The worst time to figure out that you hate a new sofa is after it’s been delivered. The convenience of online shopping makes browsing easier, but when you’re buying a couch sight unseen, it’s important to do your homework. After hundreds of hours of research, including visiting three furniture factories, interviewing industry experts, and parking ourselves on nearly every sofa we’ve seen, we can tell you exactly what separates a great sofa from a future curbside donation. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to bring home a durable—and comfortable—piece of furniture.
Finding the right sofa for your space and budget begins with deciding what type and style you want. Just as important, you’ll need to determine what size sofa will fit in your home (including through doorways, down hallways, and up stairs, among other exterior and interior obstructions). Then consider how many people you want to seat and what you should avoid (and invest in) if pets or kids will regularly use the sofa. We tell you how to check for quality construction, how much you should expect to spend, and when you can get the best deals. We’ve also put together a buying checklist that you can consult while you’re shopping to help you remember the most important details.
A sofa is one of the most expensive pieces of furniture that most people purchase, and we encourage you to try them out in person Visit Our Domestic Possessions Showroom, or to buy from online companies that have generous return policies. We hope that after you read this guide, you’ll feel comfortable purchasing a sofa that will be an investment in your current and future home.
Why you should trust us
Domestic Possessions has invested countless dollars and time in R&D over the past 10 years to be able to source the best sofas possible for our customers price point. We take a great deal of pride in helping our customers through the whole process to make sure the right furniture goes into their home...unlike major retailers like Amazon, Target, Wayfair, Overstock and more.
These large companies employ staff that don't answer the phone, don't know the product line or care to help the consumers on the other end spending their hard earned money on furniture.
Make Sure That The Sofa Fits in Your Home
We’ve all heard the horror stories about someone who purchased the sofa of their dreams only to discover it would not fit through a doorway, navigate a stairway, or fit inside the room. The carpenter’s adage of “measure twice, cut once” proves similarly true when you’re dropping hundreds—if not thousands—of well-earned dollars on a sofa. Follow these steps to ensure that you don’t become a cautionary tale for future generations of sofa shoppers.
Accurately measure the sofa
Measure the width, height, and depth of the sofa; taking additional measurements can also prove useful for ordering custom upholstery or for packing and moving individual pieces later. Although measurements are almost always listed online or in catalogs, we recommend bringing a tape measure to stores to verify dimensions in person. Ask sales representatives whether the sofa ships with sections or parts disassembled, or if they can be easily removed.
Measure your entryways
Survey the easiest points of entry into your home, together with any obstacles that could complicate delivery. A steep stairway, a narrow corridor, a low overhanging fixture, or a small elevator can all present insurmountable challenges, even before a delivery makes it to the front door.
Test out the footprint
Before you pull the trigger, make sure your potential upholstered roommate fits where you intend it to live.
Create a footprint of the sofa using newspaper, cardboard, or recycled paper taped together. You can also consult with us at Domestic Possessions and we can make a 3D layout of your room where the sofa will be placed!
Pick the right sofa for your lifestyle
Once you’ve narrowed your search by style and size, give some thought to your personal seating needs. A pet owner or a family with young kids may have very different needs than a fastidious couple. Think through the following questions to help determine what best serves your lifestyle.
How will you use the sofa?
Be honest with yourself about how you’ll sit on the sofa. In retail stores, we’ve seen shoppers sitting on sofas like they’re upright mannequins, which is likely not the way they would sit or lie on them at home. If you tend to slouch, a daybed or sectional with a chaise will prove more comfortable and won’t disfigure cushions (over time, slouching presses the front of seat cushions outward). If you’re a couch napper, avoid multi-cushion sofas, because they’re prone to buckle and dip between each cushion. If you prefer to sit upright while reading, knitting, or using a mobile device, the more tailored, firmer structure of a mid-century-modern–style sofa or one with an upright back will feel more comfortable.
How many people will sit on the sofa?
Think through how many people will regularly sit on the sofa, but also how they like to sit. For example, if one person likes to sit upright but the other likes to lie across with their head on an arm, that’s how they should test out a sofa for comfortable width. Larger families or households that regularly host guests will be naturally drawn to sectionals. But to produce a more dynamic and flexible seating arrangement, also consider using two different-size sofas positioned into an L shape, or try a pair of loveseats facing each other.
Do you have kids or pets?
Never underestimate a dog’s, cat’s, or child’s ability to destroy your furniture. Microfiber and leather upholstered sofas are the easiest to clean and maintain. And because both are smoother, they’re less likely to be scratched into remnants by a pet’s claws. Otherwise, stick with upholstery fabrics with high stain protection and a higher rub count. For an added layer of protection, you may also want to consider a sofa with a slipcover. Unattached seat and back cushions will make for easier individual cleaning. If your kids jump on the sofa, stick with a frame that has sinuous springs or poly-webbing supports rather than one with more delicate hand-tied springs. For families with young kids, avoid down-filled cushions, because little feet will likely deform the malleable filling every day. It’s also a good idea to avoid decorative detailing, like tufting buttons or frilly trim; pulling and picking at these will prove irresistible for some kids.
Do your floors easily scratch?
If you have delicate wood floors, carefully consider the legs of your sofa. From experience, we know that hairpin legs can scrape wood floors. As a last resort, a well-placed area rug can keep sofa feet from damaging a floor.
How To Check Quality Construction
After a mattress, a sofa is likely the most-used piece of furniture in a home. The quality of the frame, supports, cushions, and upholstery affects how long a sofa will last!
Most frames are made of some kind of engineered wood, but we advised avoiding MDF or particleboard, which do not hold staples, glue, or nails well over time. Instead, look for those made of furniture-grade plywood, engineered hardwood, or solid wood. The most durable sofas are made from traditional mortise-and-tenon joints, which require less staples and glue to hold the frame together. When you are testing out a sofa, the frame should feel solid. Any swaying is a sign that the frame isn’t strong.
More than cushioning, the suspensions in a sofa are what make it comfortable. Quality sofas are often made with sinuous springs (S-shaped springs stretched across the skeleton of the wood frame). Some sofas are supported by poly-webbing, which can be even more durable than sinuous springs, depending on the quality. But webbing won’t give the sofa as much bounce. Very high-end sofas are made with eight-way hand-tied springs, which can do a better job of warding off sagging and squeaking. When testing out a sofa, listen for squeaks or creaks. That’s a sign that the springs are improperly installed or possibly broken.
Beyond style, cushions are the most subjective element when you’re picking out a sofa. Some people will want nap-friendly cushions they can sink into, and others will want more structured, firmer seating. Generally, you’ll find four cushion options:
- Poly-wrapped foam: Made of high-resiliency foam wrapped in polyester, this is the most commonly found cushion style. You won’t need to fluff the cushions, and the foam generally provides good support.
- Goose/duck down: Filled either with 100 percent down (plush) or a down-blend encasing a foam core (slightly firmer) with a layer of down-proof ticking. This is the most luxurious cushion style, but just like a down bed pillow, it requires regular fluffing.
- Innerspring core: Similar to a mattress, this cushion style has individually pocketed coils wrapped in a layer of foam. The cushions have more bounce than other styles.
- Memory foam: You’ll find memory foam cushions primarily on sleeper sofas. The high density of memory foam ensures durability, but not everyone will like its form-fitting properties.