How to Choose a New Sofa: The Ultimate Guide

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Picking out a new sofa can sometimes be an overwhelming and slightly stressful experience. After all, buying a sofa is probably one of the biggest furniture commitments that you’ll make!

Tips and tricks to pick the perfect sofa for your space

So you want to know how to choose a sofa!

But there are so many different sofa styles to choose from, how do you know what will work for your space?!! What if it doesn’t fit in the doorway of your home once it’s delivered?!!! (this has actually happened to me 😒) What if it’s uncomfortable, how can I buy such a big-ticket item online without trying it first?! WILL I GET TIRED OF THIS STYLE SOFA IN 2 YEARS???!!????!%$@

!!! O.M.G. !!! 🤯🤯🤯

These are all valid questions that come up when shopping for a new couch – but they don’t have to be a source of stress!

In this post, we’ll cover some golden tips and tricks for finding the perfect sofa no matter what size or style you’re looking for.

Let’s get started on our sofa-shopping journey! First and foremost we are going to…

Look at inspiration

how to choose a sofa: be sure to look at tons of inspiration to start the process!

This is the fun part!! 🤩

So for starters, let’s make sure you have an idea of what you want! And if you’re wondering how to choose a sofa and you have NO idea where to start, that’s exactly why this step is so important.

If you’re not sure what style or fabric might work for your space, it’s really helpful to see what sofas other people are choosing, and how they’re styling them in their spaces.

Sofas come in all shapes and sizes, from large sectionals to small loveseats. What do you want your sofa to look like? Do you want it upholstered? Are you more partial to leather? Do you have a favorite color, or is your room following a particular color scheme? Now is the time to imagine what you would like in your space.

(Don’t worry, there’s a whole section below on sofa styles!)

Pinterest

You can find a lot of inspiration by looking at pictures of “staged” sofas on websites like Pinterest (follow me here for tons of interior inspo!).

If you already know any of the sofa characteristics you’re looking for, try typing those terms into the search bar as well. Eg: white modular sofa. Or green velvet sofa. Etc! It helps narrow things down a bit – Pinterest can be overwhelming 😯

Don’t forget to search by boards, as you can find curated selections that way that people have already spent time collecting – less work for you! And bonus: Pinterest doesn’t spam you with tons of ads when you view people’s boards – at least not at the moment …

Unfortunately though, it doesn’t seem to be possible to search by boards on the Pinterest mobile app so you’ll have to be on your desktop or laptop for this type of search.

how to choose a sofa - search boards on pinterest for curated selections of sofas

Instagram

Instagram is another great source of inspiration for how people style sofas in their homes.

If you don’t have any favorite interior designers or influencers, try searching for some hashtags like #sofainspo #livingroom #sofadesign #designerdecor.

You’ll be down the Instagram design rabbit-hole in no time! 🤣

how to choose a sofa - search instagram by hashtag or look at what influencers and designers are posting

Retailer photography

My last tip for finding sofa inspiration is to go to your favorite brand’s website and look at their staged product photos. For example I love this photo from the CB2 website and the way they showcase their Alesso sofa:

Style

It’s important to have an idea of what kind of style sofa you’re shopping for. Is your interior more traditional or more contemporary? Do you prefer more elaborate shapes, or simpler, cleaner shapes? Are you a rolled arms kinda person, or are track arms more your vibe?

The style of sofa you choose will have a big impact on how the other furniture in your room will look.

Below is a small sampling of some of the most popular sofa styles – it’s by no means exhaustive – for example I didn’t include things like settees and chaise longues. But it gives you an idea of some of the most popular sofa shapes and what you could be looking for style-wise.

if you want to know how to choose a sofa, familiarize yourself with popular sofa styles!

Confused about interior design styles? Check out this article!

Since you’re here, I’ll give you my personal opinion. haha. If you’re not sure what kind of style to go for, my recommendation would be to stick with a streamlined sofa. So, nothing too elaborate, no crazy tufting, rolled arms or any features that are too “distinct”.

