Picking out a new sofa seems pretty simple right? Go to the store, sit on a few, pick a color, place your order and move on with your life. From an interior designers standpoint, there are a lot more factors to sort through and I am going to tell you four things that you should specifically be looking for.
Does it fit? No, does it really fit?
When I talk to clients about what they would like in a sofa, usually the first thing they say is something regarding style - a loveseat, a sectional etc. While they are thinking about style I am already looking at the doorways. People rarely think about getting a sofa into the space, they often just assume that whatever they pick will fit. I've had non-designer friends tell me that they ordered a sofa and didn't figure out that it wouldn't fit until delivery day. That's no fun.
Think about the width of your front door and the width of any hallways you need to pass through. If you live in an apartment and you don't have a freight elevator, you need to measure the width of the passenger elevator or the stair. Also, consider any tight 90 degree turns.
Comfort is a relative term...
Professional interior designers often know what vendors to turn to and what specifications to look for when it comes to seating so we are a bit more comfortable ordering things without sitting on them. However, this is after years of experience, ordering and knowing what questions to ask in regards to furniture construction etc. We also have relationships with familiar furniture reps that know what direction to point us in for a client that is requesting something specific. Further, for commercial projects, we have the ability to sometimes order a "furniture sample" to be delivered onsite for the client to try out for themselves.
When possible I always recommend that clients try out the sofa in person because comfort is a relative term. This is especially the case with couples. In one case, I helped a couple find a sofa and although she was average height her boyfriend was about 6'-5". They had very different ideas in regards to comfort. Consider the height of the sofa off the ground, the back height and the filling.
There are many times that people find a sofa they love because of the fabric and they forget completely about the function. You can sometimes get away with this for sofas that you don't sit on for long periods of time, but many people want a sofa that can be "lived in." The piece needs to work functionally for your lifestyle first and foremost - fabrics are generally a much easier thing to change or customize in comparison to the construction of the sofa itself.
If you are shopping online there is the potential for variation between the fabric color you see on your screen and the real thing. When my clients see a fabric they like online, I always order a sample even if they already seem pretty set on their decision.
Things to consider when choosing an upholstery fabric are the durability and stain resistance, especially if you have kids and/or pets. Another way to hide any foreseeable stains is by choosing a mid-tone to dark fabric or one with a pattern. Dark fabrics can always be brightened up with accent pillows that can be more easily cleaned or replaced.
Return Policy & Lead Times
Unless you are buying a sofa that is stock, many sofas are somewhat custom which means the are not returnable. If you are getting a sofa that is in-stock you may get it in a couple days, a quick ship piece may be somewhere around 2-4 weeks, anything special order with that beautiful fabric can take upwards of 8-10 weeks. Something to keep in mind if you are working towards a deadline like a holiday party. Better to investigate both of these things sooner, rather than later.
Foreseeing issues if half the battle during a room refresh. If you know what issues may arise you are already ahead of the game! If this is way more than you are willing to deal with contact an interior designer - we love this stuff!