How to Buy a Sofa in 7 Steps

Sooner or later we all have to buy a sofa. Let our how-to guide calm your fears. There, there child.

No matter what size home you have or what style decor you favor, sooner or later we all need to buy a sofa. It's the great equalizer.

Master Sitting

Master Sitting

Photo by: Photo: Rethink Design Studio | Graphic: Erica Reitman

Photo: Rethink Design Studio | Graphic: Erica Reitman

And while buying a sofa seems like an easy task, there are actually quite a few things you need to consider before you pull out your credit card.

To help you on your sofa-buying journey, we've put together a step-by-step game plan that will guide you along the way.

Figure Out Your Budget

Navy Blue Velvet Sofa & Minimalist Art

Navy Blue Velvet Sofa & Minimalist Art

This bright living space with contemporary and midcentury modern influence features a navy blue velvet sofa, a mix of throw pillows and minimalist artwork framed above the sofa.

Photo by: Belathee Photography

Belathee Photography

Before you start any of your prep work, you need to get clear about what your budget is. Even if you don't have much to spend, there are lots of options out there, so don't feel bad if you're not a lottery winner.

Remember that a good sofa is definitely an investment. However, if you plan to have it (and use it!) for many years to come, it helps to soften the blow of outlaying a big chunk of change.


Blue Midcentury Sofa and Wood Shelving

Blue Midcentury Sofa and Wood Shelving

A beautiful midcentury modern shelving unit is all the wall art this living room needs. Its gold and warm wood pairs perfectly with the sky blue sofa.

Photo by: Caitlin McCarthy Design

Caitlin McCarthy Design

Next, you'll need to measure your space. I find it's helpful to use some masking tape and actually tape out the footprint of the sofa you're envisioning on the floor. If you already have a sofa there that you need to replace, measure your existing sofa and take note of any additional space you might have to add to the length or width. If your sofa is going up against a wall, it's helpful to measure the wall.

Take note of any irregularities you might need to deal with, such as a narrow door, a narrow staircase or other potential obstacles.

Get Inspired

Gathering Room With Retro Gray Sofa

Gathering Room With Retro Gray Sofa

This midcentury modern clubhouse has a retro gray sofa paired with a black & white chevron patterned rug, that give this gathering space a bold look.

Photo by: Cortney Bishop Design

Cortney Bishop Design

This next step is the really fun part. Spend time online looking around and getting inspired. Click around, Pinterest and your favorite design blogs to grab some pics of sofas and room setups that you like. You could even make a dedicated Pinterest board for all of your sofa pics.

If you're deciding on a sofa with a spouse, significant other or even a roommate, make sure you set up a system that lets everyone feel a part of the process. If you're taking the Pinterest board route, make sure you invite the other person to your sofa board so you can both pin together.

Here is some additional reading to help you on your sofa hunt:

Decide What You're Looking For



In addition to seating three people comfortably for gathering and watching TV, the slipcovered sofa pulls out to reveal a full-size sleeper. When choosing sleeper sofas for small, secondary spaces rather than great rooms, be sure and measure doorways and hallways first since many sleeper sofas are deeper than standard-sized sofas. Additionally, keep in mind that sleeper sofas are much heavier in weight than standard-sized sofas or love seats, and it may take up to three people to move them properly into place.

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn

Brian Patrick Flynn

Now it's time to start making some decisions. As you think through what might work best in your space, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How many people do you want to seat?
  • Do you have pets? Kids?
  • What types of materials do you like?
  • What type of setup will work best for your home?
  • Do you need a sofa with a pull-out bed?
  • Will a sectional or L-shaped sofa work for your space?
  • What style sofa do you like best?
  • Will you be mostly sitting on the sofa, or do you plan to lay down and take naps, too?

After you answer these questions and feel a bit more clear on which direction you'd like to go in, start looking around online and researching all of your options.

Try to narrow down your choices to your top three favorites.

Here are some of my favorite sources for sofas online:

Watch Out for Discounts + Sales

Pink Sofa and Gray Graphic Wallpaper

Pink Sofa and Gray Graphic Wallpaper

Hello, patterns! This living room has no fear when it comes to mixing bold prints and colors with wild and merry results.

Photo by: Rethink Design Studio

Rethink Design Studio

As you look around online, take note of some of your favorite furniture sites, and sign up for their email newsletters. Most of them offer an immediate discount for just signing up, but you will soon start to see additional sales that will pop into your inbox every now and then. You can always cancel your subscription, but for now keep an eye out for any sales!

Go Shopping...Even if You Want to Buy Online

Sofa Table With Assorted Art and Photographs

Sofa Table With Assorted Art and Photographs

Here's an excellent idea for renters or homeowners with walls that can't accommodate nails or screws: place a console table behind your sofa to display art in a casual manner.

Photo by: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Rustic White Photography, LLC

Now it's time to go shopping! Even if you think you might ultimately be purchasing your sofa online, you still need to get out there and do some in-person shopping. This will go a long way in helping you understand what you're really looking for.

