A guide to choosing a couch you’ll love.
A couch is one of the most important pieces of furniture in your home. Think about it. It’s where you spend time relaxing, napping and reading. It’s where you sprawl when you spend time with your family. It’s a centerpiece for informal and formal evenings with guests. From a design standpoint, it anchors the space that surrounds it. And from a practical standpoint, it’s where you spend most of your time sitting.
Here are some guidelines that will help you choose a couch that will last you for years.
Your lifestyle choices and decor preferences
Do you live alone in a small house? Do you have a big family? Do you have a small family with one toddler who has enough personality for six adults? These questions matter because sofas have different levels of formality and durability. You’ll need to take your own lifestyle into account when choosing one.
The space you have to work with
Before choosing a couch, familiarize yourself with the dimensions of your room. Some couches are larger than others obviously. If you have a small room, you’ll want a small couch. But hey, maybe you want the couch to dominate, in which case you’ll choose a large one, regardless of room size. Get a clear idea of proportions and speak to your couch/sofa seller before making a decision.
A couch isn’t something you’re going to get rid of in a year or two. You’ll want it to last. So pay attention to the quality of the frame. Kiln-dried hardwood is the most durable material for sofa frames. Make sure you examine the suspension as well – the coils or webbing that support the cushions. There’s a simple way to test the suspension – just run your hand over the seat under the cushions. The most comfortable type of support is wire coils that form an S-shape.
Upholstery options are endless and may bewilder you. But your choice needs to be determined by your lifestyle, primarily your maintenance requirements. A microfiber textile or outdoor fabric are the most durable but if you don’t have pets, children or clumsy partners, something more delicate or opulent is fine.
The different kinds of sofas
The modern loveseat is actually a smaller version of a sofa and often sold as an accompaniment with other types of couches. It’s a great choice for people who have smaller living spaces.
Sectional or modular
These couches are formed by combining smaller sofa units in different configurations and sizes. They’re a great option if you like moving your furniture around every now and then to give your room a new look. They also work well in compact spaces because they don’t need to be arranged linearly.
As you already know, futons are stylish seating options that can double up as beds when needed – perfect if you have an overnight guest but no guest room.
This design has been around forever. Some people call this a grandma sofa but don’t let that put you off. The silhouette works well in any room and for formal and informal settings. You’ll find that modern versions are upholstered in contemporary fabric and textiles and can hold their own with the latest decor trends.
Retro square arm
This is a great option if you want a clean, retro look. You can keep the legs visible for a vintage feel or cover them with modern slipcovers or skirtings if you want a more contemporary twist.
Hard wedge arm
These usually have a higher back and tapering, angled arms that reduce the feeling of heaviness a lot of sofas can give you. If you want seating that’s slightly more formal, this will be a great choice for you.
Rounded wedge arm
Similar to the hard wedge, but with a much softer vibe. They’re very stylish and extremely versatile – whether your taste is rustic, shabby chic, minimal or luxuriously opulent à la Elizabeth Taylor.
This classic design has seen a spike in popularity in recent years. The arms slope gently for greater comfort, giving the sofa a more ‘open’ look than one with uniformly high sides. Its level of formality will be determined by the upholstery you choose.
Belgian roll arm
Timeless, reminiscent of a by-gone era when people smoked cigarettes in tortoise-shell holders. They’re also extremely comfortable and whether formal or casual, they will always be elegant. Modern versions are usually upholstered in natural textiles with a neutral color palette – but feel free to explore more opulent upholstery.
English roll arm
Incredibly versatile. If you choose one with lithe legs or a hulking profile, you’ll get that mid-century feel. But recent styles are more casual, leaning towards the overstuffed and slouchy. This style is also really, really comfortable because of the loose cushions on the bottom.
You don’t have to love ultra-modern decor to love these modern sofas. Though they’re a great option for minimalists, the lack of arms makes for incredible diversity – evoking the luxury divans of the early 1900s, the Hollywood glamor of the 1950s or the artist lofts of the 1970s.
Instantly recognizable because of its silhouette, the arms and back of a tuxedo sofa are of the same height. If you’re looking for something tailored with clean, angular lines, this is a great couch to buy.
Iconic. And closely related to the tuxedo vis-a-vis arm and back proportion. But with one noticeable difference: Chesterfields have a deeply tufted back. The historical design is constantly being reinvented by modern designers so it’s worth exploring, no matter what your style preference is.
Very “in” at the moment, these sofas are great for minimalist or mid-century design schemes. They have exposed legs, a linear structure and are very versatile.
If you’re a slave to trends, this option probably isn’t for you. Which is a shame, really, because it’s actually pretty cool. Very feminine, with a touch of retro and extremely quirky when paired with bright upholstery.