(and why I broke some of them)
You’re ready to buy a sofa but not sure where to start or worse paralyzed about making the right choice? Here are my best ‘rules’ for getting it right.
I use design rules as a loose guide. My Design Rules is really a play on words in that it’s not about decorating rules at all, but applying simple principles that guide all my life and decorating decisions. Check out my list of ‘rules’ here.
That being said, rules exist for a reason. They help establish boundaries and guidelines to keep everything in check. I like rules. I’m weird that way. BUT I also am flexible enough to know that sometimes you just gotta break the rules or make your own.
Anyway, my old living room furniture just had to go. Once upon a time it looked ok, but I have no photos to prove it.
So instead of starting into a full-on redesign I jumped the gun and bought a couch I had been eyeing when it went on sale. Bad idea–don’t do that.
I LOVE my new furniture… but here are the rules you need to know when buying a sofa (and why I broke some of them.)
1. Buy a Classic Sofa That Transcends Time
I generally recommend buying classic pieces that lend themselves to several styles because your style may change over time. A good sofa should last at least 10 years and classic pieces can change with you. Trendy pieces become dated.
Well, my couch is completely glam. There is no moving back and forth between modern, contemporary, boho etc. Typically, nailhead trim is classic, but the bulky trim on this sofa reads all the way glam.
Now I doubt my taste will change too much, but I certainly see this couch looking dated in 10 years. For now, I’ll shrug my shoulders and enjoy every moment of it.
2. Buy a Couch that fits your space
So how big should my sofa be? Well, the size of a sofa impacts the way a room functions and feels.
The scale of your furniture should make your room feel comfortable and welcoming. Furniture that’s too big feels overwhelming. Furniture that’s too small makes people feel clumsy and awkward. That’s NOT what you want when you’re trying to create an atmosphere where people feel at home.
In general, your sofa should not occupy the entire length of a wall and should allow for generous walking space around it (at least 18 inches). Also, float it in the room rather than shoving them against a wall-IF YOU HAVE THE ROOM.
I also cannot leave any gap between the wall and the sofa because… chile I have no room for that.
Welp, my furniture is too big and I knew it when I bought it.
Lemme explain. These modern pieces are oversized. However to get adequate seating I needed to buy a loveseat. In a perfect world, I would have bought another sectional except, the sectional would sit awkwardly in the living room (as the last one did) and left a weird 3-foot gap of unused space behind it.
You want to place coffee and side tables close enough to the sofas that everyone can have a conversation without the need to shout AND your family or guests can rest a drink on. This generally means coffee tables should be placed about 16 inches give or take from a sofa. My girl Emily Henderson has an amazing article on all the details and measurements of living room rules.
Ideally, this room would have a nice long sofa plus two magnificent chairs.
Problem is, I always think function over style. And while two chairs would have been ideal, my son would not have had a place to lie down during family movie night.
Yes, you read that right. Lie down. Those glam couches are for real life. We only have one family area and this furniture will get used. Had I bought chairs, it would have made life very uncomfortable for us. So, I opted to buy the matching love seat making the furniture set a little too large.
Breaking the design rule was well worth it.
We expect to buy a new home within the next few years so this furniture will prayerfully fit a little bit better there.
3. Measure, Measure, Measure
To get the best idea of how your sofa will fit the space, write down the dimensions of your room. Grab a tape measure and mark out where the sofa will sit. This is the best way to tell if you like the spacing. Also, don’t forget to measure your doorways and stairwells if you have them. It would be awful if your new sofa arrived and couldn’t fit through the door!
Download a worksheet to record measurements in my Free Decorating Libary.
RELATED: Make Your Decor Dreams a Reality
4. Buy a Neutral Color Sofa for versatility
Sure, you love a blue velvet sofa. But come springtime you may just want to lighten things up a bit. A dark navy sofa would just be too hard to turn on a dime. My rules for buying a sofa mean I will probably never own a colored couch, BUT I can buy as many throws, pillows, and pillow covers in a rainbow of colors as my heart can stand. A neutral base means you can change style and color as much as you want with accessories, art and even paint on your walls without much cost or effort.
To break up the neutral monotony, you can buy colored accent chairs and tables that are also less of an investment.
You can break this sofa rule if you’ve got money to buy furniture whenever you like. But I ain’t got it like that.
If I had it to do over again, I’d probably by something a little more classic. But I LOVE the gimongous glam sofas soo much!
5. Buy Couches that are Comfortable
For me comfort is key. I sat in several sofas before purchasing. Either get your tush on the sofa or read a ton of online reviews before you commit to a large purchase.
Because these couches are for lounging, I wanted the fabric to be comfortable on the skin. Scratchy or overly textured fabric wouldn’t work. The microfiber on the old sectional lent itself to so many naps–my friends fought over the corner spot. Everyone was so sad the new furniture didn’t have that. But they all agree that the distressed velvet is a nice step up with a similar feel.
6. Choose Sofa Fabrics that will withstand Stains
So yes, I told you to get neutral but you don’t have to get a light color like me. However, I knew I didn’t want anything dark. So why did I get a light-colored couch with a 10-year old in the house? I paid for good fabric protection.
Yep. Just a few dollars more and I can wipe away any stain with just water. So far we’ve seen blood from a cut, red food dye and chocolate wipe up quite easily. Invest in the plan. If I can’t remove a stain the protection plan will replace my couch.
7. Select Quality Pieces
If you’re looking to invest in furniture, I implore you to buy decent quality. Make sure the frame, cushions, and fabric are durable and will withhold constant abuse. These are workhorses for your home.
Look for heavy frames, tightly stitched seams and high rub count upholstery.
8. Buy a what you LOVE
After it’s all said and done, spend money on what you love. That’s why I broke some of the rules. There is no perfect couch or even a perfect room. Design your home using your personal style no matter what Pinterest, Instagram or HGTV are saying. You’re the one who will have to live with it. If it checks off all the boxes and you only kinda like it…then you’ve spent time designing in vain.