What do you call that large piece of furniture in your living or family room?
You know the one – it has cushions and pillows. It’s the place where everybody in the family lounges to catch their favorite television shows.
Did the word sofa come to mind? Or did you think couch?
Most of us use the two terms interchangeably. But it turns out, the words used to mean two different pieces of furniture.
The word “couch” comes from the French verb coucher, which translates “to lie down.” The word “sofa” originated from suffah, an Arabic word that referred to a wood or stone bench.
According to Apartment Therapy, “people tend to prefer the word couch when they’re talking about a casual, un-stuffy room. A “couch” is a place to lie down and veg out. Usually three or more cushions. Most people use sofa when they’re trying to be fancy, or trying to charge you more at the showroom. A “sofa” is more of a proper place to sit than a lie-down couch.”
Whatever you call it, choosing the right one is incredibly important. Too big and your room looks crowded. Too small and there’s not enough seating.
I tend to follow a few rules of thumb when I’m helping a client shop for a new sofa (we’ll go ahead and use the fancy word).
- Choose a solid color. Yes, the patterned fabrics might look cool, but they’re likely to look dated before you’re ready for a new couch. If you want some contrast or pattern, get pillows that accent the sofa. It’s much easier to change pillows than to buy a new sofa!
- Inquire about the construction of the sofa. If it is just glued together, it likely won’t last very long – especially if you have children. The best sofas are eight-way hand-tied construction. They last the longest.
- Look at how the cushions are made. I generally recommend foam core with a poly blend wrap, but it can depend on what you like – firm, semi-firm, soft, etc. You can order a sofa with the type of cushion you like but that will likely mean an upcharge.
- Consider your height and that of those who will be using the sofa. If you are shorter make sure you should go for a shallower seat depth and make sure your feet touch the ground when you sit. If you are taller or plan on lying on the sofa often, then get a deeper seat.
- Think about how long you want to have this piece. If you know you might move in a few years, you might want to get a cheaper sofa so you can use it now and still reasonably buy a new one when you move. If you have pets and/or small children, I wouldn’t advise buying a very expensive piece. Even the best-made sofas can’t stand up to years of sticky fingers, spills and accidents.
It’s not common anymore for people to buy a very expensive quality sofa that can be reupholstered when the fabric goes out of style.
Instead, most people tend to buy a less expensive sofa, knowing when it falls apart or goes out of style, they can buy a new one without breaking the bank.
If you’re in the market for a new sofa (or any furniture) just give me a call! I’d love to help you pick the perfect piece.
Read more on sofas and couches:
An NPR article by Linton Weeks called “The Deep-Seated Meaning Of The American Sofa” features a great quote by Benjamin Parzybok, author of the novel Couch:
“The couch is the thrash-able object at the center of a well-used living room, upon whose back toddlers straddle, whose cushions teenager become permanent fixtures, and which, at the end of the day, after the children are in bed, a couple might relax with a short glass of bourbon.
“A sofa, on the other hand, sits under a trimly hung painting and lives in a house in which traffic passes it by. It would be white, of course, or another color begging for stain. And most people living at the house of a sofa would be forbidden to sit upon it at one time or another.”