Choosing a New Sofa

Five Tips to Consider on Sofa Selection

Credit: Mauricio Bergamin

If you’re ready to refresh your living room, I always start with the sofa. It’s most likely the largest purchase you’ll make and probably the piece you’ll use the most. Sofas not only range greatly in price but vary in construction as well. Knowing what you’re buying is important and can save regret (and possibly thousands of dollars) later! 

1. Try it out.  If you’ve tried shopping for furniture in person in our area, you’ll likely share my frustration with our limited selection of furniture stores. But please don’t simply buy your sofa online and hope for the best! It’s worth the drive to the Los Angeles area to sit on the sofa first. Sofas vary in seat depth and back height, so finding what is comfortable for you will go a long way in making sure you’re purchasing the correct piece. Taller people may prefer a sofa with a higher back. Alternately, if you prefer to curl up on your sofa, then one with a deeper seat or a chaise may be for you.  

2. Consider the frame.  Quality internal frames are made of kiln-dried hardwood, so be sure to inquire as to the materials used in the construction of your new purchase. Be wary of particleboard, metal, or plywood frames.

3. Choose your upholstery type.  Whether you prefer a bold pattern or neutral palette, selecting the type of upholstery that fits your lifestyle is important. Leather is great as it can be wiped down, but some performance fabrics clean up pretty well, too. Natural materials, like linen, are beautiful but may fade in strong sunlight, so consider your lifestyle and furniture placement when selecting your upholstery type.

Next, be sure to get swatches and see how the material looks in your own home. Fabrics can look different once you see them in your home with your lighting. A photo of a sofa online can look soft and comfortable, when in reality, the fabric is scratchy and uncomfortable. Most retailers offer free swatches, so take the extra time in ordering samples to make sure you know what you’re buying. 

Credit: Courtesy

4. Not all cushions are made the same.  The filling used inside cushions varies, and it’s important to decide if you want a more firm or less firm feel. Down or feather-filled cushions tend to be squishier, so they’ll need more plumping to retain a tidy look. Foam-filled cushions retain their shape but tend to be firmer. Cushions filled with a combination of feathers and foam can be a good balance of comfort and structure. 

5. Take measurements!  Before hitting the “buy now” button, get out the tape measure and make sure your new sofa will fit in your space. If you live in a smaller home or apartment, it’s also a good idea to measure door frames and hallways to make sure you can get the sofa into your room. I promise that it is extremely frustrating when the sofa won’t fit up a staircase or through a doorway! If access is limited, you may need to opt for a low-back style or even a modular sofa that can be delivered in sections. 

I’d love to see your new sofa selections! Tag me on Instagram @StyledandStagedSB to share. 

Christine S. Cowles is owner of Styled & Staged Santa Barbara, an interior design company specializing in short-term rental properties. She is a certified Short-Term Rental Stylist™, member of Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and Real Estate Staging Association, and a proud WEV graduate. She can be reached at

Credit: Courtesy

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