Much has been written in general terms about the importance of buying the right furniture for your home. But it’s my mission to provide the best, practical advice about shopping for the rightsized furniture so everything fits and functions properly. Basically, I’m going to divulge the design information you usually only get when you pay for it. Listen up.
Although style selection can be challenging, when it comes to sofas, there are really only a few sofa styles. Some have fitted backs, while others are pillowed. Some have curved or rounded arms and yet other sofas have square arms. So select your style based on how you will be using the sofa.
It’s all about the arms. If you plan to entertain a lot and need a room to feel more open or casual go for a lower arm that’s the full depth of the sofa and square in shape. This won’t block natural light and it is the most comfortable arm for guests to use. If you plan to lie down a lot on the sofa (watching TV), use a rounded arm that is also a bit lower so it’s easier to rest a pillow against the arm for ultimate comfort.
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For formal entertaining which often happens in the living room a sofa with a higher arm keeps guests more upright and more forward facing. It’s harder to lean over and chat with someone else when the arm is higher so this styles works best when it’s set directly across from another sofa or set of chairs to keep conversation straight ahead, and back and forth.
Sofa or loveseat? The love seat, or two-seater, was popular decades ago when everyone “bought the set” and everything coordinated perfectly but today we tend not to decorate this way. Generally, we advise most customers to look for a full-sized sofa combined with a pair of chairs. This combo allows seating for the most number of guests during a large gathering. Whereas loveseats tend to be “oversized and underused” single chairs, with only one person using it at a time. It can also be too close for comfort for two people to share, especially if they don’t know each other well.
The standard sofa has morphed into the sofa-chaise combo. Smaller than a sectional, it fits into a room generally the same way that a full three-seater sofa does making it a very versatile piece.
The sofa-chaise has one end of a regular sized sofa extended beyond a regular seat depth. It is usually about 56- to 60-in. long and acts as an ottoman, so one less piece of furniture is required. This also works as an additional seat for casual entertaining, guests will often perch on the end of the chaise as they would an ottoman.
Standard sizes of furniture A typical sofa ranges in size from 84 to 88 in. Any longer than this range would be considered oversized by today’s standards. In the 1980s, sofas were up to 96 in. long, but with people living in smaller spaces in general, oversized furniture is not only less popular it’s also less useful.
Condo sized sofas are about 72 in. long although some can be as small as 68 or as long as 76 in. The key to measuring for your sofa is not just the sofa size itself but also the furniture that needs to go on either side of it. Remember that you will need at least 24 in. or two ft. on either side of a sofa for a side table. Although a sofa size may seem small initially, by time you add other pieces around it will look right.
Chairs tend to be in the same size category, from at the smallest at 30 to 36 in. wide, and about 32 to 36 in. in depth. Any smaller and the chair is either a dining chair or it wont be comfortable for really hunkering in to read or watch TV. For tight spaces consider an armless chair, but remember this chair style may not work f or long term sitting, most people prefer an arm to lean into.
Size really does matter when selecting furniture.