If you choose a neutral sofa, it will be a much more versatile option if you decide to switch up your interior design or decor down the road and aren’t keen on updating your sofa.

Budget

Have you considered what your budget is for your new sofa? After figuring out what style really speaks to you, the next step to finding your perfect couch is thinking about how much you’re looking to spend and what features are important for you.

It’s important to make sure that our sofa hopes and dreams align with our bank account, so that we’re not disappointed!

There are a wide variety of prices when looking for sofas. From bargain-priced to luxury brands, there is a sofa to choose from in everyone’s price range (scroll to the bottom for some of my brand recommendations). Depending on how large or fancy you want your couch to look, you might need anywhere from $500-$5000 USD or even more!

What kind of quality do you want? Do you care about how long it will last? Is durability important for your new sofa purchase? These factors will affect how much you might want to spend.

Realistically, I think most people should budget around $2000 USD for a beautiful, quality, and long-lasting option.

Here is a rough guide on what to expect in every price range:

$500/$1000

💰 Sofas in this range will typically be made of lower-quality, mass-produced materials.

Rewind a few years back and the designs were NOT very exciting in this price range. But nowadays, these budget-friendly sofas can be found in a wide variety of styles and materials.

$1000/$2000

💰💰 If you choose a sofa in this range, you will find that they are likely made of more expensive materials such as real leather or higher quality fabric. As we move up to this range, there is a shift towards slightly better quality and durability. This price point has become an industry standard for many “mid-range” brands.

$2000/$4000

💰💰💰 Typically in this range, sofas are made of even higher-quality materials such as top grain leather or velvet. You will also find many more options for sofa size and shape at this price point and the quality level increases dramatically when it comes to upholstery and frame construction.

Over $5000

💰💰💰💰 Buyers in this category will see luxury brand names like Italy’s Poltrona Frau or Restoration Hardware. Luxury sofas are all about the quality of materials. Expect to see top grain leather, wool fabrics and authentic silk fibers or velvet. Of course, unfortunately price doesn’t always correlate to quality, so if you can, it’s always good to test these sofas out before committing. A little hard if you’re shopping online, I know. More tips on that later in the article. 🙂

Dimensions

There is nothing more devastating than ordering a piece of furniture online only to find that it won’t fit in the room you wanted it in. Or even worse, through your front door!!

One of THE most important factors in choosing your new sofa is taking measurements and finding out how much space it will take up in your home.

The most important sofa size and scale considerations are the following:

  • make sure you know the dimensions of your space before buying a sofa. This is especially important if you’re planning on ordering a sofa online that needs to be delivered – don’t forget about doorways or other tight spaces!
  • consider how many people will typically sit on this couch at one time. Will it be more than two?
  • do you need a sectional? If so, do you need a left-facing sectional or a right-facing sectional?
  • do you want to be able to sleep or nap on it?

Some questions that come up a lot are “how long should my sofa be?” or “what size sofa should I buy?”.

Well, it depends!

If you have a very large room, make sure you are not purchasing a sofa that is too small for your space. A standard 84″ (213 cm) sofa can work, but depending on the size of your room, you might need to go even larger. In general, large sofas work in large rooms with lots of open floor space, but they would overwhelm smaller rooms.

If your space is smaller and cozier, I’d suggest something closer to the 72″/76″ range since furniture will feel larger in smaller settings.

Basically, you should choose a sofa that is proportionate to the size of your room and to the other furniture in your space. It’s different for every situation, so make sure you give this some serious thought!

choose a sofa that will be proportionate to your space
Amber Interiors. Photography by: Shade Degges

Another factor to consider is how many people will use this sofa?

This can affect how wide and/or deep you choose your sofa to be. A small “lounging” sofa may work well for one person or couple; whereas two full-sized couches that face each other may better suit larger families who want more seating options and greater separation between each other when relaxing. Of course, you have to make this decision in correlation to the room you’re working with as well!

