Sofa Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Finding Your *Forever* Sofa

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on March 20, 2024

Sofas are a central feature in our homes — they’re where life unfolds. Unwinding with family, hosting guests, enjoying movie or game nights, or lounging with cocktails and conversation all happens on the couch. 

But actually finding, designing, and buying said sofa? That’s a bit more complicated. From style, color palette, and upholstery to configuration, layout, and unique customizations, there’s a lot to consider when buying for “forever” sofa, so to speak (read: not a budget Ikea buy). And given the price tag on a standard two to three-seater sofa (never mind sectionals, chaise sofas, and the like), it should be a somewhat thoughtful, intentional purchasing process. 

So how do you pick the best sofa for your home? Ahead, Havenly lead designer Heather Goerzen shares her six-step guide to buying your dream lounger. 

1. Take measurements

Sofa buying guide | how to buy a sofa

The English Roll Arm Sofa from The Inside

You can’t hope to find the perfect sofa without first measuring your space. Take the basic length, width, and height measurements, but also consider the overall size and scale of your space. Is it a large open floor plan? Do you have tall ceilings? Expansive spaces like this will require an even larger sofa and supplemental furniture pieces to feel complete. 

“If you have a massive living room or office entry, you don’t want a small loveseat, 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. Your ultimate goal is to strike a natural balance between furniture, textiles, and walkways in the room. If you have other seating in the room, take that into account as well. 

2. Consider your lifestyle

Sofa buying guide

The Tatum Sectional from Interior Define

Do you have kids? Pets? A large family? An egregious lack of storage space? A habit of spilling wine on the nearest piece of furniture? All of these lifestyle choices should factor into the sofa-buying process. “Your lifestyle should dictate your functional needs, and then style preferences and space realities will guide the form,”adds Heather. “Good design involves both.”

These lifestyle needs will help narrow down two important things: the brand you go with, and the upholstery you choose. A brand like Interior Define, for example, offers endless customization options so you can effectively design your own sofa tailored to your exact needs. Aside from choosing between a loveseat, 2-seater sofa, 3-seater sofa, chaise sectional, corner sectional, U-sectional, sleeper sofa, storage sofa, and more, you can then customize your upholstery, leg style, length, width, depth, cushion fill, and beyond.

3. Choose a style & configuration

Sofa buying guide

The Maxwell Sofa from Interior Define

L-shapes, sectionals, love seats, curved sofas… sofas come in a wide range of styles and configurations. The latter is predominantly based on room size and lifestyle needs, while the former is more of an aesthetic preference. 

“For a more modern look, think straight lines, modular features, and a boxier silhouette. More traditional or classic styles often feature rolled arms, tufted details, and intricate leg styles,” says Heather. ”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 overall style of the sofa, and therefore the room. More modern and contemporary sofas have straight bench cushion, or a double that meets in the middle. “Minimal cushions means minimal seams for an overall cleaner and more polished aesthetic.”

As for configuration, consider the number of people that will be using the couch on a day-to-day basis, as well as the purpose of the room. A TV room, basement, or den is better-suited to a lounge-worthy corner or U-sectional, while a more formal sitting room lends itself to a standard three-seater or love seat.

4. Order fabric swatches & test

Sofa buying guide

The James Sofa and Rowan Chairs from Interior Define

Once your swatches arrive, the real fun begins. Move them around your space and take note of how the colors play with your flooring, paint color, and any existing furniture or decor. Leave them in the same spot for an entire day to see how the natural light subtly changes each hue. “If you’re feeling brave, spill wine or coffee on each swatch and see how well each cleans up. Better yet, have your dog step on them for an IRL paw print test,” adds Heather.  “The more leg work you do up front, the more confident you’ll feel in your upholstery choice down the line.”

5. If possible, conduct a sit test

Sofa buying guide

The Tatum Sectional from Interior Define

Even though sofas are a natural focal point of a room, comfort is still paramount when selecting your forever couch. As mentioned above, being able to see and test out your chosen sofa in-person is ideal. If possible, head to a brick and mortar location and conduct an in-person “sit test” to experience the comfort level up close, but know there are also several reputable online sofa brands with great reviews as well. 

6. Place your order and enjoy!

Sofa buying guide | how to buy a sofa

The Modern Sofa from The Inside

Once you’re dead-set on your sofa size, configuration, style, and fabric, it’s time to *finally* place your order! Keep in mind that it may take weeks to months for large sofa to be delivered, especially if you add any custom features, like a hidden storage compartment or an extra-deep seat. Before delivery, measure your entryway and any vital hallways to ensure a smooth, damage-free arrival. Most importantly, enjoy your brand-new sofa for decades to come!

Want expert advice on your own space, straight from an interior designer? Get started today with our style quiz.

Words by Kelsey Clark