The search for the perfect sofa can be a frustrating experience - too wide, too soft, too hard - and getting it just right to suit your needs can be difficult.
It has to serve many purposes: look stylish; withstand guests, children and dogs; and be comfortable. Most people start with the style of sofa they like, and go from there. But before buying, it is important to measure the space where you plan to put it. Using the design rule of scale, you will be safe if you base the size of the couch on the size of the room.
If you have a large room, go for a larger sofa. Smaller rooms look better with smaller sofas. However, the style of sofa also matters as overstuffed sofas appear larger than tightly tailored versions. Also consider how you will use the sofa. Is it for the family to watch television from? Or more formal for cocktail parties and guests?
In a casual setting, or for watching television the extra lounging space of a sectional sofa can break up an extra-long room and provide lots of space to put your feet up. In a smaller apartment, if your only option is to place the sofa along one long wall, try to aim for it to be no more than two-thirds or three-quarters of the length of the wall or it will look too large for the space. If you have pets, dark-coloured furniture will show up fewer stray hairs if you have dark-coloured pets, and vice-versa for light colours. With children, a smooth surface such as leather makes it easy to brush off crumbs or clean spills.
Decide if you prefer the look of loose back cushions or those that are attached. Loose cushions provide the option of fluffing and turning them as needed, while attached backs won't need fluffing or rearranging. While cushion choice also factors in comfort, the arm style generally dictates whether a sofa will look more traditional or contemporary. There are options such as traditional rolled arms, more contemporary straight Parsons style or armless. Skirted sofas are generally more traditional and those with legs contemporary. Fabric choice is limitless from soft and durable chenille to long-lasting leather. Velvets are beautifully plush but may wear out with heavy use over the years.
If you are having something custom-made you can dress up a sofa with fringed pillows or double-welted seams. While these options add to the cost, they also provide an individual, one-off look. Many manufacturers offer custom-made slipcovers to allow for a seasonal change.
The cushion and pillow filling are also important factors in the comfort level of your sofa. Upholstery foam is inexpensive and comes in several thicknesses and weights. The most expensive are down fillings but must be fluffed daily. To avoid this daily chore some manufacturers use a core of foam with down wrapped around it.
When buying a sofa it is also important to understand the construction. The most well-made are those constructed from kiln-dried hardwoods such as oak, maple and poplar, with securely screwed together frames and eight-way tied springs. Cheaper options are generally made from softer pine and are stapled together with haphazardly constructed corner bracing and cheaper wire coils.
Cheaper furniture can sag, break and look out of shape within a year of constant use. Although quality construction is more expensive, it will offer years of enjoyment and can be re-covered periodically.