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11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Sofa (+ My Faves)

by | Jun 4, 2019 | Decorating Inspiration, Living Rooms

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Choosing a sofa for your home can be a daunting process. They are an investment that can make or break a space, so it pays to do some research before you make a final decision.

I know when I was shopping for my white slipcovered sofa last year, I went back and forth about a million times. Seriously. So many options, details, decisions, and so much pressure! I’m glad we took the time to weigh all the options though–I really love what we ended up with.

Here are 11 designer tips and helpful considerations for selecting the perfect sofa!

11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Sofa (+ My Faves)

Burnham Design

Select the right size – When shopping for a new sofa, make sure you select a size that makes sense for your space.

Use a template in your own space (try painter’s tape on the floor, or even boxes set up to simulate) to determine what size and shape of sofa will offer the most function without overwhelming your room.

Consider the depth of your sofa – What is the purpose of your room? A deeper sofa will be versatile enough for you to curl up on or to add pillows in the back for casual conversation. Shallow sofas might be fine if you will be sitting up straight or in a more formal space, but they aren’t always as comfortable for relaxing.

Do you have a chair or sofa already that is super comfortable for you? Take a measurement of the cushion (measure from the back of the seat cushion to front) so you can find a similar seat depth in a new sofa.

Solid sofas are versatile – While you might be drawn to a patterned sofa, in the long run a pattern can hold you back as styles change or if you want to change your decor style.

For the most bang for your buck and the most versatility in design, save fun patterns for throw pillows and buy a neutral sofa. But if you’re feeling daring and can afford to get a new sofa later, go for the pattern if that is what you love most.

11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Sofa (+ My Faves)

Ellen Brill Set Design

Know your comfort level – Down filling in loose back cushions will eventually be less full and need regular fluffing to look their best. Down tends to look more casual, but it can be very comfortable! If you want a more tidy, streamlined look and less fluffing, look for a tighter back sofa or one without back pillows. Consider a sofa with removable back cushions, or a deeper sofa, if you will be using it for sleeping or napping!

Consider the upkeep of a sofa style or fabric choice- Do you want a slipcover that you can pull off and throw in the washer? A fabric that will more easily hide dirt? Keep in mind that some fabric is delicate and not easily cleaned. Indoor/outdoor fabric or performance fabric has come a long way, so if you want a low-maintenance fabric, there are plenty of options that are attractive, soft and easy to clean.

Visit a showroom- Even if you are ordering online, visit any sofa showroom. Try sitting on sofas just like you would at home, curling up, getting up and down, etc. Rearrange pillows on the sofa the way you would want to at home. Look at various sizes, shapes and design features. This will give you a better idea of what you really want!

11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Sofa (+ My Faves)

Muskoka Living

Look at the height of the sofa back- When you are shopping, notice that some sofas are extra low backed while others have high backs. If you have a larger space or a room with high ceilings, consider a higher back for more presence. High backed sofas can make a room feel cut up if the sofa will not be placed against a wall.

Consider the shape- Tufted backs or rolled arms will feel more formal. Straighter lines will feel more modern. Rounded shapes can feel traditional or even cottage/country. A streamlined style with a straighter back, narrow and straighter arms will make the most of a small room. An overly bulky sofa can take up too much space.

11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Sofa (+ My Faves)

Studio McGee

Legs or no legs? This is a personal style preference! Some sofas have slipcovers or skirts that hide the legs. Others have choices for leg style or finishes. If you have a lot of furniture pieces with legs, you may decide to have a sofa with a skirted bottom to soften the look.

Look through inspiration photos to find rooms you like. Take note of whether or not the furniture and sofas you like show legs or not.

Design the whole floor plan. As you consider the size and layout for your sofa, make sure you leave room for your side tables, coffee tables, console tables etc. A sofa that is too big for the space will make other furniture pieces difficult to place.

Order samples. Order upholstery samples online or ask for them in the store. Take it home with you so you can see the fabric in your own room and in various lighting conditions. Carrying a sample with you can help you select other furnishings, throw pillows, rugs and paint colors.

Shop my favorite sofas:

My Favorite Sofas

11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Sofa (+ My Faves)

Have you bought a sofa recently?

What are your best tips (or mistakes to avoid?) in shopping?

11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Sofa (+ My Faves)

Preorder my new book, But Where Do I Put the Couch?: And Answers to 100 Other Home Decorating Questions

11 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Sofa (+ My Faves)
Pin for Later!


My White Slipcovered Sofa: FAQ

White + Neutral Couch in a Room Inspiration


  1. Sarah Thexton

    A great (and very timely in my instance) article – we’ve just ordered a couple of new sofas! It’s certainly something we spent a lot of time pondering over, and now we’re waiting for them to be delivered and hoping we made the right decision (I’m sure we have, but you know, the weeks you wait between ordering and delivery can make you have a panicky wobble or two)! One other tip I would give when you’re buying a sofa, especially if you’re having a full day of wandering around the shops, is to be aware of how tired you are feeling. It sounds utterly crazy, but by the end of a day of looking at various sofas and walking around every furniture shop you know, it’s easy to be lulled into thinking the sofa you’re sitting on is more comfortable than it actually is! Being tired and having aching legs or sore feet can make the most uncomfortable sofa feel like bliss – so try to be objective, especially at the end of the day!!

  2. Jean Bartholomew

    The fabric, is very important. You want a washable Fabric with kids and pets.

  3. Nancy

    Hi Melissa! One other thing that I check for is the California proposition 65 notice. Under specifications of the sofa, if it has chemicals in it that are known to cause cancer this will be listed. I purchased your sofa because it did not have this warning. Many sofas I liked on Wayfair, Joss and Main, etc. had this warning. All of your other suggestions were great. I really look forward to receiving your emails. Thank you!!! Good day?

    • Melissa @ The Inspired Room

      Oh yes, such a good point to add! That’s one of the main reasons I chose mine as well! Thank you so much :).

  4. Diane

    If you have a dog that likes to lay on the floor against your sofa, it’s better to have legs on the sofa rather than a skirt. The skirt will get damaged from this, a permanent wrinkle where it’s pushed against the sofa. It’s kind of hard to explain but trust me!

  5. Betty White

    Great post. We have had problems in the past with sofa’s and will be buying a new one in a couple of years. Great advice here.

  6. Karen Mary

    I have the same PB sofa and love it. The slipcovers wash nicely, and the deep seat is perfect for overnight guests, once you take the pillows off. I’m planning to order an extra set of covers to have on hand for the future (in case they stop making them). Maybe something cozy for the winter. Such a big purchase — great to have helpful tips!

  7. Nancy

    Good tips! I bought a new sofa last September. My old sofa, loveseat and matching armchair were camelback and had a wide rolled arm. The chenille fabric had a very subtle pattern. When I started my search, I knew I didn’t want another love seat or another patterned sofa. My side tables either have a cabriole leg or some sort of pedestal base. The coffee table has pull-through drawers so it’s substantial and has small ball feet. I knew I wanted a skirted sofa or one with turned legs. My new sofa has a straight back, a smaller rolled arm, and short turned legs. It’s a little more than 8 feet long so it’s still big but the lines are more transitional than a camelback. I choose a “beige” woven fabric with reversible back pillows. The filling is a combo of memory foam and down so it’s firm but really comfortable. I considered buying two sofas (my living room is 15×19) but ended up buying three new chairs.

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