How to Pick the Perfect Sofa for Your Living Room

By January 15, 2018Furniture Arrangement

Buying a sofa is kind of like buying sheets, only bigger and more expensive. You want the right size and feel, and a good look that coordinates with the rest of the room. But with a sofa, you’ve also got to think of dimensions, room flow and other important details that contribute to a decision. Here are some tips to keep in mind before test-driving any models.

1. Measure your entryway.

If the sofa doesn’t fit through the door, you’ve got a problem. “Many standard entryway openings are thirty-six inches wide,” says interior designer Nicole S. O’Dwyer, of NS Designs, in northeastern Pennsylvania, “but some sofas are wider than that, like those with a wedge corner.” What to do if your sofa’s too big? If your front door is too narrow, look for another point of entry that’s wider or speak with the store’s sales rep to see if it can be unassembled.

2. Measure the size of the room the sofa will go in.

“The best advice when making changes to a home’s interior is to measure twice, buy once!” O’Dwyer says. It’s key to measure the overall length and width of the room, any existing accent tables, and any area rugs. With this information, you can put together a simple floor plan, she says. “Aim to have at least three feet of walking space between larger pieces of furniture, such as a couch and recliner, to allow for a natural flow.”

3. Don’t pick a sofa that’s dwarfed by the coffee table.

For a balanced aesthetic, your sofa must be longer than your coffee table. A basic rule of thumb: The table should be approximately two-thirds the length of the sofa. Consider the height of the coffee table as well. “The sofa should be slightly taller – approximately two to four inches – to ensure a properly proportioned seating area,” O’Dwyer says. If you’re getting into the ottoman-as-coffee-table trend, she suggests getting one that’s about 14 inches high that can accommodate a serving tray and function as a coffee table, if needed.

4. Leave enough room to walk around.

There should be 15 to 18 inches between the sofa and coffee table, which allows for comfortable legroom but is close enough to let you set down your drink.

5. Plot out the room with tape before buying the sofa.

Make sure everything fits before making a purchase. Outline the potential dimensions with painter’s tape or use grid paper to sketch the room in 1⁄4” scale, then cut out furniture in the same scale to place and move around in your room sketch. Consider the other furniture you currently have and any architectural details in the room like windows, doors, a fireplace and staircase to determine where the sofa will go best.

6. Look at sofas in styles that accommodate the size of your room.

Midcentury modern styles have thinner profiles, arms and cushions, which means they are more compact and better suited for smaller living rooms or apartments, O’Dwyer says. If you’ve got a larger space, traditional sofas with rounded curved arms and more upholstery details will fill in the space nicely.


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