The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Couch That Lasts
Oh, the pivotal first couch purchase…it’s possibly the most expensive, most used, and most permanent piece of furniture you buy for your home. No pressure 🙂
About 3 years ago we were moving into our first house and ready to buy our first couch. It was time to retire the hand me down couch I used in college. We headed out to our local furniture store to buy a couch. Before shopping I knew two things: I wanted a sectional and a neutral color. That’s it.
There were about 7 sectionals we considered in the store. We looked at them, sat on them, checked the prices, and an hour later we purchased our first couch.
I liked it, but as soon as it was delivered, I discovered it was a tight fit in our small living room. There was about 12 inches for a walkway between the sofa and the wall which is much too small. I measured the room before we headed out to the furniture store, but I don’t think I took into account you need room for walkways. Then, after a few months, the cushions started to “slide” out of place and I noticed some pilling of the upholstery.
To be honest, there are many things I don’t like about our sectional (see our sectional in our living room here. I split it up and put the other half of the sectional in the basement). I regret rushing the decision and not doing ANY research beforehand so I had a better idea of what couch worked best for the space and was well-made.
The last few months I’ve been busy redecorating our living room to better align with my signature decorating style and to fit my new mission of simple decorating and minimizing the extra stuff. With a mini living room makeover, I was in search for a new sofa. This time I wanted to do my research and find a quality piece of furniture that is comfortable, fits in the space, yet looks pretty that we will have for years.
I learned the hard way that not all couches are equal. Which is why you want to make sure you do your research to find a quality couch that can hold up to the daily use for years to come. With a little research, you can make an educated decision and confidently choose a couch that will last.
Before I get into it, I want to preface by saying couches are expensive. If you want one that will last you 15 or more years, you’ll probably want to invest in a higher quality couch that may be a bit more expensive than you had anticipated. Spending $2,000 to $3,000 on a couch you’ll have for the next 15 years is well worth it and saves you money in the long run than if you purchased 4 $900 mediocre couches over the years. However, you shouldn’t go way over budget and buy a couch way out of your price range.
Don’t be fooled and think that just because a sofa has a high price point automatically means it’s a good quality sofa. Often times you are paying for the name brand, so you must do your research a head of time to know what you’re getting.
Here are 4 things to consider to ensure you are buying a quality couch that will last:
1. Look for a Sturdy Frame
A well-made sofa has a sturdy frame so it will not warp or crack with use. For a sturdy couch that stands the test of time, look for a frame made of kiln-dried solid wood. Kiln-dried means it removes the moisture that can cause warping and cracking, and squeaky couches.
You also want to look for a frame that is held together with dowels, wood corner blocks, or metal brackets. Anything that’s held together by only staples, glue, or nails can fall apart or come undone much easier.
A heavy couch is a good indicator that it’s sturdy because it’s made of dense high quality materials.
Since you can’t actually see inside the couch because it’s covered up by fabric, ask the salesperson or check the manufactuerer’s website to find out whether or not the sofa is made of kiln-dried wood and dowels, wood corner blocks, or brackets.
Quick Tip: Lift one front leg of the sofa 6 inches off the ground. If the other front leg stays on the ground, the frame has too much give and is weak.
2. Comfort is in the Cushions
What’s inside the cushions can drastically affect the price and quality of the sofa. Most cushions have a polyurethane foam core – the denser the foam, the heavier and longer it will last. Cheap sofas just have the poly foam core and that’s it. In higher quality furniture, the poly foam core is wrapped with batting.
There are tons of options to choose from as far cushion content, but the two most recommended in terms of quality, price, and comfort are high-resilient (HR) foam with a batting layer of down and conventional foam wrapped in polyester batting.
Another thing to consider: sofas with back cushions unattached make cleaning and fluffing much easier.
Quick Tip: The best way to find a couch you like that’s comfortable is to sit on a bunch of different ones and see what cushion fill you like best.
3. Consider Timeless Upholstery
Upholstery is the element that affects a sofa’s cost most. You want to make sure an expensive piece of furniture you’re investing in has a durable fabric and can withstand daily use. Performance fabrics (sometimes called Sunbrella) are stain resistant and can even be bleached without affecting the color are some of the most durable around, although spendy. If that’s not in the budget, cotton, cotton blends, leather, and wool are good options. I suggest choosing a neutral color that won’t go out of style for years.
If you’re looking for some help with what color of sofa to go with, you might want to read this post on finding your signature decorating style to identify colors/fabrics that fit you best.
Quick Tip: If possible, get a swatch of fabric you’re considering and bring it home. Compare it with the other items in your room, and set the swatch where the sofa will sit. Notice how the color/fabric looks in different lights to make sure you like it.
4. Size Matters
Consider the proportions of the room and the other furniture in your space when looking for sofas. You want a sofa that feels proportionate to the rest of the space. In other words, you don’t want a small-scale chair sitting next to an oversized sofa with huge cushions because it will look off. Another thing to note is not all sofas are the same depth. Some have narrower seats than others, and this can affect overall comfort. The best way to know how wide of seat you like is to sit on many different sofas and measure the seat cushion depth on the sofa you find most comfortable.
