Design Recipes: How to pick the perfect sofa

Cathy Hobbs
Tribune News Service

For many homeowners, a sofa is a key investment. Typically not considered to be an impulse purchase, most seek to make a sofa purchase perhaps only once or twice. From construction, comfort and versatility to the ability to reupholster, here are some key elements to keep in mind.

A four-seat sofa adds a sense of drama in this long, narrow living room.


Construction is key when it comes to the longevity and durability of a sofa. Sofas constructed of hardwoods (such as walnut) will outlast those made of softer woods such as pine. Not sure? Ask the sofa manufacturer about construction materials. Another important ask relates to sofa springs. Metal coils often break. An eight-way hand-tied sofa spring system is preferable, and a signature of a well-made, crafted sofa. Expect to pay a bit more, but it will be worth it in the long run to have a sofa that is built to last.


Love the feel of fluffy down? While this may serve you well when it comes to a bed pillow, down will likely fall flat long term in a sofa. The reality is down will compress and at one point flatten. Sofa cushions made of foam are a more durable choice. Still not convinced? One option is a sofa in which the seat cushions are made of foam and side pillows are made of a less dense material.


A well-kept secret of interior designers is to use hospitality grade fabrics, even in residential settings. Why? Durability. These days, commercial fabrics are fun, modern, fresh and easily relatable in a residential environment. The downside is hospitality and commercial fabrics do tend to cost a bit more and may come in limited colors and patterns. The upside is the durability factor; spills will easily be able to be wiped away.


Should you go with a sectional? Perhaps modern, low and sleek is your style, or high-backed and comfy?

Regardless of your taste and style, what should most determine your sofa selection is your space. So often a sofa looks and feels out of place because it is the inappropriate size, scale or configuration.

In a space with low ceilings, low, modern and sleek may be the best choice, especially if a view needs to be preserved. In open spaces, a sectional sofa is helpful to define and create a lounge space for a large group. Social areas such as family rooms and even dens may be best suited for sofas that may be more plush and comfy.

A note of caution: Oversized furniture often makes a room feel crowded and seldom is “buying the set” successful. Multiple pieces can create a look that is overly “matchy” and crowded. Looking for an alternative? Consider placing two chaises together to create a single sofa or a long one-armed sofa or loveseat.


Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at .