The worst time to figure out that you hate a new sofa is after it’s been delivered. The convenience of online shopping makes browsing easier, but when you’re buying a couch sight unseen, it’s important to do your homework. After hundreds of hours of research, including visiting three furniture factories, interviewing industry experts, and parking ourselves on nearly every sofa we’ve seen, we can tell you exactly what separates a great sofa from a future curbside donation. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to bring home a durable—and comfortable—piece of furniture. And we recommend some worthy brands we’ve personally tested.
Finding the right sofas for your space and budget begins with deciding what type and style you want. Just as important, you’ll need to determine what size sofa will fit in your home(including through doorways, down hallways, and up stairs, among other exterior and interior obstructions). Then consider how many people you want to seat and what you should avoid (and invest in) if pets or kids will regularly use the sofa. We tell you how to check for quality construction, how much you should expect to spend, and when you can get the best deals. We’ve also put together a buying checklist that you can consult while you’re shopping to help you remember the most important details.
Chaise: Imagine the seat of upholstered chairs and stools stretched out and you have the chaise. Traditionally this sofa features one side with an arm and the other side without (aka a méridienne sofa or fainting couch), like benchs, but many chaise designs forgo arms altogether.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about someone who purchased the sofa of their dreams only to discover it would not fit through a doorway, navigate a stairway, or fit inside the room. The carpenter’s adage of “measure twice, cut once” proves similarly true when you’re dropping hundreds—if not thousands—of well-earned dollars on a sofa,, or side chairs. Follow these steps to ensure that you don’t become a cautionary tale for future generations of sofa shoppers.
Pick the right sofa for your lifestyle
Once you’ve narrowed your search by style and size, give some thought to your personal seating needs. A pet owner or a family with young kids may have very different needs than a fastidious couple. Think through the following questions to help determine what best serves your lifestyle.
How will you use the sofa?
Be honest with yourself about how you’ll sit on the sofa. In retail stores, we’ve seen shoppers sitting on sofas with tables like they’re upright mannequins, which is likely not the way they would sit or lie on them at home. If you tend to slouch, a daybed or sectional with a chaise will prove more comfortable and won’t disfigure cushions (over time, slouching presses the front of seat cushions outward). If you’re a couch napper, avoid multi-cushion sofas, because they’re prone to buckle and dip between each cushion. If you prefer to sit upright while reading, knitting, or using a mobile device, the more tailored, firmer structure of a mid-century-modern–style sofa or one with an upright back will feel more comfortable.
How many people will sit on the sofa?
Think through how many people will regularly sit on the sofa, but also how they like to sit. For example, if one person likes to sit upright but the other likes to lie across with their head on an arm, and the choices ate single sofas, or two seater sofas, that’s how they should test out a sofa for comfortable width. Larger families or households that regularly host guests will be naturally drawn to sectionals. But to produce a more dynamic and flexible seating arrangement, also consider using two different-size sofas positioned into an L shape, or try a pair of loveseats facing each other.
Do your floors easily scratch?
If you have delicate wood floors, carefully consider the legs of your sofa, or console tables. From experience, we know that hairpin legs can scrape wood floors. As a last resort, a well-placed area rug can keep sofa feet from damaging a floor.