How to choose a sofa?
From cocktail parties to family movie nights, your sofa works hard and should look great. Besides being the anchor of the room and a functional powerhouse, it’s also a major furniture purchase that requires a lot of research and real-life testing. “Buying a sofa is a big investment, and a well-made one should last generations,” says David Michaud, vice president of New York–based Jonas, a manufacturer of handmade upholstery furniture. “People often buy style over practicality, which is a common mistake.” Whether a sofa’s destined for a public room or a private space, its function—size requirements, lifestyle, and comfort level—and design will set the room’s tone. If you choose well, it’ll be worth the investment. “It should be a piece of furniture that you could pass down to your children,” says Michaud. Here, he offers solid advice to help navigate the process. Grab a seat and read on.
Put function first Tailored pieces that are longer offer additional seating for guests, while lounge-y, less structured models with deep cushions are great for curling up with a book. “Envision yourself in the space and how you will use the sofa, then opt for a style that fits those requirements,” says Michaud.
Choose your style Ask yourself, “What style do I like?” Midcentury, traditional, French? Use that as a jumping-off point. Here, a living room in the Hamptons by Victoria Hagan has two eight-foot-long casual sofas designed for a beach house. They also work well for entertaining, when you want larger groups to be able to linger in conversation.
Consider soft versus firm A plush cushion seat invites people to settle in and relax, while firmer models can withstand wear and tear a little better. “When considering firmness, guests should be comfortable balancing a glass of wine while sitting,” says Michaud. One thing to consider: A cushiony model might mean more time plumping pillows to perfection.
Make it work with the decor Sofas can be the superstar of the room, given their silhouette and fabric, or they can be low-key supporting players. “Some people prefer to take a fanciful piece and upholster it in a neutral fabric, while others prefer a tailored design upholstered in a novelty or trendy fabric,” says Michaud. For this Manhattan apartment, Glenn Gissler created a 1940s French modern aesthetic with low sloping scroll arms while mixing a tight back with loose cushions.
Look for support A sofa with a high back offers more support for the head and neck. “The majority of sofas support the back only—which most people find adequate,” says Michaud. Another thing to consider: arm style. An architectural or tuxedo style might feature a tighter corner that cradles you.