Sofa Buying Guide
Of all the design elements in a sitting room, the sofa often gets the most attention. Atlanta-area design experts give us the lowdown on picking the right one.
1. Space it Right
Before you shop, analyze how you use your sofa (TV-watching versus formal entertaining, for instance), what size fits in your room (a sofa shouldn’t overpower the space or block traffic) and what style suits your personality. The scale of the sofa within a room has a huge impact—for example, a sofa with big arms and a high back can overwhelm a small room. Loretta Willis, ASID, of Loretta’s Interior Design, says, “Remember—your sofa anchors every other design element in the room. It’s that important!” Patricia Walton, ASID, IDEC, with Georgia Southern University’s Interior Design Program, points out a classic shopping mistake, “People will shop for a sofa in a huge space, like a showroom with high ceilings, and the sofa will look small. But when they get it home, it’s massive and doesn’t complement the space.” She advises considering the height of people who will use the sofa too—their body size impacts what seat and arm depth you want.
To help choose a sofa with a scale that works, measure your room and take pictures to show a salesperson or designer. Also, consider outside and inside doorways that your new sofa needs to clear when it’s delivered. Hallways or stairways that have sharp turns can limit what furniture can pass through, so measure those too.
2. Consider Construction
Ask about the construction of a sofa before you fall madly in love with it. “Keep in mind that the construction under the fabric determines the longevity of the frame,” says International Furnishings and Design Association Georgia Chapter President Kelly Loge. According to Maria McLaurin, ASID, of McLaurin Interiors, the best sofa frames are made of kiln-dried, solid hardwood. “Kiln-drying removes moisture to guard against cracking. Soft woods, like pine, can warp over time.” Frame joints should be glued and screwed for stability. An eight-way, hand-tied support construction method requires a manufacturer with serious skills, which increases the cost, but the resulting sofa can last a lifetime.
More costly sofas often have down-filled back cushions and accent pillows. Devon Garner, of DLG Interiors, explains, “A polyfoam-core seat cushion with a down wrap can be combined with an all-down back cushion or pillow for a beautiful and comfortable look.” Lower-end sofas typically have foam cushions or foam wrapped in a layer of synthetic batting.
3. Understand Upholstery
As far as durability goes, any fabric with a pattern or texture helps hide dirt. “A popular trend now is using outdoor fabrics for interior furniture,” Willis notes. “It can take a lot of use without showing age as quickly—a great option if you have young kids and pets.” And while leather sofas can be more expensive (typically $1,000 more than their fabric counterparts), well-maintained leather can last a lifetime.
4. Choose a Sofa Style to Match Your Personality
Chesterfield | Formal and traditional. Large, rolled arms and a low back; typically all-over tufted/quilted; often upholstered in leather
English | Casual and functional. Known for low arms in relation to a high back; upholstery is tight throughout
Club | Cozy, warm and lived-in. Deep, compact, rounded or straight arms; usually leather; tight back
Lawson | Simple comfort. Plain, small rolled or square arms; firmly stuffed back cushions aren’t usually attached to the frame and can be moved; often skirted
Tuxedo | Modern and sleek. Back and arms are the same height; clean lines; no back cushions; exposed legs
5. Contemplate Cost
The price of a sofa often dictates its quality, but buyers can find attractive, durable sofas at any price—you just have to ask a lot of questions when you shop.
Under $1,000 | Mass-produced sofas might not last long, particularly the frame and springs.
$1,000 to $2,000 | Typically well constructed and will endure years of rigorous use.
$2,000 to $4,000 | Expect hardwood frames and high-quality upholstery that will last 10 years or longer.
Over $4,000 | High-quality customization is available in this range. These pieces usually have excellent longevity.