Seating is one of the most important components of your home. Some of my favorite things to do involve the different seats in my house -- curling up on the sectional with a good book, sitting around the dinner table sharing a meal with good friends, or cuddling with my husband on the sofa watching tv. Most people select their seating on aesthetics alone, but there are other factors you should be considering to make the right decisions for your home and lifestyle.
Next to your mattress, your sofa is the most important piece of furniture in your home, so give this decision the attention it deserves! Here are the elements you need to consider:
Type. You can’t go wrong with a standard sofa. There are tons of options at reasonable prices and, because they work in virtually any space, they can move with you. A chaise -- basically a sofa with an ottoman attached -- is a decadent choice, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s going to expand your seating. No one wants to sit without a back for any extended period of time, so only choose a chaise if you love to recline. If it’s additional seating you need, select a fully-backed sectional in an L or a U shape, depending on how much space you have. Just make sure you plan to stay put for the next 5 years to make it worth the higher price point, because it won’t necessarily fit in your next home.
Length. No matter how big the sofa, I always say that it can only seat three people. Trust me, the people on the end don’t want to lean over those in the middle to chat. So I recommend a standard 85-90” sofa with 3 bottom cushions to seat everyone comfortably. Sofas with one long cushion may look sleek at first, but you’ll quickly find a divot in the favored seat. And while the stores are full of two-cushion sofas, when you do have three people on it, someone ends up stuck on the uncomfortable seam. And that’s no way to treat your guests!
Fabrics. When it comes to retail options, you’ll generally be choosing between polyester or a polyester acrylic blend, both of which I love, because they are so easy to clean. But don’t get fooled by microfiber - the static cling attracts dust bunnies and hair, driving me almost as crazy as the odd swirly marks that are left whenever someone brushes up against it. I’m also a big fan of West Elm’s performance velvet and marled microfiber, both of which have unique textures that are stain resistant, easy to clean, and don’t suffer from their generic counterparts’ shortcomings. And when it comes to sofas, please pass on the prints. You want it to last 5-10 years, but I doubt you’ll find a pattern you want to keep around for that long.
Pillows. When selecting the details of your couch, think about your tolerance for mess. The back cushion style makes a big difference in how much time you spend arranging and fluffing pillows to get it to look just right. You can get a sofa with cushions that are fully integrated into the frame, known as a tight back sofa, or one where the cushions are completely unattached, i.e., a loose back sofa. If you have kids who like to toss the pillows around, or you just don’t want the hassle of pillow positioning, opt for a tight back. You can always add a couple throw pillows for lower maintenance style.
Legs. The same lifestyle considerations apply to whether you choose a couch with legs. Legs are visually attractive and make a sofa feel less clunky, especially a sectional. But the price of elevated seating is not being able to sweep anything under it. I’m talking about toys, dust bunnies, or any other mess that might hide under your couch. No problem if you’re a neat freak, but otherwise you may consider a sofa that goes right to the floor or comes with a skirt -- it will be harder for things to get trapped under there, and if they do, you can rest easy knowing they’re safely out of your guests’ view.
Give your feet a place to rest. You aren’t going to get the maximum comfort out of your chairs if you can’t put your feet up! So choose a sleek recliner or a chair and ottoman combo. If you’re not into the matchy matchy look, there are lots of less conventional options, like the Moroccan style leather poufs, or a ceramic stool that can do double duty as a place to set your drink.
Pick a pattern. Unlike with the sofa, the chair and ottoman are great ways to add that pop of print to your home, because chairs aren’t as overwhelming as bigger pieces of furniture. Feel free to be bold and take risks! Try that chunky velvet texture or wacky watercolor floral.
Switch up your seating style. Diversifying shapes and heights is the key to visual interest in a room. So if your sofa has legs, get an ottoman that doesn’t, and vice versa.
Get upholstered dining chairs. If you don’t want your dinner party guests to dine and dash, make sure to get upholstered dining chairs - they’re so much more comfortable! Fabric stains easily and tie-on pads feel are a little too country kitsch for my taste. But I’m a big fan of leather - virtually any spill can be wiped right off.
Don’t go backless. Dining benches and backless bar stools run counter to a central tenet of human nature - no one wants to sit for more than 15 minutes without support. So unless you only want to use the seating to scarf down a quick bowl of cereal, make sure it has a back.
When seating is cozy and inviting, the rooms in your home become focal points where people love to gather. And isn’t that the whole purpose after all?
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