How to Buy the Best Sofa for Your Lifestyle

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on May 26, 2020

Sofas are a central furniture feature in our homes—it’s where life unfolds. Unwinding with the family, hosting guests, enjoying movie nights or game time, or kickin’ it with cocktails and conversations all happen on the couch. But sofa buying itself? That can be more than a little daunting. 

Start with the way you live. “Your lifestyle should dictate your functional needs, and then style preferences and space realities will guide the form,” says Havenly Creative & Design Lead Heather Goerzen. “Good design involves both.”

So how do you pick the best sofa for your home? Heather shares her designer tips on what to look for when selecting the perfect one. 

Make sure the sofa fits your space as well as your lifestyle. “If you have a massive living room or office entry, you don’t want a sofa for ants—and if you have a smaller space, the last thing you’ll want is something that dwarfs the room and other furniture in comparison,” says Heather. 

Look for balance in the space. If you have other seating in the room, take that into account, as well. You’ll want enough seating for everyone in your household to plop down on, but still space to move about the family room freely.

L-shapes, sectionals, love seats, curved couches… sofas come in a wide range of shapes. When selecting yours, look for what bests suits your style. “For a more modern look, think straight lines. More traditional or classic styles could consider rolled arms and tufted details,” says Heather. Looking for something braver? ”For those with a bold and eclectic style, think outside the box and with a curving, serpentine form.”

Don’t forget to consider the shape of the cushion and how it plays into the style of the sofa, and therefore the room. More modern and contemporary sofas have straight single cushion, or a double that meets in the middle. “Keeping the cushions to a minimum also keeps seams to a minimum, for a cleaner and more polished aesthetic.”

As a sofa is more of an investment piece, you won’t want to regret it within a few years. Because of this, we tend to recommend timeless hues and solids versus more flashy trend colors or very excessive patterns—though we applaud you if you opted for that vibrant floral Anthropologie sofa.

“Neutrals, soft grays, blacks, and camel leathers are always in style, and you should also be pretty safe with soft blues, navies, forest greens, and blush,” Heather says. If you’re looking for a bolder look or pops of color and pattern, weave it in by accenting with throw pillows. “Pillows are easier to edit over time to update your palette and prints.”

Both frame and fabric are critical to the durability of your sofa. As soas get a lot of use overtime, you’ll want something comfortable yet sturdy, and fabric that withstands your lifestyle. Nobody wants to all sink in toward the center of a saggy cushion! 

“We tend towards kiln-dried hardwood for frame quality. For fabrics, the tighter the weave the longer it will last—and of course a soft leather will age well,” Heather advises. “Wool, cotton, velvet, and linen also wear well over time.” 

For families with small, messy children or fluffy pets, we also recommend considering an indoor/outdoor Sunbrella fabric. Don’t scoff! These fabrics are for more than just patio furniture. They can look just as stylish indoors and still feel comfortable to the touch—not to mention they’re much easier to clean when spills and accidents happen.

Living room

Even though they are the design focal point of the room, for a sofa, comfort is still one of the predominant functional benefits. Lately we’re seeing an enduring trend of sofas featuring clean, stylish lines and forms, with soft and cozy cushions. “These sofas look laid-back yet sophisticated, relaxed and simultaneously refined, for that effortlessly styled space. Because they’re as comfortable as they are good-looking, we think these will be more timeless than trend,” Heather says.

When selecting yours, it’s best to give a sofa a “sit test” in person to experience the comfort level yourself, but know there are also several reputable online sofa brands with great reviews as well. 

Getting ready for your sofa buying adventure? Start with the Havenly style quiz.

Words by Avery Johnson