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Furniture

How to Choose a Sofa

Shopping for a sofa sparks many questions, as it should since it’s such an investment piece. What room do you need it for, and what types of sofas can you choose from? And what are they made of anyway? It turns out that what lies inside and how well it’s crafted matter a great deal if you want your sofa to last for years to come. Our designs meet a range of lifestyle needs and style preferences, so armed with this furniture buying guide, you’ll be better prepared to find the perfect loveseat, sectional, three-seater or sleeper for your home.

Essex tan sofa in a contemporary living room with brown coffee table, side table and console table

Space:

Before you set your eyes on any options, consider your space. How big is the room, and where do you plan to place the sofa? If it helps, draw a diagram of the room. Based on the layout, consider sectionals for larger rooms and two-seat sofas for small spaces.

Style:

Are you empty nesters looking to upgrade a living room now that the kids are out? Or a couple with young children in search of for a laid-back, family room sofa? Your lifestyle needs and personal preferences will determine your choice of sofa style. For instance, a sofa with rolled arms and tufted cushions satisfies a more traditional aesthetic, while clean-lined minimal designs offer a more contemporary feel.

Frame:

It goes without saying that the sturdier your frame, the more likely it is to last. Look for sofa frames made from solid hardwood that’s been kiln-dried to prevent warping, with legs that are either part of the frame or wooden dowels attached by metal screws and brackets. For an easy frame test, lift one front corner of the sofa approximately five or six inches off of the floor. The opposite front leg should also lift almost the same height, indicating that that the frame is one solid unit. On a poorly-built frame, the opposite leg may barely rise at all, which twists the frame and allows its components to eventually loosen or separate.

Suspension:

Every sofa contains coils, webbing, or ties that support the cushions. To feel a sofa’s spring system, remove the seat cushions (if they’re removable) and run your hand along the seat deck (the fabric layer that sits underneath the cushions). Sinuous wire suspensions with “S” shaped coils placed close together distribute weight more evenly, providing a more comfortable sit. For the “gold standard” of systems, look for eight-way, hand-tied springs that are handcrafted to support your every move.

Lounge II tan sofa in a contemporary living room with mid-century modern side table and coffee table

Cushioning:

How do you find the perfect fit for how you sit? You’ll need to test out different foam cushions and fillings to determine whether you want a sink-in-and-stay feeling or firm support. Find out what materials make up the core and what it’s wrapped in. Here’s a quick test: place your hands in the center of each side of a cushion and press; the closer your hands get to each other can indicate the quality of foam used. You want foam that’s soft enough for a comfortable sit, but firm enough so you don’t feel the seat deck underneath.

Upholstery:

With so many types of sofas to choose from, how do you narrow them down? Consider your lifestyle and how you need the fabric or leather to perform. For low maintenance care, look for synthetic microfibers (polyester, nylon, acrylic) or blended fabrics that are inherently stain resistant and woven tightly to keep spills at the surface rather than soaking into the cushion cores. Outdoor fabrics are also great for families and high-traffic areas because they’re easy to clean and fade-resistant. If you want a soft, lived-in look (i.e. you embrace wrinkles), consider cotton and linen. And natural leather sofas will patina and become more supple as the years pass.

Most importantly, do your research and keep an open mind to find a type of sofa that will live well with your family and last for years to come.

For more tips on choosing furniture for your home, check out our Ideas and Advice section.

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