Question: Is there a difference between a sofa and a couch?
Answer: The terms are confusing, admits design expert Colleen Sullivan, contributing editor at MyDomaine. People use them interchangeably. Historically, couch is the less stuffy version. “A couch typically has no armrests,” says Sullivan. “It’s meant for lying down as much as sitting, in an informal room, like a den. The word ‘couch’ actually comes from the French word ‘coucher,’ meaning to lie down or rest,” she explains.
The word “sofa” derives from the Arabic “suffah” — a wooden bench covered in cushions and blankets. Strictly speaking, a sofa has two armrests and seats four or more people. (A two-seater is a loveseat.) “Sofas are used in more formal settings, like a living room,” says Sullivan.
Question: How do I choose a sofa online that I’ll actually like?
Answer: Buying a sofa online is often less expensive and more convenient than shopping at traditional furniture stores. Perks such as free delivery and broader inventory also sweeten the deal. But the options can feel overwhelming. Sullivan shares the following six pointers to help you choose the right one for you:
Browse brick-and-mortar first.
“You’ll get a better handle on style by seeing it in person,” she says. Note your major preferences: Do you like clean lines? Tapered legs? Fabric or leather?
Map out the dimensions.
“Sketch out where the sofa will be in by outlining the area with blue tape,” Sullivan advises. Another tip: “Compare the measurements of the new sofa with your old one. Will adding a few extra inches to your existing sofa make the room feel cramped?” Designers usually aim for 16-18 inches between sofa and coffee table; 26-32 inches between the wall and the sofa, she says.
Order a swatch of fabric online.
Order a swatch of fabric online to get a true sense of how it’ll look in your home. Colors on the computer screen can be deceiving, and the light in each room is different. Many companies offer 10 or 12 swatches free, and they ship within days. Opt for easy-to-clean textiles, like canvas, microfiber, or twill, if the couch will be in a busy room for guests, pets, and kids.
Pay attention to construction details.
A sofa made from hardwood will generally hold up better than one made from plywood and fiberboard.
Read the reviews on third-party sites.
Every company gets the occasional complaint, but if customers are generally happy, you’re on the right track.
Check out shipping costs, warranty, and return policy.
These factors can affect the final price, and ultimately, your satisfaction with your sofa. Or couch.