How to Choose the Perfect Sofa for Any Space

There's more than style and color when it comes to selecting a sofa. Some of our favorite designers walk us through all the necessary considerations.

Living room of a pied-à-terre in Central Park West by Thad Hayes. Photo by Scott Frances

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to selecting and placing what, for many, is among the largest-scale purchases for the home: the sofa. It’s often front and center in the more high-traffic areas of the home, and it usually has to serve multiple uses, from cocktails to cuddling and kicking back.

Here, designers tell us what they think about when selecting the ideal sofa.


Photo by Bjorn Wallander

It’s not just the color of this ink-hued alpaca sofa by Ralph Lauren that makes it look so at home in a Moscow residence by Foley & Cox. The proportions are key as well.

Firm cofounder Michael Cox says: “Shape, style and upholstery are all obviously aesthetically important. But without the right sitting depth, cushion construction and perfect pitch, a sofa is just another horizontal platform.”


Photo by Emily Andrews

“While comfort is most important, a sofa needs to have either a sculptural element or an interesting detail to allow it to stand out in a space,” says Emilee Pearson of DHD Architecture + Interior Design, the firm responsible for this punchy Chelsea, New York, dining room.

DHD designed the custom banquette, upholstered in a Holly Hunt fabric, and added a generous splash of vibrant colors and patterns.


Photo by Dustin Askland

“Long, continuous lines make a sofa amazing — whether they are curvy or rectilinear,” says Brooklyn-based architect and interior designer Elizabeth Roberts. “I also think that the relationship of the sofa back to the arm is important.”

For this Lower East Side, New York, living room, Roberts turned to a biomorphic Vladimir Kagan–style sofa in sage green, which complements the space’s boho vibe.


Photo courtesy of Groves & Co.

“There are so many ingredients to the great sofa recipe — the truly best are a sublime balance of style and comfort,” says Russell Groves of Groves & Co. “Beautiful details, finishes and a fantastic fabric certainly add to the ‘excellence’ factor!”

In designing a Lower Manhattan loft space for a young international couple who love to entertain, Groves anchored the space with a pair of long, sleek sofas topped Asian-inspired throw pillows that add a pop of color to the otherwise neutral decor.


Photo by Julia Lynn

According to Charleston designer Angie Hranowsky, “the most important thing to know when choosing the perfect sofa is its purpose. Is it for conversation, or for watching TV and lounging? Then you can determine the right depth and seat height.”

No doubt, she chose a conversation starter in the form of a vintage lilac Milo Baughman sectional for a waterfront home in South Carolina.


Photo by Mark Menjivar

“A sofa should be both chic and comfortable,” M Interiors founder Melissa Morgan. “And don’t be afraid of color — it’s amazing how a deep, rich color on a sofa reads as a neutral in a space.”

She certainly didn’t shy away from color — or pattern — when outfitting this San Antonio living room with a custom linen velvet sofa and animal-themed throw pillows.


Photo by Moris Moreno

The design duo behind Brown Davis Interiors custom made a pair of clean-lined sofas for Miami transplants who wanted their new condo to nod to their New York past.

“Sofas are used every day, and they must feel and look good, which is one of the reasons our motto is ‘comfort is the greatest luxury,’ ” says Todd Davis.

“For example, Vladamir Kagan–level firmness for cocktail comfort and Rose Tarlow softness for deep lounging and relaxation,” adds Robert Brown.


Photo by Scott Frances

“I like shapes and forms that are exaggerated in proportion, meaning either greater or lesser dimensions than the ‘standard classic,’ ” says Thad Hayes. “We’ll often accentuate lengths that start to become architectural and less object-like, sometimes 14 feet long. That begins to organize the room.” In a penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Hayes created a space within a space by grouping a custom sofa with four matching armchairs.