Tufted sofa in green with gold accent, how to choose a sofa

HELP, I NEED A SOFA! 4 Things everyone should know when looking for the perfect sofa.

(Picture via Tempo da delicadeza)

Whenever the subject of choosing a sofa enters the realms of our home, my husband reminds me of a former colleague who said that he wants a blind man to test and recommend his sofa – someone whose opinion will not be tainted by a thing as frivolous as looks.

Well, at the risk of ending up with a bacon, comfortable and all, please don’t go that far.

Bacon couch

Bacon couch

Choosing a sofa is difficult. And it’s hard because it’s one of those items that you don’t replace very often. You know you’re going to sit on with it for a looooong time. It’s a commitment, you’re going to marry this sofa. So make your choice well.

And let me tell you another thing – there’s no easy way to get rid of a couch.

The great Designer Robert Couturier said “Sofas so often end up looking like beached whales”. And the man is right. I cannot tell you how many rooms I walk into where the sofa looks like someone’s just put a fist into an oversized ball of bread dough!

Dough couch

Dough couch

OK, enough of this nonsense. I cannot believe we fill the world with nonsense like this. Let’s get to the beautiful stuff.


Right now I’m going to give you the crucial basics everyone should know about sofas.


1. The style


Ah, the big question. There are so many options with variations in all directions – where do you start? And that’s exactly why we’ll tackle this question first.

It’s really quite simple.

Since your sofa is going to be with you for a while, you want to choose something timeless that will stand the test of time. A classic. A well proportioned sofa with classical lines is like a Grande Dame – she draws just enough attention, she knows how to mingle with other styles, flirts a bit with the opposite – and is always able to pull it off quite gracefully.

Do you know your style? To make it easy for you, we’ll pin it down to three basic classic styles.

I promise you, you cannot go wrong with any of these.


The Bridgewater / English sofa

This is a big time classic, and super elegant. Just look at those lines. It mostly has a tight back and loose seat cushions. The arm is low and rolled – and at perfect height to lay your tired head on for an afternoon nap – uh, such luxury!

English cream sofa in traditional setting with large throw cushions and pale grey walls

A classic English sofa with large throw cushions in an elegant room


English sofa in contemporary living room with blue chairs and yellow ottoman

Another English sofa in a contemporary living room with blue and yellow accents


The Tuxedo / St Thomas

This boxy number simply does it for me. The arms are at the same height as the back and low enough to stand comfortably in the middle of the room or along a wall. It’s deep and elegant and truly goes with EVERYTHING.

Tuxedo boxed sofa in deep blue velvet with midcentury modern chairs and fantastic gallery wall

This Tuxedo sofa in deep blue velvet is simply perfect against the fantastic gallery wall in this mixed contemporary room


Pale cream white tuxedo sofa with tufted wingback in chick traditional setting with chandelier

An elegant Tuxedo sofa in linen with a tufted wingback in a chic setting


The Lawson 

This sofa was designed with comfort in mind. It has puffy back and seat cushions. It beckons you closer – and then never let you go.

Lawson sofa comfortable with green and pale yellow throw cushions and contemporary side chairs

This Lawson sofa sits comfortable next to a pair of contemporary side chairs


Lawson sofa with plump back and seat cushions in pale white slipcovers and pale orange accents

A pair of Lawson sofas with plump back and seat cushions in pale white slipcovers


Choose any one of these classical styles you can rest assure that you won’t be shopping again for a sofa soon.

OK, I should throw in the epic Chesterfield too, but I assume you all know that legend and I did’t even have to mention it. Such a gentleman, that one. Bringing a Chesterfield home is like having a piece of history right in your lounge.

Now that you can pick your style from the rest, let’s go the next question.


If you’re not the type to fluff and puff cushions all day long, get something with a tight back – tuxedo or tight back English – especially if you have children who will ram it down all the time.

Do you like to curl up with everyone and the dog and spend hours on end watching Netflix?

Then you need a deep sofa – which brings us to the next point.


2. The size

If you want to get really comfortable curling up on your sofa, make sure it is deep enough, 40” /1m. And if you are also going to be stretching out to take a nap, then you obviously want the length to be there too, at about 90” /2.3m.

However, if you do not ever curl up on your sofa and like to sit with your feet firmly on the floor, then you shouldn’t go for a deep sofa – unless you’re OK with an armada of cushions to prop you up.

Now with all that in mind, your sofa must fit into your room. Obvious, I know, but you’ll be surprised how many people get this wrong.

Look at the proportions of the room. Large room = large sofa, small room = small sofa. Make sense?

Small living room with small sofa and yellow and pale grey throw cushions and walls

Like in this small living room with the small, tight sofa. So well proportioned


To safe you time, money and a huge headache. MEASURE!

