How to shop for a sofa:
Sofas are generally the largest and highest-ticket price in seating so decide up front:
How long you want it the sofa last?
This is key when looking at that price tag.
Heirloom $995 to $1,500 and up
Do you want to be able to reupholster the sofa at some future time? If so, then expect to pay more. A good well-made sofa that can be reupholstered must have a real wood frame versus composite fiberboard and should have fitted joints (or screwed and pinned) versus simply glued. Otherwise when stripped to the bare frame the frame itself will not be usable or so weak it’s not worth reupholstering because it won’t hold the new fabric nails and staples.
Average Term: $599 if your lucky up to $899
Do you want a sofa that will take normal ware and tear for about three to five years and when it’s shot, out it goes?
If so, then you should be able to find a variety of basic sofas in stock fabrics.
Short Term: $295 to $499.
These sofas are basically disposable in about 2-3 years or are rarely used, for occasional use, or primarily decorative affect.
Do you really want (or have the space for) a full sofa?
Don’t automatically default to “needing” a sofa because everyone has one. In smaller spaces often two separate upholstered chairs are a better solution. They can be placed side-by-side in pairs or fours, in conversational clusters. They are more portable so can be continually repositioned or separated and placed in different rooms as your life evolves. More importantly, each person gets his or her own space without having to awkward-share.
Be gut honest in terms of your real lifestyle!
How many people are you realistically looking to accommodate?
As we reinvent our lives, we need to tell ourselves the whole truth. How has our lifestyle changed or how do we want it to change? Don't try to duplicate the old unfocused life and try to cram it into smaller square footage. It's ok to admit that you want to edit people too. Just because your had history with them doesn't mean you'll continue to make history with them. (see my experience at the top of the Essentials page
So What's the REAL butt count? Then do the inches math
Q: How many people can fit on an average sized sofa? A: Comfortably, two.
Q: How many people can fit on a loveseat? A: Comfortably, one.
So you’re much better with an upholstered club chair instead.
Fashion, fabrics and doodads: The short answer is “keep it simple stupid.”
A sofa that will survive trend, fashion, fad or lifestyle change needs to be kept more solid texture-driven. It’s Layer Number three in my Seven Layers Of Design. You can’t go wrong with solid color. Think of your sofa as a “background.”
In terms of fashion think of it as the classic suite you’ll ware over and over again. You change the basic suite by accessorizing right? The scarf, blouse, jewelry can make the one suite look completely different and therefore versatile enough to justify the cost. Right? Well, it’s the same with the sofa. A throw pillow vibrating with pattern can always be added, for punch, to the classic background. But when your taste changes or the fad is over, tossing a pillow is far less damaging then an entire sofa.
Fringes, skirts, upholstered buttons and even studding need to be chosen wisely. They add to the cost and the visual pattern of the overall room so a word to the wise.
Skirt or no skirt:
Personally, no skirt is my preference. Unless you really need extra stash space for other stuff it’s just another element to rip or stain, adds more to the fabric yardage and often visually earmarks a sofa as ‘overdone’. Besides, in small spaces, an open bases offers a visual lift and the impression that the sofa is taking up less space than it actually is.
Always ask yourself if you’d like it in ten years? Also ask, "is there anything on this that will prevent me from moving into any other room later? " If so, then STOP! Lol.
Shape and comfort:
While one can get away with a narrow, hard arm on a chair, on a sofa it’s just uncomfortable and “the snuggle” factor is lost. I prefer a rolled upholstered arm at neck height. I say neck because when you stretch out on a sofa your head should be comfortable resting on the arm. So about two-bed pillows high…max! Besides in a party setting, it provides two more places for guests to casually lean (even sit) for a short conversation.
As for shape, don’t go too deep with the seat cushions or people will drown in fabric or be constantly forcing themselves to sit on the edge in order not to slouch. The best fill for a cushion if you can afford it is foam wrapped with down. The softness is there along with better support. Plus the cushion with keep its shape better with a bit of memory foam added, and won’t always look like a sack of potatoes.
Do as you please, but I will say the more square-ish your sofa the more versatile it is, especially the back. If a back is too slanted then adding a sofa table with say, lamps, can look visually awkward. --So the straighter the better.
The back should only be as tall as to provide good comfort. Too tall and the back prevents people from seeing and talking to each other comfortably, with just a turn of the head. Too low a back, and your better with no back at all, as with a backless settee. They are great for linking two furniture groupings together since they remain visually open and people can sit on both sides. It’s what I call a cross-linking devise.
Review The Seven Layers so you know more about furniture placement.
A note on Leather:
It’s expensive and can easily overpower small spaces looking like a big black hole. Also women in skirts tell me, “Not so much.” Leather has a slip-and-slide factor and can stick to bare legs. Just say’n. Leather throw pillows can offer the same look.
Note on COLOR:
While tan, sage and canvas are always safe bets. Remember as long as you keep your sofa fabric pattern free, neutral doesn’t mean beige.
Just think, would I buy a basic suite in that color? If not, then there’s your answer.