Havenly Head Designer Shelby Girard is decorating her new home in her favorite style: Black and white glam! In part 3, watch Shelby’s black and white home design come together as she faces the toughest design question: How to choose a sofa.

At this point, I’ve gathered my black and white home inspiration and started the design process with concepts. When it came time to start decorating our new home, the first item I looked for was a sofa.  It’s one of the pieces in the home that gets the most use, it is the biggest financial commitment and it can set the tone for the entire space. While I often look to art, lighting or rugs to make a statement or add interest, the sofa is the foundation of the living room and the jumping off point to a great design.

How to choose a sofa, the right sofa, isn’t a simple formula. Although there are a lot of considerations to make in terms of materials, construction and size (which we’ve detailed in our sofa buying guide here), what it really comes down to for a lot of us is… what does it look like? I think it’s one of the toughest parts of designing a living room, and I had the task of making this big decision twice, for both living areas in my home.

After looking at sofas from a variety of retailers (like, ALL of them), I narrowed my search down to one of our favorite upholstery retailers, Interior Define. They hit all of the checkboxes on my list of sofa must-haves, detailed below.

How To Choose A Sofa

1. Form and Function:

A sofa should (almost) always combine form and function. When wondering how to choose a sofa, start with what is important to you in terms of form and function. My priorities were a sofa that is comfortable enough to use daily, while still elegant and design forward. There’s no way you’ll find me with a sloppy-cushioned recliner anywhere near my house.

Fortunately, Interior Define’s sofas embody the combination of high design and ultimate comfort. A lot of their styles are very modern, a direction I wanted to take for our sitting room, but I wanted something a bit more classic and unique for the main living room. Enter the maxwell.


Isn’t he dreamy?! I’ve been eyeing the maxwell silhouette for some time, and think it works perfectly alongside my “Parisian modern” aesthetic. It’s tailored and contemporary, but the spindle legs and rolled arms add just the touch of old world charm my living room needs. It also happens to be super deep with plush cushions, checking my boxes for both form and function.


For my secondary living room (what I’m calling my sitting room), I knew I wanted to use an existing faux cowhide and a spoon-back chair I already own. These existing pieces have curvy silhouettes, so I wanted to choose a sofa that is streamlined and more modern to juxtapose those softer edges. I decided on the Gray, whose boxy form is extremely simple, yet still comfortable and welcoming (I especially love the wide arms).


2. Quality & Affordability

When thinking about how to choose a sofa for yourself and how much of your budget to spend on it, I suggest thinking about quality vs. affordability. After owning a low-budget sofa that pilled, lost it’s shape and discolored, I promised myself that I would wait until I could invest in a higher quality piece for my next sofa purchase. There are certain items in the home that don’t get heavy use, like lamps and side tables, that are okay to spend less on, but I never recommend getting the cheapest sofa on the market. So although the maxwell and gray aren’t the least expensive sofas out there, they are a great bang for your buck in relation to the quality provided.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Interior Define showroom in Chicago to test out some sofas in person, and was pleased with how well the cushions seem to hold their shape. And although I didn’t see the maxwell in person, the 360 degree views of products on the Interior Define site (and their 365 day return policy!) provided me the confidence I needed to pull the trigger. They were large investments, but both met my quality vs. affordability test.

3. Customization

Choosing a sofa and pulling the trigger on the purchase is a lot easier if you find the perfect fit. However, in order to get the perfectly-sized sofa in the perfect fabric for your space and lifestyle, we often need to look at custom options. Many retailers will only have one neutral fabric in a standard size as a ready-made, quick-ship option, but sofas aren’t one-size-fits-all. If you are willing to wait a few more weeks for your sofa to arrive, a little customization can go a long way.

Interior Define offers multiple lengths, colors and fabrics for their sofas. I went back and forth a lot on fabrics and colors (who knew there were so many different tones of black and ivory?), and ordered some samples before ultimately making a decision. While I was set on the turned wood legs of the Maxwell sofa, there are a range of leg options offered on many of Interior Define’s other upholstered items, including brass legs. As you can probably tell from my other room concepts from my previous post, I adore brass and gold accents. You can see an example of these on a more modern silhouette in this colorful living room for our client Faye, designed by Havenly designer Kylee T.


With my sofa decision made, I felt ready to start sourcing the smaller items that will make my home feel personal and complete. Stay tuned as I detail my decision making process (and go-to vendors) for other major purchasing decisions like art and window treatments!

Looking for help with your own home design? Check out our online interior designers and start working on your own interior design project!

One comment


I, too, have been attracted to the maxwell, and a few others similar. I am bothered, however, by the disjointed 3/2 combination (back/seat cushions). If someone actually sits in the middle, as invited by the back cushions, that person is sitting on the juncture of the seat cushions. It bothers me. The only solution for the look, however, that I can see is to go to one long seat cushion with the three backs. Two and two gives an entirely different look. Is there anything as describe?

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