Why is shopping for a sofa so intimidating? Sometimes customers are more comfortable dropping $30,000 on a car than to pick out a $1,000 sofa (and the latter will probably last longer). Perhaps the biggest hesitation comes from a fear of making a mistake – whether it’s about how much to spend, the color, the fabric, the size or shape. Consider these factors before buying to help eliminate some of the buying concerns and make your new sofa truly enhance your living space.
Know your budget.
Sofas can run anywhere from $299 to $10,000, so the first thing you need to do is set a realistic budget. Sure, they may look all the same to you, but there’s a huge quality difference in that range. Consider stretching a little beyond what you think you can afford – in a few years, you don’t want a budget compromise to have become the shabbiest piece in your room because it couldn’t stand up to your lifestyle.
Shape up your style.
Because a sofa is one of the largest pieces of furniture you will buy, the safest shape is something squared off and simple. However, pick a silhouette that suits your space and lifestyle. A piece with legs and slimmer arms makes a room look less crowded. But, if you’re looking for a weightier feel, choose something that reaches to the floor. You may also want to check out loungers, sofa beds, futons, corner units, sectionals and L-shaped seating, which may suit you better than the standard two- or three-seater.
Size it up.
Many people actually forget this step, only to discover that the sofa they picked in the showroom doesn’t fit in the space in their home! Do you need it to be big enough for your entire family or just you and your faithful four-legged friend? A standard sofa is 84 inches long, but if you’re considering a sectional or oversized piece, but sure to know what your room (and your doorframe) can handle. Try cutting an old sheet or laying out newspaper to get a sense of how much space you have to work with. Also, you should figure in at least three feet around a sofa for people to pass by – any less and your space will feel crowded and cluttered.
Look under the hood.
Ask about the sofa’s construction. Is the frame made with a durable hardwood (such as maple or beech wood) or a softwood (such as pine)? Are the corners secured with dowels (better) or staples? And check out the springs: a more expensive piece could have as many as five or six rows per cushion area, while the cheapest may have two or three.
Color your world.
There are two basic options for the cover of your sofa: leather or fabric. Leather will offer that richer look and offer years of durability with proper maintenance. However, fabric allows you to be more creative with patterns and colors, and recent advances in textiles have given some furniture fabrics a big boost on the durability scale. Most people feel comfortable picking a neutral color for the sofa and dressing it up with bolder colors or patterns on the walls, cushions and throws. On the other hand, if you love bright splashes of color and your wall color is rather neutral, go ahead make your sofa the centerpiece of the room. Just remember that a bold-colored sofa will be the strongest element, so be sure the surrounding pieces don’t compete for attention. Ask for a swatch of material to take home and get a better idea of how the colors of the sofa will look against the décor you have.
Try it out.
Obviously, you should see how it feels to you before you bring it home, because “comfortable” means different things to different people. Sit on it, and if possible have at least two other people sit on it as well. Are you more comfortable sinking into the cushions or with firmer support? Is the seat the correct height for your leg length? What about the arm height? If in doubt, sofa experts advise that you opt for a firmer model as it will be better for your posture, is less maintenance and sofas do soften with use.
When in doubt, ask! Salespeople will be able to find the answers to any questions you may have about the sofa’s construction and quality, so use them as a valuable resource in making your decision. Additionally, many home furnishings stores have interior designers on staff that can help you make fabric, color or pattern choices. With just a little homework, you will find a sofa that reflects both your personality and your lifestyle.