Measure, measure, measure

Here’s an easy way to do the layout for your room: Measure your room, get a piece of squared paper and draw it out – 1 square block = one square foot. Cut out rectangles to represent your furniture pieces, and start playing around with your ‘furniture’ on paper until you have a layout that works. Start with a large sofa, say 40”/1m x 96”/2.4m and fold the paper smaller until it’s a perfect fit. It’s great fun, try it.

floor plan and furniture layout sketched

Furniture layout

Your room also has height. So if the ceiling is low, a sofa with a low back works better – it maximises the distance between furniture and ceiling and give you the illusion of height.


Pale blue sofa with gold accents and yellow cushions ainst blue wall and high ceiling

Just look at the proportions in this room – the deep sofa picks up the gold and blue accents of the artwork and brings balance to the room with its very high ceiling


A sofa is a large piece of furniture. It can easily be dominating. To prevent it from being a bully in the room, keep the back low and tailored.

This is true for any sofa, but it is especially true for a sectional sofa. Sectionals are super inviting and perfect for the whole family to jump right in. But they are large, so keep the profile low and in proportion.


Sectional sofa with comfortable back cushions in large casual living room with floor lamps and ottoman table

This casual sectional sofa with low back fits perfectly in this large living room

O, one very important thing – make sure your sofa will fit through your door, around tight corridor corners, up the stairs, or in the elevator. Do you have any idea how mortifying it is when your new sofa arrive and you cannot get it in the room? It has happened to the best of us!


3. The bones

Now that you’ve narrowed down your style, you’ve got your size, and you’re ready to test-drive a few sofas. When you find something comfortable, check the foam. You must ask the question – premium or standard foam?

Here’s the thing, and this is why the blind-man test is a bad idea.

Standard foam is softer and will be more comfortable INITIALLY. It is also much cheaper. So you might find a comfortable sofa with a low price tag, and think you’ve got yourself a nice little bargain. But do not be fooled, my friend, it’s a trick! It will lose its shape and you’ll be sitting on the frame in about 1.5 hours.

You see, that’s exactly where all the beached whales are coming from.

Floppy sofa in charcoal velvet fabric sparse interior with white walls and working well with contrasting thin legged furniture

Now here’s a floppy sofa that works rather well in this streamline space with white walls and contrasting thin-legged furniture


4. The color

Hmm, so much that I want to say here, but from where I’m sitting it’s tricky so I’ll just stick to a few basics. A solid is always more versatile – in a neutral or an actual color. Keep the flowers and stripes for smaller items.

It would be nice to have a pale white sofa – but not if you have children or pets, or live like a slob.

Of course you can re-upholster at any point, but it is not necessarily a cheap exercise.

Classical chesterfield sofa in peacock blue with delicate side table and contemporary coffee table in living room with fireplace

How beautiful is this peacock blue Chesterfield


My small list of what NOT to do:

Don’t –

– buy anything with hulking arms
– go for cheap, the foam and stuffing will be flat in 6 months
– buy a set, of anything. Not ever. And if it has matching throw cushions, walk a wide curve around it. Whoever is still manufacturing those should be locked in a room and forced to eat it.
– go for a chocolate brown leather couch, no – unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

Tan leather sofa with tufted back in Erin Hiemstra’s mid-century living room with black and washed stone

However, the simple lines of this tan leather sofa is just too stylish for words


Hope you feel better about choosing your sofa.

If you want to make the right choices form the start AND love your space, contact me for an online or in-person consultation.

Right now I’m going to test my own sofa to see if it’s actually long enough to stretch out on.

If you enjoyed this article or found something interesting, share it with someone.


Before I go, I’m curious…

What’s your take on sofas, what’s important to you in a sofa?

If you look at your living room right now, what’s the biggest thing that’s irritating you right now?

Let me know, or leave a comment below.


You might also like this:

Do you know your style?

How to arrange your furniture when you have a TV and fireplace in the same space.

Wait, here’s another image of a lovely sofa.

English sofa in cream with love seat and rusty brown throw cushions and accents in blue

What a pleasant setting with this timeless English sofa and small love seat with rusty brown and blue accents


Now my couch is really calling…

interior design information

what everyone should know when looking for the perfect sofa


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  1. That’s a good point that a cheaper sofa will not last as long. I like the idea of getting a couch that I could use all the time without having it wear down, or break. I’ll have to make sure I choose a high-quality sofa if I decide to get a new one.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Tyler, you are so right – when it comes to any upholstered furniture, get the best you can afford. A simple test of quality of foam is to press with your thumb on the edges of the arm. If you can feel the hardness of the wood underneath, don’t buy.

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