The keystone piece of any family room is the beloved sofa. This is the most important piece of furniture in the room, if not the entire house, because the family hangs out together on the sofa. The family room sofa will get more use than any other piece of furniture in your home. With a properly designed room, it will also offer the most visual impact.

For these reasons, you should put plenty of thought and care into selecting a new sofa. The sofa will most likely be the largest piece of furniture in the room. It will also be front and center as an anchor or focal point for the space. Carefully consider how you and your family will utilize the sofa before you make your choice.

If possible, make the sofa your first decision in the room and work the other furnishings around it. This will help keep you focused on the style and scale of the other pieces when creating your family room.

Here are a few of my best guidelines to keep in mind when selecting a sofa:

Comfort is first and foremost. But remember, you and your spouse many have different ideas of comfort. The sofa should naturally fit both of you. So ask yourself a few questions: Do you enjoy lying down to watch TV or curling up in the corner? Will the sofa be used most often for reading or conversation?

If it’s not possible to find a sofa that naturally fits both of you, here are some suggestions. You may like a deep sofa, but that may be uncomfortable for your spouse. If this is your situation, the use of kidney pillows will help a deep sofa feel more shallow. I have also used small, low ottomans in front of the sofa for height challenged people that like to have their feet planted.

The size, or scale, of the sofa is your next consideration. A long sofa can add wonderful drama to a room but can take up valuable room. A sofa that seats four adults is often a waste of real estate, as rarely will four people opt to line up like pigeons on a wire at a cocktail party or to watch TV. Most people don’t feel comfortable sitting to others in close proximity on one piece of furniture–unless they’re family. Even then, close proximity may still be an issue.

A good-sized sofa is approximately 84” to 90” long – this is generally considered a “three seater.” This sized sofa will most likely be long enough to lay on, and in a pinch, it will fit three people perching side by side. Here’s an example of a super long sofa.

Arm Proportions
Pay close attention to arm proportions. An 84” sofa can have large rolled arms full cushions measure up to 12” wide each, which means the length of your seating area is only 60”. Not only will the interior seating area be too short for an average adult to lie on, but the 24 inches of space could be used for a separate occasional chair.

If space is an issue, look for a sofa with small scale arms, no more than 5” wide to offer the most seating room possible for the footprint of the sofa.

Cushion Fill
Each sofa manufacturer generally has various options for seat and back cushion fills. If you’re worried about your sofa looking messy, opt for down or Dacron wrapped, spring down cushions. The interior spring will ensure the cushions pop back up into position when you stand up. Many people find this is not only the best looking cushion, but also the most comfortable. If you want the old world look of a well-worn, matted cushion, the down blend is a good choice. Keep in mind that it will be necessary to fluff the cushions. Many manufacturers may have environmentally-friendly option like jute or recycled foam will be available as well. It is best to test these fills in person because each one will sit differently. Some will be hard, and some will have more give.

Since the sofa is the most used and loved piece in the home, purchase the best quality piece you can afford with the nicest fabric money allows. Think durability as well as forgiveness. Often a tweed or tiny print fabric that appears almost solid is a great choice for hiding spills and dirt. Multiple colors will help with cleanup by hiding stains. Some degree of texture is more desirable than a smooth fabric for the same reason.

Finally, consider the style. If you’re embracing the current trend toward simple, clean lines — opt for a sofa with the same style. It will be difficult to create a simple, clean- lined room with a curvy Victorian style sofa. Ideally, the sofa should be the understated elegance in the room, not the major drama. Toss pillows and cozy throws can add color and pattern to the overall piece for added drama. They also offer the opportunity for seasonal change without a huge commitment.

The comfort and style of the room helps set the tone for the time you spend there. Paying attention to the details will help you select a sofa that is not only comfortable, but fits your space and lifestyle with a warm invitation to have a seat. The right sofa can truly turn your living room in an inspired interior the whole family will enjoy.

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