Choosing a new custom sofa shouldn’t be as complicated as brain surgery, but it most definitely can make your brain hurt. With what seems like never ending choices in fabrics, arms styles, feet, cushions, sources to purchase from, and let’s not forget price points – it can make even the most sane person turn crazy. I know the decision to purchase a custom sofa is not for everyone, and there are plenty of sofas available that are ready-made or have just a few color options to make it easier on us all. But if you’re looking for a sofa with a specific style, color and fabric (I think they call that being picky – a la me?), then custom sofas are totally your jam (funny, mine too)! If you’re analytical, a total planner, and tend to make well thought through decor decisions like I do, then this can be your go to guide to choosing a new custom sofa! If you just like to wing it with major design decisions, well then, I probably can’t help you – and frankly you’re making my blood pressure go up too. So, moving on!
These following six steps in choosing a new custom sofa are not rocket science by any means. Heck, most are just plain old fashioned common sense. However, when a process such as selecting a new sofa has an overwhelming amount of options to choose from, it’s nice to have a set of steps to help clear the chaos and guide your decision a little easier.
Step 1. Determine your Budget
Money, it’s the ugly side of buying pretty things – always coming between you and your dreams. While budgeting is definitely not the fun part of buying a sofa, it’s a lot less fun to fall in love with something that is way outside your budget (not saying that can’t still happen however, #sofalust). The cost of sofas and sofa sectionals can really vary depending on what you are looking to purchase or customize, and you might have to adjust your budget (if you can) or your wants (more likely) accordingly as you go- so start first with knowing how much moola you are willing to spend. In your budget, be sure to account for factors like delivery and warranty programs that you might want to take advantage of too, which can run a few hundred dollars and up (and up). Having a budget in mind will help guide you to where to look for your new sofa too, and will help avoid that #sofalust, or ending up “sofa-poor” (still gotta be able to afford Netflix)!
IMAGE VIA: STYLE BY EMILY HENDERSON
Step 2. Know Your Size, Scale and Layout
Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT just eyeball your space and try to visualize what size you want your new sofa to be. “About yay big” is not an actual measurement for retailers to work off of! You need to know what will fit into your space and not look like the elephant in the room (or a mouse either for that matter). If you currently have a sofa in place, understand what you don’t like about it – too big, too small, too wide, too tall, too deep, too big of feet? Work off of its pros and cons to formulate your ideal sofa. If you don’t have a current sofa and need a visual to help, make some cardboard cutouts or tape grocery sacks together to build a flat layout of what you think works best in your space. Take measurements of length, height (some sofas really can vary in back height, so important to know what you like) AND depth so you can take that with you on your hunt. Knowing an approximate depth is important not only for space planning, but also for comfort. If you are planning on getting other new furniture in the room as well, consider plugging these measurements into an online floor planning tool, or map it out on graph paper (to an accurate scale) so you can visualize it with other furniture planned for the room. While this might seem like a tedious task, remember – most customs ordered sofas are NOT returnable, so perhaps best to measure twice, purchase once.
IMAGE VIA: RUE MAG
Step 3. Understand your Style and Use
The style you are looking to create for the space, and the use of your new sofa are going to go hand in hand. A sofa that looks great, but doesn’t comfortably seat your family of six for movie night, is no good to anyone really. Ultimately you want to find a style of sofa that is pleasing to your eye, works with the decor of your home and the style you are aiming for, and that you can love (or tolerate) for a while (or long while depending on cost). Given the cost of a custom sofa, I don’t think you want to be changing them out with the bathwater. If you need help understanding what your style is, there are great resources out there. One of my favorites, Emily’s Henderson’s book: Styled, has a style finding ‘quiz’ that provides descriptions and photos of each style to help you get feel for what it each looks like.
Or there is always my very best design advice friend, Pinterest, available to help too. Scroll through photos of living spaces that appeal to you and identify what structural aspects of the sofas- such as the style of the arm or foot – that you prefer. Do you like traditional rolled arms, or sleek modern boxed arms? Modern coned legs, a relaxed casual skirt, or ruffles (I kind of hope not on that last one)? Identifying these things will help you to know what elements to look for when shopping for your new sofa. When you do start your search, almost every sofa might appeal to you in some way (furniture stores are like eye candy). It can be easy to get wrapped up with all the pretty options and forget what aspects really appeal to you for your space. Making a list, or collecting photos that contain the elements you like in a sofa can help keep you focused and make sure you are staying true to the style that you want to live with – not just the style that looks good on the showroom floor.
IMAGE VIA: DESIGN MOM
Of course, the use of your sofa will be just as, if not more important than the style of the sofa. Evaluate how this new sofa will be used in your home. Estimate how many people can sit comfortably (not how many you can jam onto it – but sit comfortably), and think about who is using the sofa and how it works would work for them. And by golly, be sure to make a trip to the store or showroom to sit on a few! I understand it might not be an option to sit on the exact sofa you are looking to purchase – but I highly recommend at least sitting on a sofa by that same manufacture to get a feel. Some sofas might look great, but the depth or firmness of the cushions might be all wrong for you, or how you want it to be used. Overall, comfort of a sofa is a very personal decision, so mostly you’ll just have to go with your gut on this one.