If you found sofas online that are in your top three, try to visit them if you have a local retail outlet of that store. If not, try to find similar sofas just to get a feel. Department stores sometimes have larger furniture sections where you can test out a variety of different types of sofas.

Take note of how you feel toward different fabrics, cushion styles, arm styles, etc. You might love the look of Chesterfield sofas online, but once you see one in person, you might not feel the same. Or perhaps you were unsure of whether or not you actually liked the look of slipcovered sofas, but once you see one up close, you realize they could be a perfect option for your space.

Guide to Common Sofa Styles 01:55

Can't tell a chaise from a settee? Let our guide to sofa styles help you.

Buy Your Sofa

Contemporary Living Area and Home Office With Emerald Green Sofa

Contemporary Living Area and Home Office With Emerald Green Sofa

Combined with black, white and gold, emerald green is given a fresh look with an opulent feel. This lively color also looks fabulous with neutrals and pairs beautifully with blues, pinks and reds.

Photo by: Room and Board ©Room and Board

Room and Board, Room and Board

You came, you saw, you seat tested…and now it's time to buy your sofa.

If you decide to purchase your sofa online, make sure to find out what the delivery charges will be, the timeline and what your options are in case you need to return it for any reason (and who will be responsible for the return shipping charges).

For local purchases, try to get the delivery charges waived, and make sure to let them know about any challenging staircases or doorways.

Once your new sofa's in place, then you can focus on the fun stuff, like using pillows and throws to style it.

Style a Sofa Five Ways 01:56

Simply swap out the accessories on a sofa to give it five brand-new looks.

8 Unique Ways to Fill the Space Above Your Sofa

See All Photos

Play With Symmetry

If you've got a large mirror and classic oil paintings, then why not group them together?
Get the Look: Play with symmetry and scale by centering an oversized mirror directly above the sofa, then flanking it with similarly scaled art.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Repurpose an Area Rug

Handed-down tapestries have been a wall decor mainstay for centuries. Add a similar look to your living room with an area rug.
Get the Look: Choose a rug that's the same length as your sofa (or slightly shorter). For a custom look, use a quilt hanger and attach the rug to its clamps. Or, for a DIY approach, fasten the rug to the wall using upholstery tacks and allow it to droop in the center for a more relaxed look.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Perfect a Sofa Table

Here's a smart idea for renters or homeowners with walls that can't take nails or screws: place a console table behind your sofa to display your favorite artwork.
Get the Look: First, determine the height and length of your sofa. Next, search for a console table approximately one foot shorter in length and no more than two inches lower than your sofa. Create a collection of art, arrange it on top of the table, then lean it against the wall.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Paint Your Own Artwork

Looking for the perfect piece of oversized abstract art but can't find exactly what you want in your budget? Create the art yourself with bold acrylic paint and a massive canvas.
Get the Look: For texture and a shadowed effect, pick up gesso then apply it to the canvas with a brush or burnisher before painting the entire piece a solid color. We chose the color Yves Klein Blue, which was made famous in the 1950s by the French painter who often covered entire objects and canvases with his trademark hue — a mix of blue, purple and black.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Embrace the Boho Trend

Boho-chic style is making a huge comeback this year. Incorporate this laid-back trend into your current design aesthetic by hanging a large, handmade macrame statement piece above the sofa.

Let Your Vintage Flags Fly

Bring a casual and collected look to your living room with a suspended grouping of vintage flags.
Get the Look: Gather nautical flags in similar colors that vary in size and shape. For each row of flags, add two hook eyes to your walls and fasten aircraft cable in-between. Next, loosely hang the flags on the cables, and secure them in place with twine or clothespins.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Map It Out

When paired with a black leather sofa, a large, sepia-toned vintage map gives this room an upscale, masculine feel.

From: Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines

Photo By: Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images

Turn Wallpaper Into Artwork

Add the look and feel of wallpaper to your living room without the commitment.
Get the Look: Order a single roll of wallpaper for less than $20, cut it to size and place inside several frames. For a larger impact, stick with oversized frames and keep the pattern repeat consistent.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Mirror Mirror

Easily sourced from local thrift stores or antique shops, vintage mirrors add gorgeous depth to a small space. Choose a mix of gilded and matte-painted frames, stunning starburst and oval shapes, and varying sizes for an effortless designer look.

Ditch Nails for Wooden Hangers

Many collectors find themselves with groupings of objects that can be difficult to hang on walls or require expensive mounting, matting and framing. We have a chic alternative.
Get the Look: Take the DIY approach by clamping beloved posters, pennants, maps and charts to wooden pants hangers, then hanging them above the sofa in a random order.

Basket Wall Art

Add a pop of natural texture and handmade detail to your space with a tight collage of large woven baskets. Get the Look: Choose round baskets in varying sizes and patterns for a visually-stunning arrangement.

Photo By: Jacob Snavely

Turn Art Into Your View

Here's a trick made popular by urban designers: if you don't have a lot of wall space in your living room, consider hanging your artwork directly in front of windows. This is an especially useful tip for windows that don't offer beautiful views. Not only will this help add personality, color and charm above your sofa, it can also create an extra layer of privacy between you and your neighbors.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

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