Choosing the best sofa for your living space involves a bit more planning and consideration than selecting other pieces of furniture in a room. Sofas are an investment, a combination of style and function. Not only should they provide comfort, but they also need to stand up to the rigors of daily use and still maintain their appearance. In most homes, every element of the decor revolves around the sofa. Other factors, such as quality, size, shape, and placement in the room are just as important as its fabric and color.

First, measure the room

Before you start picking out a sofa design, measure the room and the wall space where you intend to place the sofa. Drawing a floor plan is helpful. Most furniture manufacturers use standard measurements when building furniture. Use the standards as guidelines when determining whether or not a sofa will fit well in the desired space. Sofas are generally 84 inches wide, from arm to arm. If you have less space, consider an apartment-size sofa, which varies between 68 and 80 inches long. Measure your sofa choice and mark out its intended space on the wall with masking tape before purchase to ensure the height doesn’t cover up wall decor.

Empty minimalist room with gray wall on background and plant on wooden stool - 3d rendering Note: the room does not exist in reality, Property model is not necessary archideaphoto / Getty Images


Factor in the room’s scale

Big, spacious rooms are perfect for sectionals. And, they create ample seating, so you don’t need other pieces of furniture. They’re perfect for families and those who entertain regularly. Although you can arrange them in various ways, they may overwhelm a smaller room. If you have a smaller space, consider other sofa styles that won’t create an overcrowded feel, such as those with deeper seating depths and high backs. The sofa should be of similar size and look like it fits in with the other furniture.

spacious room sectionals Melpomenem / Getty Images


Determine how you’ll use the sofa

Whether it’s your go-to spot at the end of a hard day or more of a focal point for a formal setting, figuring out how you intend to use your sofa is essential. The greater the inside seat depth, the cozier the sofa is, as a general rule. If you’re on the taller side, enjoy curling up with your feet under you, or cuddling with your pet, choose a deeper seat depth of 24 inches or more. For those who prefer a formal sofa style--sitting upright with the feet on the floor--a seat depth of 23 inches or less works well.

sofa cuddling pet gollykim / Getty Images


Consider traffic flow

One of the essentials for finding a great sofa for your living space is one that people tend to forget. Overcrowded furniture layouts cause poor traffic flow, inhibit a room’s functionality, and create safety hazards. They also prevent relaxation. Allow for at least 18 inches between the sofa and the coffee table, and at least three, but no more than 10 feet of space between the sofa and other seating in the room. The room won’t feel crowded, yet will allow good conversation flow and won’t interfere with foot traffic.

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Arm styles matter

Arm style and height of the sofa determine whether or not it will suit the style of the room and your comfort expectations.

  • Roll arm styles are taller. They’re not only comfortable, but they also fit with any decor style.
  • Track arms are simple, sleek, and contemporary. They have square edges with no curves and work great in modern or contemporary rooms.
  • Cushion arms include overstuffed padding for extra comfort for traditional or contemporary decors.
  • Transitional English arms are low-lying and elegant. They pair well with t-cushions for compact looks.
  • The Flair arm sits high and straight. It’s comfortable and modern.

Warm ethno living room with big comfortable leather couch and metal furniture, real photo KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images


Upholstery and its durability

The strength of the upholstery affects its appearance over time. Avoid natural colors for sofas that sit in front of a window. They tend to fade when exposed to sunlight. Go for synthetic fabrics that hold their color better. For active households with pets or children, consider removable upholstery, which can be hand or machine-washed. Faux suede or distressed leather are also great choices for high-use sofas. Although durable, linen doesn’t stand up to daily lounging or high traffic and provides little stain resistance. For formal settings with less traffic, consider a luxurious silk velvet or Tibetan wool.

upholstery active household children gradyreese / Getty Images


The inside stuff

The filling in the sofa’s cushions gives it shape and provides the desired level of softness. Manufacturers stuff cushions with foam; foam-covered iron springs; feathers or down; batting; polyester; or a combination of these materials. While 100% feather-filled cushions are highly comfortable, they need frequent plumping to stay that way. Foam and fiber both tend to lose shape and flatten over time. Many furniture experts recommend foam-and-feather combinations for ultimate comfort and structure capabilities.

Shot of two little brothers sitting on their living room sofa using a digital tablet kupicoo / Getty Images


Frames, springs, and strength

Your new sofa is only as strong as its frame. Avoid frames made from metal, particleboard, or plywood. Look for those constructed with kiln-dried hardwood instead. Dowels, glue, and joints should secure joints. Manufacturers of higher quality sofas may reinforce the corners with blocks as well. Additionally, look for a quality springs system that works with the frame to provide seating support. Stick with hand-tied or sinuous springs and avoid web suspension if you want your sofa to hold up.

frame reinforce hardwood Aleksandra Zlatkovic / Getty Images


Visualize the sofa in your space

Home design apps and software assist you with every step of the design process, including trying out a variety of decor styles via the virtual world. The latest technology measures and stores room spaces and lets you sift through color palettes. Instead of guessing how your potential sofa choice will look in your living room, visualize it first in a 3D rendering. Some apps also offer retailers’ photos of their products. They also include a link so that you can purchase the sofa if you like what you see.

AR augmented reality. Hand holding digital tablet, AR application, simulate sofa furniture and and interior design real room background, modern technology. ipopba / Getty Images


Sit on it before you buy it

One of the best ways of testing the comfort level of a sofa is to first try it out. Sit down, then move toward the edge. Creaking noises are a sign of poorly installed springs. The sofa should yield to the weight of your body. It should also be easy to get up from. The springs ought to provide some resistance, but you shouldn’t sink into the couch much, either. For online purchases, read the return policy beforehand. Make sure that you have the option of returning a sofa you’re not happy with.

sit comfort level buy SolStock / Getty Images


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