Style: How to pick the perfect sofa

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

Buying a sofa feels a little like getting married — there is so much to consider before you pick the one you want to settle down with, isn’t there? Which one has the arms, legs, seats you’re attracted to? Which one will give you a safe place to land when you’re plum worn out by life? Which one do you want to show off to all your friends? Here are the four most important things to consider when looking for true love in a sofa:

Arms of love

Your sofa can’t just be eye candy. It has to work for your daily life. So take a few seconds to list out what you’ll be doing when you’re settling in: Reading? Napping? Watching TV? Have face-to-face heart-to-hearts with your friends? Then pick an arm style that will help you achieve your checklist.

I have a Chesterfield sofa in my own home because I like how the high (shelter) arms wrap around me, serving as a back and headrest while I read.

I asked Mark Gilmore, the VP of sales at CR Laine, to weigh in on the how-to-pick-a-sofa discussion, because he’s a pro at helping people make great matches. If you like to nap on your sofa, Mark recommends a rolled arm or a sock arm, which have lots of soft padding, so they can act like a pillow.

Mark says a track arm is a great option if you want a more modern or contemporary aesthetic.

Great legs

What kind of legs would you like on your sofa? Exposed or skirted? Turned or a block leg? It may seem like a small detail, but the leg you pick for your sofa will make a big difference in its overall appearance.

If you want more air under the sofa, Mark recommends an exposed leg that is longer and thinner. At market this year, CR Laine showcased an acrylic leg, a plucky choice that gave a fun contemporary finish.

Best seat in the house

In my book, the most important feature of a sofa is that it be sink-into comfortable. Everybody has a different “Goldilocks” point — when the cushions aren’t too soft or too firm, but just right. Spend some time sitting in prospective sofas to see which ones feel like bliss to you. Mark says their top-selling cushion has the feel of down, soft and comfy, but it doesn’t actually contain feathers.

Sofas come in lots and lots of different cushion configurations. One of my favorites is a bench seat with a tight back. The Knole sofa is a great example of a bench seat.

Another popular pick is a two-over-two or three-over-three style, with matching seat and back cushions. The cushions can either be loose or attached, depending upon your preference. If you have little kids, and you don’t want the cushions made into forts, I’d recommend the attached back cushions!

Finish with fabulous fabric

When you buy a quality sofa, you will have it for years, so select upholstery fabric you love.

My advice is to go with fabric that is neutral enough you can change its look over and again just by switching up your pillows.

Mark says outdoor fabrics have also become a popular option because they wear well and clean up easily, a great choice if you have kids or pets.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at She can be reached at