What makes a sofa “the best?” Much has already been written about it. You’ll hear phrases being thrown around like
- eight-way hand-tied springs
- kiln-dried hardwood frames
- double doweled corner blocked
- made in the USA
And then there are the seat cushions.
- Down and Feather
- Synthetic | Poly-dacron
- Foam Core Down
- Spring Down
- Natural | Soy-based
Tight Back vs.Loose Back [they’re both good]
And then there’s style. Maybe it’s the style that makes it the best sofa.
Finally, there’s price.
Occasionally, someone asks me:
“What is the difference between a $10,000 sofa and a $2,000 sofa or even a $1,000 sofa?”
Well, the latter is definitely massed-produced. However, the difference between the 10k and 2k usually has a lot to do with the name more than what’s inside it. This is true for a lot of things we buy. right?
I can’t tell you how many sofas and chairs I’ve sold in my career. All I know is that it’s hundreds. Most people buy maybe at most a dozen sofas in their entire lifetime, and some only one or two.
The sofa is the most expensive piece of upholstered furniture in the living room and it’s also the largest, of course. Therefore, careful consideration should be paid, but please don’t drive yourself crazy. Quite frankly, if you stick to the manufacturers with good reps and quality, they’re all pretty nice.
Here are some more things to consider before buying the best sofa for you.
What room is it for? Is it for watching TV and lounging? Will people be eating on it? Or is it for a more formal space like the “dead room” that no one ever goes into, but you want it to look nice because you pass by it all the time?
Or maybe it’s the main living space that includes a TV and more formal entertaining.
What dimensions do you need? Sofas generally come in lengths between about 60″ and 90″. The most common size is a three-seat sofa which is usually +/- 84″. However, and this is a really important point. If the sofa is being used primarily for conversation and relaxing, there will never be more than two people on it, so it is vitally important to get a sofa that’s the right length.
Depth. This really depends. Sofas generally come in depths from 34″-43.” The latter is like a stretch limo. You need a BIG room for one of those babies. They also have a very deep seat.
How deep? Well, the average seat depth of most sofas is from 22-24″ deep. However, I have had clients who want what I call a bed that is 25-26″ deep. It’s always the husband and he always has a wife who’s five feet tall. This is why God invented throw pillows. ;]
How tall should the back be? Again, this varies quite a bit. A modern sofa might only be a squat 28″ and these days, I’m seeing pieces with a back of 43.” My favorite height for a traditional sofa is 34-35.”
How high should the seat be? The average seat height is 18″-20.” Although there are styles that might have a seat as low as 15″ or as high as 21.” It’s a bit difficult to get an exact measurement because none of these are straight lines.
Arm height. Well, that’s a function of style, but for an average sofa, that’s usually from about 23″-25.” However, a Chesterfield style [the arms and back are the same height] could be as high as 36.”
There’s another really important element to talk about when choosing the best sofa.
It’s the decking.
If you don’t already know…
It’s the part that the seat cushion sits on and includes the front of the sofa that the legs attach to. That needs to be nice and firm. Sofas with flabby decking will not be comfortable.
Skirt? No Skirt? That depends on the style and preference. One of my pet peeves is when someone calls a sofa with a skirt, “traditional.” There is nothing at all traditional about a sofa with a skirt.
If we are talking “traditional” we need to go back to the time of Louis XVI in France and that’s circa 1780 or below in England to the furniture maker Thomas Chippendale. These are “traditional” sofas
This is what a traditional sofa looks like. I don’t see a skirt! This beauty is a Chippendale into a transitional Hepplewhite sofa. And that would be circa 1800. As a matter of fact, before that, there weren’t any sofas at all! People sat in chairs like this.
No sofas usually, just the chairs. Many years ago, I went on a field trip with my son Cale to John Jay Homestead in Katonah. This was the home of John Jay the first supreme court justice. Mr. Jay lived in this home in the late 1700s. Today, it is a faithfully preserved specimen of that era. There are two parlors in the home. Each is set up with two small tables and around each one are three chairs. That is all. And this was a wealthy dude!
Alright, enough of the history lesson, Laurel. We want to see the best sofas already!
Okay. Calm down. They’re coming. The
preamble history lesson is for anyone who is interested. Everyone else can scroll down to the good stuff. But first.
What are my criteria for the best sofas?
- classic styling
- beautiful proportions
- good value
As for seat cushions— 99% of the time, we use spring down seating. It is both soft and supportive and retains the shape of the cushion better than any other.
I specify almost all of my upholstered furniture from three companies.
They have the best sofas
CR Laine (as of January 2017, we can no longer recommend this company because they deleted my account due to “inactivity.” Therefore, the link has been removed.)
The latter is one of those trade secrets that I’m not supposed to tell anyone about because they don’t show at High Point and they don’t have a website and they never will, I’ve been told fairly recently. But, they are on the shortlist of vendors I can’t recommend highly enough in Laurel’s Rolodex.
Wait? You’re telling us your sources for the best sofas?
Sure? Why not? It’s not a secret. I mean, when you walk into your local Overpriced-R-us retail furniture store, don’t they usually have the manufacturer info on the label?
These are all terrific companies with medium high-end prices and excellent quality.
Here’s the list for the best sofas
Number 1 is well, the number one sofa which you can read about in the link.
This one is by Lee Industries, although the one we did from CR Laine last year is very similar. (note as of 2018, this frame has been discontinued)
The Russel Sofa
This is known as a Bridgewater Sofa or an English roll arm sofa
This is a sleek track arm sofa from Lee Industries
TCS Designs makes one my favorite settees. It is quite compact and yet just as comfortable as a full-sized sofa, so I’ve used it many times, when space is tight. You can also see it here in a one-foot longer size.
This is a Tuxedo Arm sofa from Lee Industries which we did below for the Bronxville sun room with a skirt
The Lawson arm sofa is probably the most common basic style. In the 80’s the arms were really BIG sometimes. This version from Lee is updated yet still classic. The so-called “traditional sofa” is usually a version of this arm with a 7″ skirt.
A newer frame from CR Laine, the Huntley evokes a kind of Hollywood of the 1930s-type glamor to me.
This sofa from Lee is not only very beautiful, but feels totally luxurious and enveloping to sit in.
A classic leather Chesterfield. This became popular in men’s club houses in the early part of the 20th century. It’s distinctive large round arm is the same height as the back. It is usually tufted.
This is a custom-made Chesterfield I had made for a client in Scarsdale, NY 2 years ago.
The wedge sofa is a newer style. This version from Lee is a winner. There are other versions of this style which are also great, but I included the wedge, because I think that it’s kinda cool and would be great for watching TV.
CR Laine’s Chichester sofa is a new take on the classic Chesterfield sofa.
And here it is in the Bronxville living room
Did you see any of your favorite sofa styles? Did you discover a new one? Which one is your favorite? Are there any glaring omissions?
This by no means are all of the sofas I like. But, the idea is to give you ten of the best.