Sofa Buying Guide

Sofa Buying Guide

When you’re choosing a sofa, it’s just as important to match it to your lifestyle as your layout. Read on for tips to help determine your sofa preferences and find the perfect fabric and fit.


Measure Your Living Room to Determine Dimensions

Check your potential sofa’s width and depth to make sure it’ll fit down your halls, stairways, and doorways. This is an important step to avoid awkward pivots. You can then use those same sofa measurements to mark out where the sofa will sit in your home. If it’s a sofa set, measure for any additional pieces included, such as an ottoman or accent chair.


When you’re choosing a sofa size, factor in how many people you’ll need to seat on average and allow for at least a foot of walking space around the sofa’s perimeter. The sofa size chart below can help you choose the best option. Combining types of sofas can help to avoid cramping your space or blocking pathways. If you’re committed to a big sofa, check out our guide on How to Measure for a Sectional Sofa.


Sofa Type Sofa Dimensions (Inches) Number of Seats
Standard Sofa 35 in x 84 in 3-4
Loveseat 35 in x 60 in 2
L Sectional 36 in x 95 in 3-5

Choose a Comfortable Sofa Type

Do you prioritize cushiony comfort and leg room? A daybed, chaise, or sectional sofa can offer plenty of space to stretch out on lazy evenings. When these types of sofas are brought away from the walls and left floating, they also help to visually section off open floor plans. If you’re looking to save room and money, a settee is a slim, armless type of sofa that can slide into small spaces, like a dining nook or mudroom.


For convenience, consider sofa features that will get you the most bang for your buck. Reclining backs, drop-down cup holders, and lift-top storage are all common sofa features well within the average budget. A supportive sleeper sofa or futon, for example, is ideal for making up a quick guest bed, especially in a studio or one-bedroom.


For more on each type, check out our guide on the Top 5 Sofa Styles.


Find a Frame for Durability

The most durable sofa frames are made from steel or a hardwood, such as ash or oak. These will also be the most expensive frames but will last the longest in a rambunctious household. Plastic and softwood frames are quicker to break if your kids like to pretend the floor is lava.


As you consider durability, you’ll need to decide between fixed-back and scatter-back cushions (whether your cushions are connected to the frame). Separate “scatter-back” cushions vary in density. If you have a cat that likes to perch on the back of the couch, for example, consider sofa cushions with high density. Lower density cushions will flatten faster, but a down hybrid will help to balance shape and softness.


Select Upholstery for Easy Cleanability

If a clean, guest-ready sofa is important to you, get one with smooth upholstery. Leather or microfiber, for example, are kid-friendly sofa fabrics that make it simple to wipe away spills. They’re also the least likely to be torn open by pet claws because of their tight weaves. You can opt for bonded or synthetic leather to get that leather look at a lower cost.


If snagging’s not a concern, linen and cotton are fairly durable alternatives that are easy on the eyes and won’t show wear super quickly. For quieter homes, a trendy, shimmery velvet makes a gorgeous style statement.


For the easiest maintenance, make sure your sofa also has scatter-back cushions. These aren’t attached, so you can flip them rather than fluff, vacuum, or spot clean your sofa after every TV dinner.


Match Your Sofa Style to Your Home Decor

Since a sofa tends to take up so much space, it’s important that it matches your existing decor. Look for sofa features that will keep your style consistent. The low, lightweight frame of a mid-century modern sofa is suitable for a subtle, streamlined aesthetic. For a more daring silhouette, an elegant camelback sofa can emphasize the extravagance of a traditional or glam space.


Deep seating appears more invitational, so bring in a big, boxy transitional or rustic sofa to blend with a casual living room. Shallow seating with finer details, such as rolled arms and tufted backings, make for more stately centerpieces. These types of sofas look best in a French country or otherwise vintage interior.


Consider Color Scheme for Longevity

Black, gray, white, and brown are typically the go-to sofa shades. These classics work well across any color scheme, so having them as a base allows you to easily swap styles. Darker or patterned neutrals can help to disguise the frequent stains and pet hair of family life, while lighter sofas make a serene base for less-trafficked homes.


For a look that’s more dramatic and eye-catching, try a sofa with a bolder base. Deep, natural shades, like reds, greens, and blues, are more visually exciting shades to play with when they act as a focal point. Want to see how it can be done? Check out our guide on How to Decorate With a Blue Sofa.

Watch How to Choose the Right Sofa