Decorating & Design

October 31, 2016

Designer Tips: How To Buy A Sofa, Part One

Assistant design editor Jennifer Koper shares expert advice on shopping for sofas. 
Jennifer-Koper-Thumbnail-HH_NO16After I finished studying interior design, and before I joined the team at H&H, I spent some time managing a furniture showroom. It was there where I learned how difficult finding that perfect sofa can be. Seeing so many different styles in the same place is often daunting, and well-intentioned sales staff can add to the pressure. If you’re in the market for a new sofa, I recommend narrowing down what style you want before you hit the shops. Here are three simple tips to keep in mind.

1. Figure out what you’re drawn to. Instead of diving straight into the stores, start the process at home by rifling through design magazines, looking at shops online or browsing on Pinterest.

2. Do a test run. Head out to a few stores for a first round of browsing, just to get familiar with what’s out there — and what catches your eye.

3. Look for common design details. Once you’ve rounded up a few of your favorite sofas, stop and take stock. This is a good time to figure out if they have common design elements that you didn’t know you loved, such as:

  • Arm style: What type of arms do your favorite sofas have? A traditional roll arm, a contemporary tuxedo, a classic William Birch (English roll arm)? You can also take note of the width of the arm. Quick tip: While a wider arm has its comforts, a narrow arm is perfect for maximizing seating space.
  • Seat style: Seat cushions typically come in three-cushion, two-cushion or bench seat styles. See which one you gravitate toward. I personally love single-cushioned bench seats for their sophisticated look, but also like three-seat sofas for their cozy feel. You can also look at how many people the sofas seat, and compare that with the size of your household (remembering that most folks won’t want to sit on a crack).
  • Back style: Do your favorite sofas have loose back cushions or a tight back? You can’t always tell by a photo, but loose-cushioned sofas tend to have a casual, comfortable look, while tight-back sofas are a bit tidier. At this point, you should also compare what you like with your lifestyle. Loose-back cushions will need fluffing every now and then — especially if you have a cat who loves to sleep on top of them, like I do — but the upside is that you can remove them for extra depth while napping. Tight-back sofas are fuss-free, but can’t be made deeper.
  • Upholstery and finishing details: Paying attention to color is important, but you should also note the textures and finishing details on the sofas (piping, tufting, etc.). You also might be drawn to a particular type of cushion, like T-shaped cushions (ones that extend over or in front of the arms of a sofa) or rectangular box cushions.
  • The legs: See if you prefer a sofa with exposed legs or ones with skirts — or even something modern and super low to the ground. It’s helpful to remember that legs often come in various finishes and shapes to suit your taste.

For more tips, see Part Two and Part Three of this series.

Author: Jennifer Koper

Kim Jeffrey


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