Few furnishings inspire as much decorating angst as the sofa -- and for good reason. With so many styles and options, it's tough to find the right one. We asked a panel of designers for advice, and with their help, put together this easy guide.
Too often, people buy sofas based on looks alone. Stretch out and test it for reading and napping. Then stand, making sure the seat is not too low. Remember, deep sofas can make short people feel smaller, while tight-backed examples may not work for tall people.
Weight is one of the easiest ways to evaluate a sofa. A well-made piece with a hardwood frame (as shown in this cutaway example), sturdy metal springs, and down cushions will feel heavy and substantial. You should pass on examples that feel light, wobbly, or creaky.
Feel the decking underneath to see if the springs are closely and evenly spaced, as shown at left. Make sure the cushions fit the frame well, without gaps or crowding. On styles with single-cushion or bench seats, sit at one end and make sure the other end doesn't pop up.
Look inside -- down and feathers should be encased in a tightly woven fabric that does not permit feathers to escape. Loose cushions should have down, feathers, or fill contained in stitched channels or baffles to minimize settling.
Make sure they are nicely padded and that you can't feel the frame poking through. Try to wiggle the arms and back, and make sure you don't feel much movement. Keep in mind that party guests and children will often lean or even sit on the arms of a sofa.