"How To" Series: Selecting A Sofa

Let's get this week started, shall we?!  Wow.  Spring is zooming along.  I have a lot on my to do list this week with design plans, sourcing various furniture pieces, finishing up our front yard project (pictures will be forthcoming very soon, I promise), and getting ready for my Easter lunch.  I say all this to let you know posting on the blog will be very light this week!  But today's topic has been on my blog bucket list for over a year.  When the same comment or question continues to pop up in design consults, it goes on my bucket list of things to talk about on the blog.  This one has come up so many times I've lost count.   The conversation goes like this.
Me:  OK, so what do you like about the room?  
Client: Well, definitely NOT that sofa.  That thing cost me a fortune, and we all hate it.  
Me: What don't you like about it? 
Client: Well, I don't really know.  I loved it in the showroom, and it's comfortable to sit on.  I even made my entire family go into the store to sit on it before we bought it.  But the minute they delivered it, I hated it.  It was all wrong for the room.  The last thing my husband said to me as he was leaving today was tell her to find us another sofa.  So, we want you to source us a different one.  

While selecting a sofa may seem easy enough, there are quite a few elements to think about during the process.  So, here are the factors I consider when sourcing a sofa for a client.  I'm also including some eye candy of incredible sofas in amazing rooms to enjoy along the way.

Think Scale 
A showroom is so much larger than you think it is when you're there.  A sofa that seems perfect in size, will grow when you put it in a smaller room!  If you like the layout of your current room, I always recommend measuring your current sofa.  This will give you a idea on the proper scale.  If you do not love the layout, then it's super important to figure this out before purchasing a sofa.  By creating a plan for your layout, you will be able to get a better idea of the size sofa the space will accommodate.  

Comfort Matters
You must sit on it before buying it (and make your hubby sit on it too)!  Think about your lounging habits when you are selecting a sofa.
Does your husband like to take a nap on the sofa on the weekends?  If so, how tall is he?  If you have the overall scale the sofa needs to be for the room and your husband's height, then make sure the sofa checks both boxes.  There are a number of arm styles than give you more square footage of seating on the sofa than others.  Ask questions about this to make sure you are getting the most seating for your overall scale!

Arm Style Can Take You There
If you love the style of the other pieces in the room, then use those as your direction when selecting the style of the sofa.  If the room is traditional, then go with a traditional arm style.  If the room is formal think about a more formal arm style.  For example and english rolled arm looks great in a traditional more formal space.

But what if you don't love the style of your current room?  Many clients I work with are craving a more modern feel in their traditional styled room.  If I select a very modern arm (like a track arm), the other pieces in the room will feel very out of place.  

The trick is to select an arm style that works with both modern and traditional pieces.  So, as the client's budget allows, the other pieces in the space can be replaced with more modern examples.

To Skirt or Not to Skirt
Dorothy Draper once said a room full of leggy chairs is a nervous room!  When determining whether to select a sofa with a skirt, I like to consider the other pieces in the space.  Are any of them skirted?  If not, then skirting the sofa will add some nice contrast to the other pieces.   I also opt for a skirt when there is no rug as this will add softness and fabric to the space.
Barbara Barry

Count the Cushions
Lots of people have a very strong opinion about the number of seat cushions on a sofa.  I get asked a lot what is the right number of cushions and what is the current style.  The true is, anything goes.

 I've seen beautiful rooms with one, two and even three seat cushions on the sofa.  I recommend focusing on the other factors and let this one be dictated by the other elements the sofa truly needs to work in the space.   

Fabric Selection
Once you decided on the perfect sofa, then you have to select the perfect fabric.  Not all fabrics are created equal when it comes to durability, hiding dirt and feeling good to the touch.

Think about what is truly the most important for how you live and focus on that when selecting a fabric.  If you have small children and you know they are going to be eating in your family room, consider a tight slipcover that can be removed and washed.  You have two large white dogs that tend to shed, do not select a dark navy velvet!  Take your lifestyle into consideration when picking the fabric.

I like to select a neutral as it will take you much farther than a wild pattern and since this is a piece of furniture most clients plan on keeping for awhile, it does not need to be trendy.

Have a great week.  M.


  1. Lovely images in this post! Check out my blog http://www.twist-the-trend.blogspot.co.uk/

  2. Great advice! I think the fabric choice can be key.



Thank you for thoughts on my post! M.