How to Buy a Sofa

By: Colette Robicheau

Before you set out to buy your new sofa, decide on the style. Go online and do some research by visiting furniture store websites. This will help you get an idea of what you’d like and what is in style. Availability isn’t an issue at this point; it will just help point you in the right direction.

Take a look at the space where the sofa will go and determine the size that is right for the space. Measure you existing sofa—including length, spread of arms, height at the highest back, and width of the seating area. Do you have room for a large puffy sofa or do you only have room for a small scale love seat? When you find a sofa you like, measure it and use painter’s tape to block out the size on your floor at home. Check to see if all traffic ways still work and if it doesn’t overpower the room or seem too small.
Think of the function. How many people will use the sofa? How often will it be used? Are children going to be using the sofa? Consider if a hide-a-bed or futon is suitable for your lifestyle. Also remember that it is easier and cheaper to paint the room than it is to buy a new sofa or to have it reupholstered. Select a pattern or color that will stay current for the life of the sofa and will suit any décor. Trends are fun but never last that long, so think long-term when buying a large piece of furniture. You can add in accessories and pillows that easily change, to give a splash of color and update more regularly than getting a new sofa.
When you are ready to start shopping for your new sofa, keep these factors in mind:
1. The frame of the sofa should be strong. Try to find a frame that is made from kiln-dried hardwood, such as, oak, maple, birch, or alder. High quality hardwood, plywood, or marine plywood is also a durable substitute. The corners of the sofa should also be reinforced with wooden blocks, which are blocks glued to the frame at various stress points to add strength.

2. When choosing your sofa ask about the springs. The more springs there are, the cushier the sofa. This comes with a cost but it also means quality and durability. Also, ask if the springs are hand tied or machine tied—hand tied are stronger and tend to stay in place better. Make sure the back of the sofa has springs as well.

3. The next step is the filling. Look for a filling such as foam, cotton, polyester, down, fibre, or a combination of these, which will be the most comfortable; the denser the filling, the more comfortable the sofa. Better quality foam will have a density rating of 1.8 to 2.5, which will be something you will have to ask the sales person.

4. Choose the upholstery that suits your family’s needs the best. This is where you need to think of who will be using it. If you have young children, grandchildren or pets, you need a fabric that will stand up to the wear and tear of everyday life. Linen, cotton, wool, and silk are popular natural upholstery options. Leather is the most durable and easy to maintain. However, new synthetic materials are also great choices; they are durable and stain resistant. Also, avoid sofas that use staples to attach fabric, as they will loosen or even rip over time—hot glue is a better choice.

5. Finally, sit and lie on the sofa and make sure it is comfortable. When you test the sofa make sure you take your shoes and coat off—you will not be wearing these when you are at home. Make sure the sofa is not too narrow or short to lie down on, and proportioned to your body.

6. Some shopping tips: Wear comfortable shoes that you can easily slip off to test out the sofas. Bring a notebook, measuring tape, and digital camera. You can have a salesperson write down the details of the sofa you like on his or her business card. Remember to ask about their delivery and return policies.
Remember, you will most likely be living with your sofa for the next ten years, so follow these guidelines, choose wisely, and enjoy it.

Permission to reuse or redistribute these materials is hereby granted provided they are reproduced or redistributed in their entirety with full attribution. (c) 2008 Colette Robicheau

Colette Robicheau, President of Organize Anything, is a consultant, coach, and public speaker offering corporate, residential, and personal organizing services. For more information contact Colette Robicheau, Organizing Consultant and Coach visit her website, email, or read her blog at

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About the Author: Colette Robicheau, President of Organize Anything, is a consultant and coach with an extensive background in professional organizing, project management and business development. Formally educated in the field of public relations with talents in creative services and event organization, she now directs her abilities and organizing skills to offer corporate, residential and personal organizing services. She has an attraction to the aesthetics of art and design and her management consulting and entrepreneurial spirit have given her a no-nonsense approach to project completion with the ability to deliver on budget and on schedule.