How to Buy the Perfect Couch (and get the size right on the first try!)

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How To Buy the Perfect Couch

Judy hired me to help her with her family room. She had purchased a custom made sofa and two chairs and then called me to help her with the rest of the décor. I measured her room, got the details (width, depth, height) on the pieces she bought, we signed a contract and away I went to design her room.

A few days later, I called Judy because after several hours of space planning, it was clear her new pieces weren't going to work out the way she'd hoped. Before I even got the words out, she exclaimed, “the new furniture arrived this morning and it doesn’t fit!” Since, they were custom made and not returnable, she really had made a costly mistake!

I get at least one phone call every week from clients like Judy. Or when we go out for our Remodel Clarity Sessions, I see living rooms with “ill fitting” furniture.

Today I am going to tell you how to avoid this problem and how to buy the perfect couch and get the size right on the first try.

How to Buy the Perfect Couch – Measure Your Room (And Do It the Right Way!)

The main reason people get it wrong is they haven't measured their room. How can you know if the couch that looks so good online or in the furniture store will fit in your room, if you don’t know the size of your room? Since you can’t “try on” the couch like a new blouse, you need to take your measurements first and have it all sketched out to know exactly what will fit. (In my Online Design packages, I have instructions on how to measure and photograph your room. Here is a link to get your free measuring and photographing instructions!)

Basically, you need to purchase some graph paper and measuring tape to note all your room’s measurements - carry this indispensable guide with your on shopping excursions.

How to Buy the Perfect Couch – Know Some Basic Furniture Standards

Not only do you need to know what size couch will fit; you need to know the required clearances for the other pieces that go along with the couch. Here is a list of some of the most common measurements:

• The average size of a small sofa is 84” • The average size of a large sofa is 96” • You will need at least 42-48” for the sofa and leg clearance • A recliner needs 54-68” of clearance • You’ll need at least 18” clearance all the way around a coffee table • Plan on 84” – 112” for the best conversation zone (the distance between, for example the couch and chairs) • Leave at least 24” for any area that needs a walking path

When you go to the office supply or art store to buy some graph paper, grab one of those templates with furniture on it. You can easily play around (space plan) with different scenarios until you get the best layout. It will most likely not be the layout that you imagined. But armed with all this information, you will be completely prepared when shopping and save yourself butt-loads of frustration, wasted time, and possibly wasted money.

How to Buy the Perfect Couch – DON'T Do This!

One of the most common mistakes I see is gargantuan sectionals! I know you want to maximize the amount of seating, but unless you have a room that is 20 feet or more, a sectional is not a good idea. First of all they take up too much of the room. Second, they block the traffic pattern. Thirdly, they 're just plain boring! A room with a sofa and two chairs is much more versatile and interesting. There are of course, instances when a sectional is perfect and I get excited when we design a room that is perfect for a sectional, but on the whole, it is not a good idea.

Don’t be like Judy and make an expensive mistake when purchasing your sofa. If Judy had called me before she bought her furniture, we would have known what size was the best size for her room and her family, and she would have saved thousands of dollars!

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