The living room can make or break a home’s liveability, and the couch can make or break a living room. In both financial and design terms, buying a new couch is one of the biggest decisions and investments that a homeowner or interior designer can make. And, from fabric to function, style to price tag, there is a lot to consider when making this vital purchase.
Here are our top six things to keep in mind when you buy your new couch to help you pick the one that’s right for you and your family.
First things first: how many people must your couch cater for? Needless to say, there is little point buying a stand-alone two-person couch for a family of six, while the sprawling sectional piece is unlikely to come in handy very often for a one- or two-person household.
But there are so many more factors to consider than just ‘how many people will be sitting on this thing?’ You’ll need to keep in mind the proportions of the room – your couch should neither overwhelm nor underwhelm its surroundings – but also its length, height and depth.
Arms and legs
On a related note, there is one aspect of the couch that you should consider in close detail: its arms. Be sure to take the measurement of the length between the couch’s arms when considering its size for a more accurate indication of how many people it will fit; after all, you don’t want guests or family members sitting on the arm of the couch! Keep in mind also that armless couches appear to add size to a room, so if you’re working with a small space, opt for an armless one to boost the open space.
Don’t forget the sofa’s legs either. If those babies are on display, consider how their material interacts with its surroundings: chrome or metal legs give an industrial, modern finish, while timber legs are more homely.
Don’t shy away from testing out prospective new couches at the store for sustained periods of time; you want to make sure you can spend hours of your life sitting on this thing after all! But, as important as your comfort is, the fabric should also be durable and practical. If there are young children in your home, or they are likely to make an appearance in the near future, withhold from getting that silk or velvet sofa and instead look towards the easy-to-clean and low-maintenance leather alternatives.
And then there are the dilemmas of choosing your cushions! Decide whether your couch should have the elegance of tailored cushioning, or the cosy casualness of plush, overstuffed cushions.
One of the obvious things to look out for when buying a new couch is the colour and how it fits into the room. Because it is such a major investment, you might like to steer away from overly brazen or bold prints and patterns that could quickly become dated or unfashionable. Neutral colours are your safest bet, but consider also the space that you are working with, and how it fits in with its surroundings, both interior and exterior.
Fabric and colour are important factors of style, but there is much more to it than that. Consider the surroundings of the couch, and match accordingly. Unless you are trying to make some sort of bold design statement, you should try to make your couch complement the room in which it is situated.
For an avant-garde, minimalist space that is all geometry and no frills or flourishes, go for a fittingly modern sofa with clean lines, and understated, tailored upholstery. On the other hand, if your interior is traditional and homely, tufted cushions and plump couch arms may be your best bet.
Last but certainly not least, don’t make the classic mistake that many first-time homeowners looking to cut costs on the interior design of their first place: do not skimp when it comes to the frame. It’s important to invest in a couch with a solid, sturdy frame – however plush and silky its cushioning may be – considering how important and durable this structure should be. (Not to mention the fact that, like a bed, it is responsible for supporting your back.) Pass on flimsy or wobbly couches, however much the style may appeal, and keep an eye out for durable, high-quality hardwood frames.
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Christopher Plumlee is a freelance writer and interior design enthusiast who found her own ‘sofa soulmate’ at Nick Scali in Warrawong.