☑️TIP: before I pulled the trigger on my last sofa, I used blue painters tape on the floor to mark out how large it was. That gave me a very real understanding of how big the sofa was going to be in my room. I highly recommend doing this as well!

What color sofa should I choose?

When it comes to color, choosing the right one is largely a matter of personal preference!

If you’re after a bright pop of color, a hot pink sofa or a bold mustard might be the right choice for you. If you want a cool, calm space then perhaps consider an earthy green or blue tone. The sky’s the limit with sofa colors nowadays.

For example I adore this sofa featured in the home of Gray Benko, but I would never choose it for myself. But I LOVE gawking at the way she styled it in her gorgeous, fun and colorful home! 😍

Neutral sofas will generally always work really well in a space and look classy.

If you want white, then slipcovered sofas are always a great option because slipcovers are usually so easy to wash.

My personal view on choosing sofa colors is to always go with a solid, light neutral color. No crazy colors or patterns for little ol’ boring me!

Neutrals are a “safe” choice that are going to have the most longevity and will be easiest to mix with other accent colors as they change over the years.

Whether you want to go for a bold sofa or a neutral sofa, swatches are often free so don’t be afraid to order as many as you need before pulling the trigger.

Seat cushions

When shopping for a couch, seat cushions are an important feature that shouldn’t be overlooked. The fabric should feel comfortable against your legs while seated without being too soft or hard which could lead to discomfort after long periods sitting down. Some people are also allergic to certain materials, so if you have allergies, make sure you check that before making any purchases.

You’ll want to decide what style cushions you’re looking for too – one of my favorite sofa seat cushions styles is the bench cushion, which just means that you have one long cushion spanning the whole sofa, rather than individual seat cushions.

Here’s an example that I love of a sofa with a single cushion:

Depth & Height

The depth and the height of the seat are also important. Sofa depth can vary wildly and it’s very much up to personal preference what depth you should choose. Tall people might want a longer seat cushion to avoid the back of their knees being pressed against the edge. Shorter people on the other hand might want a shorter seat cushion to avoid their feet dangling in the air.

Logically, lower seat heights and shorter depths will be better for smaller people, and higher seats with more depth may work better for taller people.

One pro to having a really deep sofa is that larger sofas can double as a guest bed, so it’s something to consider for folks that are a little short on square-footage!

Filling

The softest, plushest sofas are usually down-filled. This is considered the best quality. It is also the most expensive option, so if you’re on a budget and looking for something durable, stick with polyester-filled or foam-filled options which are cheaper (but perhaps not quite as soft).

What is the difference between modular and sectional sofas?

‘Sectional’ and ‘modular’ are different words to describe a sofa that is assembled through two or more connected pieces. It’s easy to confuse these terms but they are definitely two very different things!

The main difference between the two is that sectionals are inflexible whereas modular sofas are flexible.

sectional sofa compared to a modular sofa

Sectional sofas tend to refer to an arrangement that has 2 pieces: a sofa or love seat combined with a chaise. The end result is usually the classic “L” shaped sectional look. Sectionals of course can also be “U” shaped and have 3 pieces.

Modular sofas refer to a variety of 2 or more pieces that don’t necessarily have an “L” or a “U” shape. Often the pieces are separated out into smaller “blocks” (modules!), and you can buy all the separate pieces and configure them any way you like. Modular sofas are much more versatile than sectionals.

With a sectional, you’re limited to whatever layout the sofa and chaise are manufactured in. This means if you move or want to change your room layout, you’re stuck with the original configuration. Whereas modular sofas usually offer a variety of different pieces that can be combined in several different ways, so it becomes possible to switch up the configuration of your sofa really easily.

Long story short: choose a modular sofa if you want flexibility. Choose a sectional sofa if you don’t plan on changing the layout of your room.

Fabric and materials

The type of materials your sofa is made from will determine how well it wears over time. Sofas are typically available in leather, fabric, velvet and microfiber styles – with each option having its own pros and cons.

