How to Choose a Sofa

Here's how to recognize the right sofa for your needs.

By Jan Soults Walker

When it comes to picking a sofa, use this handy list of considerations to help you narrow down the choices more quickly and bring home the best one for you.

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Gideon Mendelson

Style and Comfort

Peg down the look you want and shop from the ease of your own home by perusing HomePortfolio for inspirational sofa photos and product lines. Once you have an idea of what you like, hit the stores—but don't make a decision based on looks alone. Sit or recline on your favorites and relax a spell to test for comfort and fit. A sofa may please the eye, but you need to be able to rest comfortably on it, too.

Frame Options

Costantini Design
You'll want your new sofa frame to hold up to lots of daily use. Here's what to look for:
  • Wood type. Look for kiln-dried hardwoods, such as maple, gum, ash, and birch. Avoid frames constructed of softwoods (fir, pine, poplar) and particleboard.
  • Joinery. Look for tight dovetail or mortise-and-tenon joints. Avoid butt joints that are glued and screwed.
  • Heft. Does the sofa feel substantial, sturdy, and steady? If it rattles, sags, or feels flimsy, give it a thumbs-down.
  • Coils. To ensure optimum support and longevity, look for steel, spring-style coils in the foundation—preferably hand-tied to more than four adjacent coils.

Seats and Cushions

The degree of firmness for seats and cushions is a personal choice. You may prefer sink-in soft or something more supportive. You'll find a variety of seat and cushion construction options ranging from springs or foam in the middle—and all typically wrapped with batting and fabric. A layer of foam adds more comfort to spring-style cushions. As a rule of thumb, cushions with a zip-on cover are higher quality. Lower-quality cushions have a sewn-on cover and may be filled with shredded foam.


Consider the use your sofa will receive and select durable, upholstery-weight fabric accordingly. Find out if the fabric has been treated for stain-resistance and what the warranty covers and for how long. Check that patterns align at the seams and be aware of the tightness of the fabric weave. Watch out for threads that extend for long stretches across the top of the top of the weave because these can snag easily and aren't typically long-wearing. Instead, a tight, interwoven weave can extend the life of the upholstery.

If you're unsure about fabric upholstery, consider leather. It is a timeless sofa covering, relatively easy to clean, and can wear well.

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