Purchasing a new sofa is a big investment. With so many options available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed! Do you want a sectional or sofa? What are your ideal dimensions? Do you want it slipcovered or upholstered? What arm style do you like? What type of fabric are you looking for?
Geez, no wonder sofa buying can seem so stressful!
Who has the time to spend hours in a furniture store? We want to help make sofa buying easier and more enjoyable for you. So, we’ve gathered basic information to help guide you through the process.
SIZE & LAYOUT
When you’re in a large furniture store, it’s easy to lose scale of the furniture. You may see a sofa you love and think it will fit, only to find out its way too big! Avoid costly mistakes by knowing your layout and size requirements beforehand. The first step in the sofa buying process should be sketching out your space to determine what size sofa is appropriate.
(There’s a graph included in our Sofa Buying Checklist that will help you sketch your room!)
By the time you’re ready to shop, you should know what dimensions the room can handle and whether you want a sofa or sectional. This will help narrow down your selection and make your sofa buying experience less stressful and more efficient
A few basic dimensions to keep in mind…
- 3’ is the ideal clearance for major traffic paths
- 1’6” is the minimum clearance for low traffic areas
- Leave 14″-18” between the front of a sofa or armchair and a coffee table
CONSTRUCTION & QUALITY
We don’t want to bore you with construction methods…so we’ll keep it brief!
A sofa typically gets the most use of any piece of furniture you own. So, it’s important to make sure the frame is sturdy and will hold up. Below are some quick tips on what to look for and what to avoid for frame construction to ensure longevity.
- Kiln dried hardwood
- Interlocking joints
- Doweled and glued joints
- Screws, not staples
- Low-quality plywood’s
The cushions are what really make a sofa comfortable. The most common cushion options are high-density foam, coil cushion, and feather/down wrapped.
High density foam is the most common and least expensive choice. Theses cushions are comfortable and durable. The cushion will compresses when sat on but will come back to its original shape when the weight is lifted. High-density foam for cushion cores should be 1.8lbs or higher. Anything below that should not be used on furniture.
Coil cushions are similar to the high-density foam cushion but feature a hollow core filled with individually pocketed coils. This will give the sofa a firmer seat cushion.
Down and feather wrapped cushions are more luxurious and therefore, the most expensive option. You really sink into these soft and comfortable cushions. However, they do require a lot of maintenance! These cushions should be fluffed and rotated regularly for even wear.
Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! There are three basic style categories (arm, back, and base) that all sofas are built around.
ROLLED ENGLISH STRAIGHT
Pillow Back: Cushions are loose and removable. This easily allows removal for cleaning as well as fluffing and rotating.
Semi-attached Back: Same overall look as a pillow back. However, cushions are sewn on and can’t be removed, flipped, or rotated.
Scattered Pillow Back: Consists of multiple loose cushions scattered across the back of the sofa. All pillows may be removed, flipped, and rotated.
Tight Back Cushions: There are no loose cushions, therefore, nothing to flip or rotate.
Get our Sofa Buying Checklist for more detailed base options
Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when choosing an upholstery fabric is the color. Furniture stores display beautiful white slipcovered and cream linen sofas but, will a light fabric really stay clean?
Let’s face it, life happens. Especially if you live with kids or pets! Your dog will sneak up on the sofa, kids will drop snacks, and you might just spill some wine. When thinking about your sofa color, don’t forget to consider the use and durability.
Knowing the pros and cons of each will help you select the right sofa fabric.
Synthetic fibers are durable and easy to clean. They are typically more resistant to staining and fading than natural fibers.
Polyester Blends/Microfibers (micro-suede)
Microfibers have a reputation for durability. They are great for family’s and hold up to heavy use. They are stain resistant and easy to clean.
100% Acrylic. Commonly recognized as an outdoor fabric. Sunbrella offers many options for interior upholstery. This is another great option for heavy use and family’s as it is water, stain, and fade resistant.
Similar to a Sunbrella fabric, Crypton fabrics are also water and stain resistant. This fabric type has a built-in stain repellency and soil release that makes cleaning easy. However, it is NOT fade resistant.
These fibers are derived from plants. Cotton and linen are the two most common natural upholstery fabrics.
Best used in low traffic areas as it soils and wrinkles easily. However, it breathes well, resists pilling and fading.
Overall a strong and versatile fabric choice that breathes well. However, cotton does tend to wrinkle, stretch, fade, and stain easily.
Leather (top grain, not bonded)
The most durable and practical material is leather. It is more expensive than fabric upholstery but will wear in NOT out. If you’re looking for longevity, this will definitely hold up!
Now, you should have the basic knowledge to make informed furniture buying decisions!
Want to make your sofa buying experience even easier?
We’ve created a FREE downloadable checklist. It covers everything from arm style to fabric type. We’ve also included a convenient section where you can sketch out your room to determine what layout and sizes you need. Happy shopping!