A lot of your life happens on your sofa. It’s the place you perch as you catch up with friends over a glass of wine. Where you nestle in to read that best seller you’ve been dying to get your hands on. And, where you fall asleep waiting for your teen to get home safely from that first date.
It’s no wonder picking the sofa that’s right for you can be so fun … and so difficult. I’ve seen folks agonize over this decision more than any other interior design choice. To make it easier to pick a sofa you’ll love for years to come, I’ve pulled together this essential guide. (Just in time for our big upholstered furniture sale Jan. 15-Feb. 15, when all our upholstered furniture is 20% off — including sofas.)
A primer in sofa-speak …three definitions you should know
- Loose cushion – the cushions are separate from the back of the sofa (but you can also have a semi-attached cushion). These create a more casual look. A plus is the cushions can be removed and cleaned. If you want a less formal sofa that’s soft and comfy, this might be the right back for you.
- Tight – the back is all upholstery, with no cushions. I’m partial to this style because it creates a cleaner, more formal look and leaves you lots of room to toss in accent pillows.
- Pillow – the back is made up of several large, unattached pillows instead of a cushion. If you have young children, beware: the pillows may end up being used to make a fort on rainy days.
- Channel – in this variation of the tight back sofa, the back is made up of several panels.
- Curved – instead of the back and arms of the sofa being distinct pieces, in this style the back curves around to form a solid line with the arms.
- Camelback – the silhouette of the back is in an arch shape.
- Rolled – one of my favorites, rolled arms are common on more traditional sofas. The arm curves out and is lower, making it ideal for napping.
- Square – tailored and boxy, more contemporary.
- Tight – we’d all like to say we have a tight seat, right? On a sofa, this is a firmer, tailored seat that does not have loose cushions. Usually you find tight seats on settees or formal sofas.
- Bench – one of my favorites, a single cushion or bench seat has a clean, crisp appearance. Single cushion sofas can look squished in the center if you opt for all-down cushions. So I recommend down-wrapped foam or spring-down cushions.
- Cushion –this popular pick features two or three loose cushions that are not attached to the base. T-shaped cushions are those that wrap around the arm of the sofa.
- Exposed legs – most of the sofas we sell now have exposed legs. Sofa legs come in modern, straight lines, or more traditional turned legs. For a romantic look, add castors.
- Skirted – if you love a traditional look, you might want a sofa with a skirt. In the photo above, the skirt is done in a contrasting fabric. A note of caution: skirts show dirt. Shoe polish wears off on them, as do the body oils of pets who rest against the sofa.
Three things to consider when selecting your sofa
Apartment sofas are a great in-between size when a full-sized sofa is too big for your space, and a love seat is too small.
- Fit your body. Your sofa needs to fit your body, not the other way around. If you are a petite woman, your sofa should be smaller in scale. If you are a big lumber jack of a man, you’ll need a larger piece. If your sofa needs to fit lots of body types, add pillows and an ottoman to make those with short legs more comfortable.
- The right dimensions. Create harmony is your space by picking a sofa that is in proportion to the other furnishings in your room. It used to be, people would come to Nell Hill’s looking for a new sofa because they were tired of the fabric on their old one. Today, it’s people wanting to replace a too-large sofa they purchased, whose scale is out of whack with their room.
- The right tone. Your sofa needs to match the level of formality of the room. For a more formal room, for example, select a tight back sofa. For a casual space, try loose-back cushions.
Next week … A quick primer on chairs, and how to pick the right ones for your home.