How to Select a Sofa Style

You need a new sofa, but there are so many styles to choose from! How do you select a sofa style that is right for you? Rolled versus track arms, 2-seat versus bench cushion, extra firm versus down filling…What to do?? Don’t worry, it’s a lot less intimidating than it seems.

First things first. How much space do you have? How many people are going to need to sit on it? And how are you going to use this sofa? Are you going to nap on it and watch TV? Or perhaps, you are more of an upright sitter who prefers conversation. Knowing your needs will help steer you in the right direction, because form will always follow function. You need a sofa that will work for you.

How to pick a sofa style

All About Arms

The arm style can really set the tone for the sofa. Rounded arms, regardless of size will appear more traditional. They range from large and overstuffed, to a more petite curvature that can read as elegant and soft. A straight arm, known as the “track” arm also ranges from super skinny (1” wide) to large and flat (over 10”) and will always look more modern because of the straight lines. The arms can take up crucial real estate, so if you are tight on space, really consider a thinner, straighter arm to conserve space and capitalize the seating zone. Other modern arms styles include flare, ledge, wedge which look like they sound and can be a contemporary twist to your sofa. Sit in the sofa and use the armrest—when you select a sofa, you need to make sure that the armrest is the right height to support you, especially if you are a corner reader.


The back cushion can either be loose or tight back.

Loose cushions can be removed and are often “fluffier” and range the gamut of stuffing- some being packed tight for a firm feel or looser making it more “plush.” Loose cushions can be square and fit into the sofa or be a “T”- cushion and wrap the arm. The square cushion has a clean, contemporary look and the “T” cushion is typically seen on more traditional styles.

Tight-back sofas have no cushions to remove. The sofa back is tightly upholstered and often tufted either with or without buttons. This is typically seen on more modern style sofas or throw-backs to a vintage look. They look very neat and there is no need to fuss with the cushions. They can be very comfortable, but will not be the sofa that you cozy into.

Have A Seat

There are 2 kinds of seats: bench cushions and divided cushions. A bench cushion spans the length of the sofa and the divided cushions are separated into equal cushions across the sofa (most typically 2-3).

A bench cushion has the most modern look- typically the most streamlined and clean—it also doesn’t have delineated seats so no one sits in the crack. However, if the quality of the cushion is not good, the cushion can sag and look sloppy. And, regardless of cushion quality, you often have to shimmy the fabric on the cushion so the seams stay even.

The 2- seat cushion is a nice solution to dividing the sofa. It’s still clean and simple, especially when the back either matches (called 2 over 2) or is a tight back. The downfall is that even if it’s an 80” sofa, people have a tendency to not “share” a cushion.

The 3-seat is the more traditional of the options and is great in theory because everyone can have a seat, but realistically, unless it’s family, you typically will not have a loaded sofa. The key is getting a size that fits your space, knowing that you typically won’t have more than 2 people sharing the sofa (with the exception to kids and family).

Cushion Fill

Every manufacturer is going to have a certain way they build their cushions and the options they have available. We won’t get too technical here, but the filling will determine the firmness and durability of the seat cushion. Solid high-density HR (High Resiliency) foam will be firm and have a longer lifespan. Regular foam (non HR) will be comfortable and firm but will degrade more quickly. For a softer seat, the foam cushions can be wrapped in down or polyester blends with a down-proof ticking to keep the feathers from poking out. The more down used, the softer the seat will be. This can be really comfortable, but also lends to a more casual look with the puddling of fabric on the seat.   For those looking for an extra-firm seat, some companies wrap a spring core with down or polyester batting for a reinforced seat that will last a long time and offer a lot of support. For more information on seat cushions (Click Here – link to seat cushion page)

Back cushions are typically standard to the style of sofa but occasionally, you can customize the fill by adding an additional 5% to make a fuller back.

But Those Legs, Though…

Again, this is typically a standard feature on a sofa… and by the time you have made all the decisions to get to this point you will be like, “great, THAT leg is fine!” But if you have the option to choose… a couple of details to note:

The higher the leg, the firmer the seat. This is because they have to take the dimension out of something since all seat heights will range from 17-20” (typically)- so there isn’t a lot of room to play if you have high spindly legs. These sofas are typically modern, shallow and have tight backs, so they aren’t meant for lounging.

Shape: Cylindrical, Turned, Carved, Square, Peg or Solid base are a few leg options and typically will be inherent to the style selected. Square will be modern, peg will look mid-century modern, solid base will be more traditional and elegant while the round will be playful and contemporary.

Wood or Metal: Metal will always be more modern in contrast to wood and can be really cool when paired with a sleek leather. Wood is more standard, often with a selection of stains to choose from. It can add warmth and really bring a nice contrast to your upholstery or leather selection.

Skirted: Legs can be hidden behind a material flap called a “skirt” but we don’t recommend it. The fabric skirt will see a lot of “foot action” and may look dirty or dingy quickly.

Tiny Details

Again, this will vary from style to style, but options such as decorative stitching, contrast welting and nail heads are occasionally available. They are like jewelry for your sofa. You don’t need them, but they can add the perfect amount of sparkle when placed right.

Buying a sofa should be a fun experience and now that you are armed with this information, hopefully you will feel confident and assured in yourself to make the decisions right for you!