Step 4. Find your Source
If you don’t already have a source in mind after going through the above steps, this one can be kind of a doozie. There are obviously a plethora of options when it comes to where to purchase your custom sofa. Many big retailers like Pottery Barn, West Elm (same parent company on those two if you weren’t aware), Crate and Barrel, Ethan Allen, Restoration Hardware and Room and Board have customs sofa options (if even just for fabric choices), to name a few. Then there are the major furniture manufactures like Bassett Furniture, Thomasville, Rowe, Hooker – and these are just what I could think of in the moment. You can even order custom fabrics for sofas on Wayfair now!
IMAGE VIA: BRABBU
To help narrow down your choices, I suggest starting with an online search of retailers with styles that appeal to you- as well at your local furniture store that sells (or that is) a major furniture brand such as one of the ones listed above. Use what you discovered from work in Steps 1, 2 & 3 (know your budget, determine your sizing, and understand what style and function you want) to find your source. Do some googling for online retailers that sell furniture- online shopping makes it easy to identify style, price, options, and size – helping for you to know if it will be a good fit for your needs all around. Many of these retailers also have brick and mortar stores, so gather some thoughts from their site and then go in and discuss options with them. With major furniture manufacturers you may be able to start online to find things you like, but you’ll likely be directed to their nearest showroom, or that of the nearest dealer’s showroom, to get full options and pricing. In some cases, pricing and budget might blow a source away all on its own. In other cases, it might be the options you are looking for are not available at that particular source. Make a list of sources and weed through it. Be sure to keep good track of the options, materials, quotes, etc. for each sofa and source that becomes a contender (even take a picture while there), so you can be sure to remember all the details of each. If you look at a lot of options, they might all start to mush together a bit in the end.
Step 5. Choose your Options
Options are really where the custom part of the ‘custom sofa’ come into play. Options can totally overwhelm and add to design decision phobia (been there). With many sofas, not only are you able to customize the build of a sofa or sectional itself- love seat + chaise, love seat + cuddler, right corner sectional, etc.- some manufacturers also let you choose, arm style, cushion density, feet, attached or not attached back cushions, etc.,etc., etc. The list goes on and on in some cases. If your still having troubles wading through all the options, as for help from the sales or design rep at the store. Show them what you’ve pulled together in terms of size and style ideas (remember they can’t see into your head, show them photos and real dimensions), and let them help guide you.
IMAGE VIA: STYLIZIMOBLOG
Once you’ve selected the sofa and style itself, the hardest part to overcome at this point is likely the fabric choice. Some manufactures will have a fairly limited selection of fabrics, and some will have a ton. Fabric options can also greatly alter the price of a sofa, so be sure to understand the price points on the fabrics you are interested in. Narrow down your fabric choice and color based budget, color scheme you are looking to implement (sorry, no tips on that in this post- this one’s got enough words already and color scheme is a whole other process), and the use of the piece. This upholstery fabric guide from Better Homes and Gardens provides a list with information and pros and cons for a variety of different fabric options that might be available for you to choose from. Heed their advice well – fabric is one of the most important decisions in this process.
Step 6. Homework Time
Do your homework. Don’t make a rush a decision on this one. Be aware that customs sofas often can take up to 12 weeks (or more) to manufacture and deliver to you, so align your ability to perform a proper search and evaluation of options with that in mind.
Take some time to study the fabric swatches in your space to get a good feel for how the color looks in the lighting of your home. Often a retailer will have free fabric swatches, or you can check them out to take home. Set samples side by side and look at them on a cloudy day, a sunny day, and at night too. Get a good feel for how they strike you at different times of the day. The lighting of a space can drastically change a color, and you would be remiss to skip this step just to find out that a color you loved in the store looks completely different in your space. It can also help you to narrow down your options. You might be able to eliminate a fabric option immediately once you get it home, or it might take a few days to know if it’s right for you.
IMAGE VIA: COTTONON.COM
See what others are saying. Look for reviews on the retailers or manufactures website or other sites, but take these in with caution. Remember there will always be a percentage of people who go online solely to complain, so be sure to weigh out the good with the bad reviews. I also like to have real life visuals to make me comfortable with large purchases. You can get this by searching social media platforms by using the name of the sofa or the manufacture to see if you can find images of the sofa in someone’s home. But, take caution on this just like when looking for online reviews- often people might not refer accurately to the model name or fabric color (or might not use the name of the sofa at all), so be sure that you are comparing apples to apples.
Lastly, be sure to talk over through all costs, hidden charges, warranty options, and any other questions you might have with the sales representative of the source you choose to go with. Dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s prior to pulling the trigger.
Ultimately you will will have to make a game time, gut decision when selecting your new custom sofa, but hopefully these steps help make that decision a little easier on the gut in the end. Good luck!
TOP IMAGE VIA: WHITE AND OTHER COLORS