Couples (couch) therapy: how to choose the right sofa

By Erin Gifford

Just as it’s no simple feat to find your soul mate, it can be equally challenging to score a sofa that ticks all the boxes for quality, style, and comfort. And that’s before taking your significant other’s opinion into account.

A recent study found that one-quarter of couples get frustrated when furniture shopping with their partner. The same survey found that 15% actively avoid going to the furniture store altogether if it can be avoided.

Snuggle up, because we’ve got tips that’ll help you shop with your partner to choose a new sofa that makes you both happy.

Find the right fit — for both of you

Even if you and your significant other are prone to disagreements, you can’t dispute the hard facts of room dimensions. Remember this rule above all others: Measure your space before you go shopping. (And then measure again.)

There’s nothing worse than getting your heart set on a sofa that ultimately won’t fit in the space and have to start all over.

And when you break out the measuring tape, make sure you do it together so you agree on the measurements — this will quash any fight over who didn’t measure properly.

Aside from taking measurements of the sofa’s final destination, you should also measure doorways, stairways, and hallways to make sure you can get your new sofa in your condo, around corners, and into the desired space.

Do a little online sleuthing

Before you step foot in a furniture showroom, sit down with your sweetheart and assess your options online. This preshopping exercise will ensure you both have an idea of what a sofa costs — and allow each of you to discuss frankly how much you’re willing to spend. (Don’t forget to factor in delivery fees!)

Starting online also gives you a crash course on the variety of sofa options available, including sectionals and sleepers. Plus, retailers such as Crate & Barrel share dimensions for furniture online so you’ll know whether a sofa will fit your space before you go to a showroom. Send, pin, and share ideas about the kind of sofas you like with your partner.

Decide on your sofa vibe

“A sofa is just one piece of the design puzzle,” notes Beverly Solomon of Beverly Solomon Design. “A couple should first have a clear idea of how they want their living space to look and feel, as well as the image they want to project.”

So if he wants a comfy, overstuffed sofa ideal for football Sundays, you might need to remind him it doesn’t jibe with your home’s midcentury aesthetic. It can be a fraught discussion, but make sure your decor preferences are aligned.

Lay out your lounging style

Consider how a new sofa will be used on a daily basis, including how you and your partner prefer to lounge around. Love to doze off on the couch? A firm sofa with deep button tufts might not be the best pick.

Then, pull out that measuring tape again because you’ll want to consider the depth and height of the sofa seat.

“A sofa should fit the person with the shortest leg length for proper seat depth and seat height,” advises interior designer Steven C. Adamako of Spectrum Interiors.

Keep in mind seat cushion materials play a factor as well. Soft cushions will cause you to sink into a seat more than a firm cushion. A lower seat height can offset a deeper seat depth to help ensure good back support.

Think about who’s going to clean it

There’s form, and then there’s fabric — which is a key factor to consider if you have kids, pets, or just generally plan to use the sofa on a daily basis.

“Pay close attention to the durability and washability of the fabric you choose,” Harris says. An argument about who’s cleaning (or refusing to clean) the new sofa might mean someone might be sleeping on it.

Engineered fabrics such as indoor-outdoor upholstery have come a long way. They’re easy to clean, and many are as supple as indoor fabrics. Protectant sprays (e.g., Scotchgard) can also help keep your new sofa clean.

Canoodle to test comfort

Your partner is the center of your life, and your new sofa will be the centerpiece of your living space. When shopping together, don’t hesitate to spend time sitting, lounging, and stretching out on floor models. Give your bodies time to sink into a sofa and evaluate the feel of the fabric.

Keep in mind that a sofa may feel like the right fit in the showroom, then lose its comfort and appeal halfway into a Netflix binge. With this in mind, do a deep dive into the company’s return policy so you’re not stuck with a dud.

Shop as a team (the same team)

To make it as a team in life, you must first make it past the hurdles of furniture shopping. Neither partner should feel snubbed, unheard, or disappointed.

Set a budget, educate yourselves on options, and get excited about (don’t just settle on) a brand-new sofa to feather your nest.

And remember: You probably didn’t find your partner on the first go, so don’t feel pressured to find a sofa you both love on your first shopping trip.