the sofa’s measurements and mark them on the floor with string. This way you can be sure the sofa will fit the space and that there will be room to walk around or past it.


Equally important is how you plan to get your sofa into the room. If you have narrow doorways, or live in an apartment accessed via an elevator or stairs, consider whether you will be able to easily maneuver the sofa into your home.

Frame Material and Construction

A sturdy frame usually contributes to a long-lasting sofa. A wooden frame is best, especially if it is a quality wood that has been kiln-dried. Be wary of cheap pine or green wood, which can warp over time.

The frame should be secured together by dowels or nails; avoid those that are held together by staples and glue. The legs should be either part of the frame or solidly attached. Metal frames may be necessary when the seat of the sofa has a large span, but they can make the sofa heavy and hard to move.


Longer-lasting sofas generally have springs, and there are many types. The highest quality is offered by eight-way hand-tied springs, but pocket coil springs — similar to those in a mattress — and serpentine-style springs offer a high level of support at a lower cost.

There are other methods of support, such as webbing. Although this is a cheaper method of suspension, webbing can offer good support if used in conjunction with springs in the areas that will bear the most weight: the seats.

Cushion Fillings

The most expensive fillings for back and seat cushions are feather and down, but cushions that are 100 percent down require lots of fluffing and patting to hold their shape. Down-only cushions are better suited as back cushions.

Seat cushions should be firm and regain their shape after you apply pressure to them unless they are filled with down or feather. Foam cushions are the most inexpensive, but they can deflate quickly if they are low density. A great choice for the seats and back rests are cushions of high-density, resilient foam wrapped with either down or even polyester.

Back Cushion Arrangement

Typically there are three cushion arrangements offered for the backs of sofas.

   * Fixed-back

   * Cushion-back: the most common style, which often has T-shaped back cushion that           curve to fit around arms

   * Scatter-back: a loose arrangement of cushions that hide a padded back frame


Choose a sofa style that works with the decor of your room. A low-profile sofa will suit a modern decor, and a high-back sofa will work better in a more traditional home.


If you have a family — or have guests often — consider two sofas that fit together in an L-shape or U-shape so everyone can sit together. These styles, also known as sectional sofas, should be upholstered in a durable fabric — especially if you also have pets.

Good choices are leather, strong synthetic microfiber and chenille. Reclining sectionals are great lounging options and are particularly ideal for home theaters.


The tufted sofa, also known as a button-back when the center of each tuft sports a button, features a classic cushioning treatment that comes in a variety of styles.

Tufted sofas rarely go out of fashion and will look great in any home decor scheme if in a plain fabric. They are usually a little more expensive owing to the amount of work that goes into the tufting.


Think twice about choosing a tufted style when you have young children, because the tufts collect crumbs.



Modular sofas come in a range of sizes and have many benefits. Because they combine various pieces in one unit, they are relatively compact, maximizing the space in a room. They also offer more space for sitting, especially if a chaise or fixed ottoman is attached.

Due to their flexibility and versatility, modulars can be set up in different configurations, and sometimes you can create your own combinations. These are sofas well worth considering.


Sofas that encourage prolonged lounging and relaxing often feature plenty of plush pillows and cushions, a wide frame and ample cushioning on broad arms. Additionally, these kinds of sofas often come in various pieces or modular forms, which means the sofa can be transported to other homes or living spaces as separate pieces and assembled in whatever combination works.

Arm Shape

Consider the style of arms you like and whether they are comfortable enough for resting your arm on, snoozing against or even perching on from time to time.

Some people like square arms, others prefer rounded ones. Wide arms suit more contemporary styles, especially sofas with a low profile, but they can take up a significant amount of room. A high-backed sofa often has a narrow arm, and if the sofa is a classic style, it may have a curvy scroll or a flare.

Upholstery Type

If you want to keep your sofa for decades, choosing the right upholstery is as important as making sure the construction standards are high.


Hard-wearing cotton and linen are winners. But when mixed with a cheap synthetic, they can often pill after a year of wear. High-quality synthetic microfiber fabrics can mimic the weave and handle of most natural fabrics and are stain-resistant, making these textiles excellent choices. They are also less likely to fade.


Both luxurious and practical, genuine leather sofas can complement any home decor. If combined with quality construction, they offer years of comfort and style. There are also new vegan leather options as well.


Leather is a durable material and gets better with time, but it needs some care. Treat it with a high-quality conditioner once or twice a year.

Color and Pattern

If you’ve found your dream sofa but are unsure what color is going to work with your decor, or you haven’t decided on a look yet, stick with a neutral. It‘s more likely to work with colors or patterns you introduce at a later date.

If your decor plan has a predominantly warm palette, choose a beige, mushroom or cream sofa. A gray, charcoal and even white sofa will work best with a cool color palette. Punchy color should come from accessory pillows or throw rugs as these can easily be replaced when the next color trend hits.


If you feel that a colorful sofa will work in your home, choose one in a color that will be easier to style as trends change over time.

Choose fabrics with patterns in the weave as these tend to wear better over time. Ask the store you are buying your sofa from for a swatch to take home. See how the fabric looks in both natural daylight and under artificial light at night. If you are looking to buy a sofa you plan to have forever, try to avoid purchasing one that features trendy weaves or big patterns, lest it is no longer trendy.


A herringbone or flecked tweed incorporated into the design of a weave produces a fabric that wears well and hides any fading or scuff marks.


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