Sofa seat cushions can be filled with feathers and down, foam, polyester, and batting.

The materials used are important for how long they’ll last as well as what type of maintenance needs to be done on them.

Fabrics can be less expensive than leather but may need to be replaced more frequently or have a shorter lifespan (depending on use).

Leather

  • Genuine leather is more expensive but offers high durability as well as an upscale look. Leather requires some care which may includes cleaning leather stains with baking soda paste or saddle soap, protecting against mold/mildew and periodically conditioning to restore suppleness. Full disclosure – I did NONE of those things when I had a leather couch and it still looked like a million bucks. PROS: Leather is a great option if you have pets as it does not attract pet hair. It stays nice and cool in the summer (but you can stick to it if you get sweaty!). CONS: it’s slippery and difficult to position throw pillows as they can easily slip and slide down. It can feel cold in the winter.
  • Faux leather – you can also opt for faux leather which is cheaper than genuine leather, but far less durable. It can crack and flake over time which will completely ruin the look of your piece.

Fabric

  • Fabric covers offer versatility since they come in many colors and materials including microfiber velvet, cotton twill weave, linen blend; they provide less protection than leather so fabric might not be the best option if you have pets or small children. Fabric sofas are in general softer and warmer than leather which could make sitting more comfortable. Cons: Fabric sofas can retain allergens much more than a leather sofa would. Fabric can also trap smells more than leather.
  • Polyester/cotton blend fabrics (e.g., microfiber): these tend to be less expensive than leather or other types of fabric because they’re not cut into individual pieces like some upholstery fabrics; some synthetic materials may feel different than natural fibers. Their synthetic nature makes them easier to clean if something spills on the surface so they’re a great choice for families with children or pets at home.
  • Performance fabrics fall under the “fabric” category as well, and I discuss those further down in this post in the pets and children section!
  • Velvet – luxury fabrics like velvet can look elegant but require extra maintenance. A velvet sofa should be regularly vacuumed, and it is recommended to have it professionally dry-cleaned from time to time as well. Synthetic velvet is better for households with kids and pets, as cotton velvet is more finicky to care for.

FAN OF VELVET? THEN CHECK OUT THESE 12 GORGEOUS VELVET SOFAS!

Linen

  • Linen is a natural fiber that can be very soft and luxurious. Linen sofas would make your home have a cozy warm feel to them; they may not last as long as leather or synthetic fibers, but in the end it’s worth it for how comfortable you’ll be!

Slipcovers

  • Slipcovers are a great option if you want to change up the look of your room without buying a new sofa (or to disguise a very old one!). They’re easy to remove and clean, and provide protection against spills. Sofa covers are an economical way to protect against stains or wear-and-tear with kids or pets in the home since they slip on over the top like a fitted sheet; couch coverings come in many different materials including leather, cotton canvas, wool felt.

Boucle’

  • Boucle’ is a popular material for sofas and armchairs at the moment, and usually has a textured surface. Boucle is made by weaving together many fine, round threads (usually wool) to create a deep texture. It may not be suitable if you have pets or children.

Sofa frame build

Want to know if a sofa is good quality? Look at its frame.

Sofa frames can be made out of wood, particleboard, metal or even plastic.

Ideally, you’ll want to be looking at sofas with a frame made out of solid wood, not chipboard or MDF board (which are usually made from compressed paper). If the company doesn’t specify what kind of wood they use in their frames, you may want to look elsewhere as these sofas can be cheaply constructed and flimsy.

The best sofa frames are made of kiln-dried hardwood, such as oak, beach, or ash. Be wary of pine as it is susceptible to warping over time (pine is a softwood).

Tips for shopping for a sofa online

It’s great to shop for furniture in person, but more and more people are shopping from home. The obvious drawback to buying a sofa online is that you can’t try it first!

