Design Recipes: How to find the best sofa for your space

By Cathy Hobbs
Tribune News Service

For many, a sofa is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, or it's at least a purchase homeowners don't want to have to make on a frequent basis. In most cases, a sofa's longevity and quality relates to how it's made.

Construction tips

Sofas can be made by machine or by hand. Depending on its usage, how a sofa is made, may be a key factor in how long it lasts. In general, nothing beats all hardwood construction. A sofa constructed of low-grade wood or particle board simply will not last as long as one made from solid hardwood. Also look for sofas in which components such as legs are either made of solid wood or metal.

A small-scale sectional sofa with ottoman creates a space with the appropriate scale in this family-friendly room.

Another key component is ensuring that springs or coils are well made and the frame is well cushioned and wrapped prior to upholstery. Need a durable fabric? A popular designer choice is commercial or hospitality grade fabrics that repel liquids and stains while remaining attractive and aesthetically pleasing.


Sectional or traditional sofa, with arms or armless? While you have a number of choices, allow your room or space to be your guide. In general, sectional sofas work well when you're looking to frame a space or room using furniture. Sectional sofas work particularly well in corners or where one is looking to frame a wall. Look for components that fit your desired usage. For example, a chaise would be a better choice than an ottoman if you're looking to create a sectional component for lounging.

A leather sofa helps create a family-friendly option in this living space.


When it comes to fabrics, you have a whole host of options, especially as it relates to fibers. Ask questions and be sure to ask a manufacturer or retailer for cuttings or swatches before making a purchase. Not crazy about fabric? Leather is still a popular option, especially in areas that may be used by children or a home inhabited by pets. Looking for an alternative to leather? Materials such as artificial leather remain popular.

Foam vs. down

The fill material used to make components such as sofa cushions may greatly impact not only the feel but the sofa's overall look. Foam-filled cushions serve as a more stiff option while down creates a more relaxed look and feel. Be sure to look, touch, feel and most of all sit on any sofa you are considering before you buy to ensure it provides your desired level of comfort.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and 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 .