If you have a small room or tight space, a sofa with low arms can feel less crowded. Our sectional was way too big for our smaller-than-average living room, and the big cushions made it seem even more crowded. I wanted a sectional for the ample seating, but I didn’t think about proportion or size in comparison to the room. Besides that, the seat cushions tended to slide so they stuck out, and the seat depth wasn’t as big as I liked. After a few hours of sitting (while blogging away, not just being a total couch potato I might add :)) my butt started to hurt because the cushions weren’t super comfy.
The second time around looking for a new sofa, I knew I couldn’t go much bigger lengthwise, but I wanted a deeper seat. I also wanted a sofa that was smaller scale and didn’t have such large arms or bulky cushions to better fit the space.
Quick Tip: Using masking tape, mock up a footprint of the sofa to see how it fits in your room. You can even “build” the sofa out of boxes or other furniture to get a feel visually for how much space the sofa will take up.
The Story of our Second Sofa
It sounds weird, but I actually prefer to shop for couches online. Before you gasp and think what a terrible idea that is, hear me out.
In my particular city, we don’t have a ton of options for furniture stores. I was not impressed with the store we bought our first sectional from and it seems silly to eliminate allllll the wonderful sofa options available online. I also find it a lot easier to compare sofa specs side by side when I’m at home and can actually measure it out right there in the space.
The one thing you can’t test when shopping online, obviously, is comfort. This time I knew I wanted a wider seat than the sectional and that I liked down filled cushions, so I had a much better idea of what I was looking for. If you don’t know, you should definitely test lots of different cushions in the store to get a feel for what you like before searching for couches online.
During my hunt for a new sofa, I came across Article, an online brand for quality modern furniture at affordable prices. I was so impressed with the quality of their furniture (it clearly states each sofa’s description on their site) and the variety of beautiful styles. Each sofa is made with kiln-dried wood and wooden corner blocks so they are all high-quality durable couches that will last with a variety of upholstery options to choose from. Article seriously makes shopping for sofas online so easy because you have the specs for every sofa at your finger tips.
Room Sources:Article sofa, black pillows, blue stripe pillow, blue patterned pillow, coffee table Craigslist, blue Mohawk Home rug, hardwood flooring (just installed it!)
Article has so many beautiful sofas, but I instantly fell in love with the Sitka. It’s has down blend filled cushions with a beautiful woven white upholstery. The sleek modern style definitely aligns with my style and the less bulky cushions and low arms was a better scale for our living room’s size.
I was a little worried about ordering it before having actually sat on it, but Article has a free 30 day return policy which made it less scary/risky.
When the sofa arrived I nervously sat down and…LOVED it! It’s so soft yet firm and comfortable. Seriously so happy with our decision.
I’ve gotten a lot of “White couch?! You’re crazy!” and I get that. We do have a playful puppy ha. But, truth is, I love white and it was my dream to have a light couch. The cushion covers are removable so they can be cleaned, and I’m adamant about checking the couch regularly for any spots that might need cleaning. We wipe Bria’s paws off at the door before she comes inside after playing in the backyard, but she has still left a few dirt marks on the sofa. With a little water and dish soap, I was able to get the spots out no problem. We’re also keeping a blanket on the couch for now to help keep it clean while she’s still a pup.
I truly love our new Article sofa. It’s one of the most comfortable sofas I’ve sat on and it looks so well-made. Even Jordon likes it 🙂
The sectional has since been demoted to the basement family room.
I hope you can learn from my mistakes and that these tips help you as you research your next couch. Taking the time to research upfront will save you hundreds of dollars from a bad purchase you’ll regret later.
Have you ever ordered a sofa online? Out of curiosity what number of couch are you on? How long have you had it?
Love this post, it’s super helpful!
So glad to hear that, Teresa!
And this rug is so pretty! https://www.builddirect.com/p/Mohawk-Home-Laguna–15009301
Great find! I LOVE this. I will have to remember this the next time I’m looking for a rug 🙂
Learned a lot thank you!!! That rug is perfect!!
Awesome! Let me know if you have any questions I didn’t cover.
This one is beautiful I love it Style: Carson Diamond Charcoal
Great choice, Gabby!
That rug is gorgeous! Love your blog!
Thanks so much, Dana!
I am ready to demote my cheap sectional to my basement as well and will be checking out Article for its replacement!! Love your sofa and entire living room!
Thanks girl! You totally should, I’m super impressed with the quality. Now I want to get a leather chair 🙂
Love this! I will be looking back at this when it’s time for a new couch!
Thank you, Janie! 🙂
I want your exact rug!!!!!!! I love it!!!!!!!!!
I love following your blog! Great advise!
love it!! Blue is so timeless – it’s looking fantastic!!
I love the blue rug you posted! Gorgeous!
I just bought a couch a few weeks ago and I so wish I came across this post beforehand! This is so helpful, thanks for sharing!xx Tess | Sequins are the New Black
I hope you are still happy with your couch choice!
Love this blue rug! I’m on couch number 3. I still have my other 2, in fact I reupholstered 1 of them. But number 3 I researched and waited and put perrinials fabric in it and it’s definitely the winner!
Good for you! Research always wins 🙂
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Thank you for the advice to consider the proportions of the room when choosing a size for your sofa. My husband and I are looking to get a new sofa. We’ll be sure to keep this in mind during our search.