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Inspiration / “Sofa” is a four letter word
Blue sofa

“Sofa” is a four letter word

As every seasoned interior designer knows, when beginning a project you need to avoid the most serious and costly mistake people working without professional counsel make.

The sofa: the piece of furniture that, I have found, is the very first piece people buy, and it is almost always WRONG!

Let’s look at first: what are some of the hopes, dreams, desire people can have about their sofa?

If you are single, you want your sofa to be the most comfortable piece of furniture in the house. You want it to multi-task: it has to be large enough to take a nap on; comfortable enough to have friends over and hang; and perhaps versatile enough for it turn into a bed for sleepovers.  This one simple piece can represent, in your mind, everything you want your home to be.

For a young couple starting out, the sofa represents two people living together in harmony. This one piece of furniture can be the beginning and the end of some couples.  I have had couples hand me lists of their demands for their sofa. It may look something like this: Jack wants “a leather sofa that he can put his feet up when he is watching TV and have a drink and not worry. “ Ellie want “Something soft, that she can curl up and read in or take naps, with lots of pillows.”

And if you are married with children, the list is pretty simple.  Anything that is indestructible: “We’ll take it!”

Here are some distinctions to think about:


Biggest mistake: too long/too deep.  Choose something in the 36-38” depth; 42” is way too deep and you are wasting a lot of living room space for unusable sofa space. Another mistake: the arms are too wide. Typical arms are 5-6” wide; 10-12” arm width is way too wide and will be taking up valuable seat real estate.

Helpful Hint:

Measure out the sofa before you buy. It’s the largest piece of furniture in your space: make sure it fits. Create a template out of cardboard or use blue painters tape to see exactly how big the sofa will be in your room.


I am not a huge fan of sectionals; I will tell you why. They can make a medium size room feel even smaller.  Sectionals by their nature divide a room into 2…the “room” that the sectional “creates” and the rest of the room, which ultimately becomes a no-mans-land.

Sectionals are wonderful designs when two people are lounging, watching TV, etc.  For entertaining, they are a nightmare. Think about it: If you have 4 or 6 people over, where do the other 4 people sit? Think carefully before you get seduced by the “look” of a sectional.  Be honest with yourself. Of course, if you have a separate TV room dedicated to one activity, forget everything I just said…sectionals are the ticket.

Low Arms, High Arms

Most people don’t think about this, but when you have high arms, lets say 28 to 30”, you are creating a separate space within the Living Room space. It is the same issue as with the sectional.

I like arms that you can actually rest your arm on (or lay your head down on) when napping. 24-26” arm height is the rule for that.

Tight Back Sofa vs. Loose Back Sofa — Pro’s and Con’s

Loose back Pro: Comfortable and inviting, you can use back pillows as side pillows when napping or there are two people cuddling.

Loose back Con: You have to fluff pillows every time you get up or else it can look sloppy.

Foam Filled Cushions/pillows vs. feather and down.

Foam: Short term it looks good, long term foam breaks down and it look horrible

Feather and Down:  Has a better look and feel overall. Typically more expensive, and requires fluffing.


Sofa fabrics have to relate to something. Again, they are the largest piece of furniture.  Rule of thumb: pull a color out of the carpet color. (note: Carpet should be the first thing you commit to.) Rule of thumb: Choose a fabric that is not too dark, not too light. If you are choosing light, make sure it is a slipcover cotton duck or blend. No Linen. With wrinkles, it will perpetually look like an unmade bed. Sofa bed sit harder but without it, you don’t have a second bed for guests.

That’s it for the now. I hope this helps to those of you that are starting out or anyone else that is thinking of a new sofa. You may only buy one sofa in your lifetime, make sure it works for you.