Give some thought to your personal seating needs. To help determine what best serves your lifestyle, think through the following questions.
Be honest with yourself about how you’ll sit on the sofa. In retail stores, we’ve seen shoppers sitting like they’re upright mannequins, which is likely not the way they would sit or lie on them at home. If you tend to slouch, a daybed or sectional with a chaise will prove more comfortable and won’t disfigure cushions (over time, slouching presses the front of seat cushions outward). If you’re a couch napper, avoid sofas with multiple seat cushions, because they’re prone to buckling and dipping. If you prefer to sit upright while reading, knitting, or using a mobile device, the more tailored, firmer structure of a mid-century-modern–style sofa or one with an upright back will feel more comfortable.
How many people will sit on the sofa?
Consider how many people will regularly sit on the sofa, as well as how they prefer to sit. Larger families or households that regularly host guests may be drawn to a sectional. But two smaller sofas, or a pair of loveseats, can offer the same amount of seating, or more, while being more flexible.
Who will use this sofa, and what are their needs?
If you have specific physical seating needs or preferences, such as a high seat height, firmer cushions, or more back support, you are probably already shopping with those specs in mind. But if you frequently host people with physical needs that are different than yours—such as a family member with arthritis or a friend who uses a wheelchair, or you’re dating a super-tall member of the WNBA—you may want to take their comfort into account, too. Some accessibility rules of thumb—a short seat height can be taxing on arthritic knees, and a shallow seat depth can be uncomfortable for people of above-average height—can help. But when in doubt, ask.
Do you have kids or pets, or host wild parties?
Never underestimate a dog’s, cat’s, child’s, or party guest’s ability to destroy your furniture. Microfiber and leather upholstered sofas are the easiest to clean and maintain. And because both are smoother, they’re less likely to be scratched into remnants by a pet’s claws. Otherwise, stick with upholstery fabrics with high stain protection and a higher rub count. (Room & Board has a great guide to pet- and family-friendly fabrics.) For an added layer of protection, you may also want to consider a sofa with a slipcover or upholstery that you can remove and launder. Unattached seat and back cushions will be easier to clean.
If your kids jump on the sofa, stick with a frame that has sinuous springs or poly-webbing supports, rather than one with more-delicate hand-tied springs. For families with young kids, avoid down-filled cushions, because little feet will likely deform the malleable filling every day. It’s also a good idea to avoid decorative detailing, like tufting buttons or frilly trim; for some kids, pulling and picking at these will prove irresistible.
Do your floors scratch easily?
If you have delicate wood floors, carefully consider the legs of your sofa. From experience, we know that hairpin legs can scrape wood floors. As a last resort, a well-placed area rug can keep sofa feet from damaging a floor.