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The Ultimate Sofa Guide

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Sofa shopping is one of those furniture purchases where people are terrified of making a mistake, considering how much money you are about to spend just to sit comfortable in your home and it will most likely set the tone of your living room style for the next 5-10 years. So before you begin your sofa quest here are the main considerations when hunting for the perfect sofa.

Fabric, Seat Depth & Height, Firmness, Arm Rest height, Back height, Cushions and Comfort.

Run your hands up and down the fabric you’re considering in all different directions to make sure it feels good across your skin. Also, consider your lifestyle. Velvet may feel fancy, but it’s actually a great material to clean, a cotton or linen slipcover is perfect for a busy family with kids or pets, and a tweed-y textile hides a multitude of sins. Leather is expensive but ages nicely. Many people like the stain resistance of microfiber, but the drawback is that it’s synthetic and doesn’t have the same look or feel of a natural material like linen or cotton. Though the newer once are looking better and better as our technology improves. Tighter weaves tend to be more durable than loose weaves.

Seat Depth
Everyone has different desires for the depth of their sofa, look at what works best for you and your lifestyle. Do you spend most nights and weekends on your couch curled up and enjoying Netflix? Something deep and cushy (at least 1 meter) might be best for you. You’re a frequent entertainer, you say? Something shallower would be better for conversation and gathering around snacks and drinks on the coffee table (your back will thank you).

Seat Height
If you’re into a modern look for your furniture, remember that these profiles are often quite low, which may or may not be comfortable for your specific height. Make sure to sit naturally on the sofa and put your feet down on the floor. Do you comfortably reach the floor? Are your knees up by your chest? All things to take note of. You shouldn’t have to struggle to get on and off your sofa!

This one is up to your preferences. But it’s good to sit on a sofa in many different positions (including lying down) to see how the firmness level feels on your whole body. The perfect sofa should feel soft, but with plenty of firm support.

Arm Rest Height
Can you place your arm comfortably up on the rest? Is it comfy to lean against? This is another position that should feel natural to you when testing.

Back Height
Lean back. Do you feel supported? Or like you’re going to tip backwards because the back is too low? Or, rather, is it so high your head feels like it can’t move?

Removable Cushions
Sometimes you purchase a sofa without even realizing whether you can move the pillows or seat/back cushions, so don’t forget to check! Removable cushions = more regular adjusting but also easier to clean.

With sofas, you can easily be swayed by how a piece looks on the outside, but for durability and comfort it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. So get comfortable! Lie down and test out catching a quick nap. Does it dip in the center weirdly because of the two seat cushions? Is it so shallow that you’d flop off the sofa with any sudden movement? Is it so hard that you’ll likely wake up with a kink in your neck/back? You might feel silly sprawling across a sofa in the store, but we promise the stares will be worth it in the end! Just be careful, don’t cause any damage and all should be fine.

While all furniture designers and manufacturers have their own unique names for their sofa models, these are 10 of the most common silhouettes and names for sofa styles, ranging from a more traditional Old World look to a sleek, modern shape.

Bench Seat: A single cushion that goes the entire length of the sofa.

Camelback: A common type sofa which has a back that’s highest in the middle, shaped like a camel’s hump.

Left-Arm or Right-Arm: Used to describe which side a chaise is located on a sectional when you are facing the sofa.

Loose Cushion: A sofa which has cushions that are not attached to the sofa base. These tend to be very comfortable and easier to clean. Some models can have a pillow back with tight seat cushions, some have a tight back with loose seat cushions.

Pillow Back: Another term for loose-cushion models where the cushions are not attached to the deck.

Rolled Arm: A sofa style with arms that curve outward, usually cushioned. This is a classic and traditional sofa style.

Sectional: A sofa that comes in multiple parts that can often be rearranged to make a new shape. The most common is the L-shaped sectional.

Skirt: A section of fabric that extends from the deck of the sofa to the floor, usually covering the legs.

Sleeper: Any sofa that can be adjusted to become a bed, whether it’s a pull-out model or a futon style that leans back.

Square Arm: A sofa style with arms that are boxy and usually cushioned. These models are more streamlined and modern.

Tight Back: A sofa with no removable cushions. This minimalist look tends to be less comfortable than loose-cushion models. Instead of a filled cushion, these usually have a spring base.

Tufted: An upholstery style that uses knots or buttons to secure sections of the fabric to the base, resulting in “tufts” of fabric. Tufted sofas have a classic and expensive look but are often less comfortable than other models.

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