Sofa Secrets: Tips for Selecting a Comfy Couch
Whether you’re looking for the focal point of your formal living room or a new Netflix-central for the family room, picking the right sofa is important. Here’s how to choose a couch that will look and feel great through years of daily use.
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Begin With a Budget
Choose the Style and Size
With your price range in mind, spend some time tooling around online to get a sense of the styles you like best. Sofa, loveseat, or sectional? With or without reclining functionality? Tight-back? Loose-back? Shallow seat or deep seat? Tufted? With nail-head trim or piping? And, measure your space carefully. If you’re completely redecorating or starting a room from scratch, use masking tape to mark the size of the sofa you’re considering on the floor, so you can get a sense for how much room it will take up. Or, draw your room to scale on graph paper or use a room-planning app to map out the furniture plan.
Buy From the Right Retailer
Learn How It's Made
“There isn’t really one ‘best’ type of sofa,” says Hodnett. But as you shop you will come across a variety of different types, so it pays to learn the lingo. Here’s a quick primer, starting with the frame: All the soft and cushy stuff rests on a frame made of wood, metal, or composite. If the frame is made of wood, your best bets are kiln-dried hardwood (solid wood that’s dried to remove moisture content, making the wood less susceptible to cracking and warping) or high-ply plywood; particleboard is less durable. Metal is durable, and often found in lower-priced sofas. Composite frames are the least durable and typically lowest-priced options. In a wood frame, the joinery is important too: The frame should be glued and screwed together and the corners reinforced with blocks held in place with dowels, staples or screws. The sofa’s suspension refers to the mechanism that supports the seat: a system of metal springs or coils, or a web of fabric straps. Eight-way hand-tied springs — a network of individual springs tied in eight places to other springs and the sides of the sofa — are perhaps the gold standard of sofa suspension, offering firm but responsive support. If you like a softer (or lower profile) seat, you may be just as happy with a sofa that has a drop-in coil system or sinuous or “zigzag” coils. Webbing is typically used on less expensive sofas and may have a tendency to sag over time, says Bar-Nahum.