Get out your tape measure, because it's time to go sofa shopping. Buying a new couch can be stressful because of the item's price tag and the wide range of options, but following a few simple steps can make the experience more enjoyable.
Tasks can be divided into two categories: those you should do beforehand and those best sorted out with experts at the store. Start with a room analysis. Bill Robbins, store manager at Ashley Furniture HomeStore, suggests noting the room's traffic patterns and walls. Identify spaces for potential end or accent tables, and ask yourself who will use the sofa. "Sectional sofas should be considered a viable option depending on room size, entertainment frequency and if there is a TV in the room," Robbins says.
It's helpful to bring the dimensions of your room to the store. "Most customers wish they knew the measurement of their existing sofa to compare it to the sofas in the showroom," says Jamie Mutter, design manager at Doerr Furniture. "As a designer, I like to have the room dimensions and measurements of all doors, windows, etc." With this information, she can create a floor plan that ensures the room isn't crowded and people can move around easily.
Is the sofa going in a formal sitting room or a more casual, family-oriented space? "It is important to consider what the focal point of the room is and how much other seating there will be," says Larry Marquez Jr. of La-Z-Boy New Orleans.
The color of flooring, carpet and walls affects what sofa you choose. This is the time to think about a style that fits your aesthetic and that of the space. If you have a certain look in mind, you'll feel less overwhelmed in the showroom, Robbins says.
"Narrow down style preferences based on whether the room is rustic, traditional, transitional or modern," he says. Bring a fabric swatch home, because the color may look different in your living room than in the showroom.
A sofa's depth is easily modified with different pillows. A 23-inch inside depth is good for a person of average height, Mutter says. Because few people sit on a sofa with a straight back and two feet on the floor, this part of the shopping experience includes a lot of lounging.
Finally, decide how much you are willing to spend. "Having a budget in mind helps buyers when they are comparing features at good/better/best price points," Robbins says.
The construction, pillow filling and upholstery factor into a sofa's price. Eighty percent of a sofa's value is in parts you cannot see, Marquez says. Always ask about cushion density, frame material and where the piece was made.
"A high-end, quality sofa is made of eight-way hand-tied coils in most cases," Mutter says.
"A medium-quality sofa is made with a no-sag spring," says Robbins, who recommends frames with kiln-dried hardwood and corner bracing.
"Comfort and support is usually created with cushioning," Marquez says. "We consider any sofa with a cushion density of 2.4 or higher to have the optimal, higher life span."
While high-density foam is firmer and holds its shape longer, down provides a cushiony experience. The down requires some fluffing, which can be a negative. "A good combination in ... sofas is high-density foam with feather or down wrapping," Robbins says.
Seat cushions affect how a sofa looks and feels and are one of the major price variants. Many sofas come with the option to upgrade cushions. "Some inexpensive cushion cores break down fast and make your sofa look worn," Mutter says.
Leather, while expensive, remains one of the longest-lasting materials used in furniture. As far as non-leather options go, "linen and slipcover sofas are very popular right now," Mutter says.
"I'm a firm believer that in almost all cases you pay for what you get," Marquez says. "A sofa can be the centerpiece of your home, and investing in a quality sofa can bring many years of enjoyment."