How to Shop for a Sofa Online
Whether for an afternoon of relaxed reading or a night of entertaining, the sofa is a central gathering spot in the home. It’s also a major lifestyle purchase that requires research, since it will most likely live with you for many years to come. Some aspects of sofa shopping, like sit tests, can only be done in a showroom, but online retailers have been stepping up their game, offering more product styles, lower prices, and personalized customer service. “Searching and shopping online allows you to make purchase decisions at your convenience and compare product options more easily, and it doesn’t carry inventory costs, which benefits the final price,” says Rob Royer, founder of Interior Define, an online made-to-order furniture shop based in Chicago. Understanding the right questions to ask and the policies to consider will set you on the path to a successful sofa purchase. Here, Royer gives us expert tips on how to navigate the process.
Order swatches. Having a wide range of fabric swatches in hand will give you a good sense of the quality, durability, and overall feel you’re looking for. “Most fabric samples are free,” says Royer. “It not only enables you to view its true color, but you can also test the stain-resistance factor on them.” Apply a protectant spray on natural fibers like linen or cotton, administer a drop of red wine or olive oil, and judge the resistance and durability of the material. Ask about fabrics pretreated with Scotchgard or easy-to-clean microfiber as other options.
Vet the company. Reach out and connect with someone at the site. A phone call, email, or online chat will provide a good understanding of the level of customer service you can expect to receive. “Ask questions that are on your mind: How do the cushions feel and hold up? How does a particular fabric handle wear and tear? Do they offer any customization options?” says Royer. Read other customers’ reviews on sites like Yelp or Houzz and gauge their shopping experience with the company.
Read delivery and return policies. Be sure to understand how your sofa will be delivered. “When delivery is listed as ‘free,’ it can refer to curbside delivery. That’s not a great experience,” Royer says. “Most people need and expect white-glove delivery, which moves the furniture into the specific room, provides any required assembly, and removes all of the packaging.” For such an important piece of furniture, you will need to know the return policy, in case the sofa doesn’t meet your expectations. “The policy should give you at least two weeks to get comfortable with it. A longer time frame is optimal,” says Royer.