Whether it’s for the living room or family room, a sofa is a major investment and one you will live with for years to come. In order to make the best choice, it pays to consider a few things before you buy.
Depending on the size and style of your house or apartment, you may have a formal living room and a more casual family room. While this probably means you will own at least two couches, you may only be in the market for one at this time.
- Measure carefully before you buy a sofa, or any new piece of furniture. Will it fit in the place you have specified? Will it be easy to carry through the doorways or up the stairs? (This is extra important if the stairs have a turn.)
- Decide on the number of cushions. A single cushion is more formal than the more standard two or three. Sit on the sofa for several minutes in the store to see how you like it. Move around on the cushions. Do they wedge up when you sit on one side of them (they shouldn’t). Ask a family member to share the couch with you for a few minutes to make sure it’s still comfortable with more than one person on it.
- Decide on the filling for the cushions. Down is the most expensive and most comfortable but it also requires fluffing and patting. Low-density foam is least expensive but also deflates relatively quickly and its comfort level may diminish. High-resilient foam is more expensive and more durable than low-density foam. For many people the best choice is high-resilient foam in a layer of down and conventional foam, all wrapped in polyester batting.
- Look under the sofa cushions before you buy. You should only see fabric covering the sofa’s frame. If you see wood or metal, move on to the next couch.
- Consider the springs in the sofa. The best are made with 8-way tied springs although most sofas have serpentine springs, which are fine. Avoid sofas without springs that rely on webbing or mesh.
- Consider the style of arms you like. Some folks like straight arms, others prefer rounded ones. Decide if the arms are comfortable for leaning against or even napping.
- Ask about the construction of the frame. It should be securely screwed together and/or secured with wooden dowels and wooden corner blocks. Never buy a sofa that is only held together by staples and glue and does not have corner blocks.
- Find out what wood has been used to construct the couch. Pine may be less expensive than kiln-dried oak, maple or poplar, but it is weaker, too, and therefore not as durable. Avoid sofas made from metal, particle board or plastic. Their forms can warp.
- Sofas appropriate for the family room probably should be upholstered with tougher fabric than one for a separate living room. If you have kids and pets, you may want to buy a sofa covered in leather or a strong fabric such as a synthetic microfiber or chenille. Cotton is a good choice, too, for a casual sofa. Linen, wool, and silk are all lovely but are expensive and will not wear as well as some other choices. Some blends of synthetic and cotton will pill after a year or so.
- It’s usually advisable to stick with a neutral color when buying a sofa. It will probably be in the room when you repaint or re-wallpaper and if its colors are too strong now, they may not be easy to work with later.