You may be asking yourself “What should I consider when buying my new sofa online?”, or you may be feeling apprehensive at the prospect of ordering a sofa without trying it first. Been there, trust me!

Reviews

Reading reviews is definitely something I would suggest doing! For example, when I wrote this article on the Article Sven sofa dupe, I studied reviews extensively to get an idea of just how good the dupe was!

Definitely do some research into what other customers think about their experience with the company you’re looking into buying from.

It can be hard navigating through all the options available when looking at different brands and styles of upholstery – that’s why reading reviews can be helpful.

Reviews should include things like how long it took to ship, any damage incurred during transit, confirmation of product dimensions as well as a description of what they liked or didn’t like about the couch.

But always remember to read reviews with a grain of salt. 😉

Return policies

Not sure if it will suit your space? Then look for a retailer that makes returns easy.

Be sure to check how easy or difficult would it be to return, or if there are hefty fees for doing so. You also need to think about whether there’ll be any assembly required before use as this could lead to an unpleasant experience and make returning the item more complicated than necessary.

REMEMBER: when buying online, make sure the return policy is clear before making your purchase. This way there are no surprises if you don’t like what’s delivered at your door.

Other considerations: when shopping online there is always a slight risk of damage during transit, or that the wrong color gets delivered. Make sure it’s easy to get in touch with customer service in the event that the delivery does not go as planned.

Personally, I have found Wayfair to be EXCELLENT in terms of customer service and would recommend buying from them in a heartbeat. Check out some gorgeous (and AFFORDABLE!) Wayfair sofas here!

Pets & Children

cute dog sitting on tan leather sofa - tips for buying a sofa when you have pets and kids

When you’re shopping for a sofa, pets and children are a huge factor to take into account! Do you have small children that run around with sticky, dirty fingers all day? Or are you expecting to have some in the near future? Do you have pets that love snuggling on the sofa next to you? Your sofa needs to be able to handle this!

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, look for sofas with tight weave or performance fabric!

Performance fabrics are stain-resistant and wear-resistant. Most quality furniture manufacturers will have performance fabric as an upholstery option when you’re selecting your sofa. Sometimes they are proprietary fabrics with fancy names, but essentially they will be marketed for their durability.

Keep in mind that these fabrics can be more expensive, but it’s a worthwhile investment!

I always think of this video when I think of performance fabrics – they really are worth it! (In case you’re wondering, the sofa pictured below is from Restoration Hardware and is using the RH performance fabric.)

Final tip: if you have the space, it might be fun to have furniture especially for the kids to use – it will keep cleaning a little easier and will limit the amount of wear as well. Some folks do the same thing with pets and they only allow their dogs on specific sofas.

If you’re after more in-depth information about decorating when you have pets, check out this article!

Special features?

Obviously we are not here to talk about built-in cup holders or reclining sofas – if you’re looking for that, well, this is the wrong blog, baby! 😂

But other special features on a sofa might mean things like a bench cushion, or a specific style of armrest, or the height of the backrest. Or perhaps you need it to be a sofa bed. That sort of thing.

Make sure you are making note of which features of your future sofa are non-negotiable (if there are any).

Brand recommendations

Some brands are known for their higher quality furniture and might be worth the investment if you plan on keeping your couch for many years.

Of course there are thousands upon thousands of brands, but here is a quick rundown of where I’d recommend starting shopping for sofas if you’re not sure where to look.

Affordable sofa options:

Mid-range sofa options:

High-end sofa options:

  • Ligne Roset
  • Herman Miller
  • Design Within Reach
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Mjölk 
  • Poltrona Frau
  • Dmitriy & Co
  • Rose Uniacke
  • B&B Italia
  • Natuzzi

With so many options on the market today, it can seem daunting when you’re trying to choose a new sofa for your home. However, with some careful planning ahead of time and following the tips from this guide, hopefully it will feel less overwhelming!

I hope this guide on how to choose a sofa was useful. Let me know how you do in the comments, or drop me a line on Instagram!

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