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Living Room Furniture Buying Guide
Last Updated: 08/19/2009
Living Room Furniture Buying Guide - The Furniture Authority
Whether you are furnishing your dorm room, town house or mansion, The Furniture Authority has the furniture you want at incredible discount prices. This living room furniture buying guide will help you sort through all of the choices and help you decide on which furniture will work best in your living room.
Finding Your Style
Most people know what they like and what they don't like. Between those two extremes, many living room furniture choices are available. If you have no idea where to start, look in your closet and see what you choose to wear. A closet full of neutral colors with few embellishments means modern living-room furniture might feel right to you. If you've always owned a leather jacket, a leather sofa is probably going to feel more your style than a fabric couch. If you would never leave home without your designer handbag, consider the chic elegance of contemporary living room furniture.

Once you've found your style, measure the room and sketch it on paper. Hands-on people even stack boxes to get a feel for the dimensions of the furnishings they are considering. (If you've just moved in, you'll have boxes handy for this.) You can also lay down painters' tape. Make a list of the living room furniture you'd like to have and figure those items into your measurements. Consider incorporating permanent fixtures -- like Victorian molding, finials from the stair railing or an attractive fireplace mantel -- as well as traffic flow and allowing space to comfortably walk around your furniture.

Now comes the fun part: choosing your living room furniture. If there is one piece you love, start with that and choose other pieces around it. If you haven't found that item yet, start with the largest article of furniture and work from there.




Sofas come in a variety of choices, and online shopping for a sofa can become overwhelming. Keep calm with these simple sofa tips:

  • Make sure the sofa you choose has enough support beams or bars, especially if it's a longer couch.
  • Check the weight capacity for the sofa. If all of your teenage boy's football buddies come over to watch the game, you'll want your couch to survive the ordeal!
  • Does the sofa feature a stain resistant coating over the fabric, or will that be something you'll need to add later?
  • Is the couch "finished": pleats in the curved arm are straight, contrasting welts are straight, foam completely covers without stopping before edges and a dust cover underneath to hide wood and springs.
  • Make sure that the sofa is made with California fire foam. This is more flame retardant than regular foam and safer for you and your family.

Selecting a sofa based on aesthetics is a bit easier than you think. Look at the individual features and find those that appeal to your creative style and mood.

Tight-back vs. loose-back: Tight-back sofas have upholstery shaped to the sofa's frame. This can give the sofa a formal look, like a Tudor, Georgian or Queen Anne settee with tufted buttons to keep the foam from shifting, or a contemporary look, like a smooth, one-piece sofa with a cushioned back and seat. Loose-back sofas can be more casual and can be very comfortable. Loose-back sofa cushions are not attached directly to the frame and can be removed. Some sofa-back cushions are attached at the top and left loose on the bottom. Note that if arranging and rearranging the pillows makes you crazy, you'll want to stick to a tight-back sofa, but if you want the shabby chic comfort of a dollhouse daybed, choose a loose-back sofa.

Feet vs. skirt: Traditional feet are usually ornately carved wood, while modern furniture and contemporary furniture feet are smooth and straight and made of wood or metal. Consider the species of wood. Teak, cedar, pine and . Depending on the crispness of the pleats, a couch with a skirt can give the room a casual look (flowing ruffles) or a traditional feeling (box pleats).

Arms: High arms, low arms, square arms, curved arms, upholstered arms or wood arms: consider both the appearance and what you'll want to lean against if you ever nap on the couch. Beware of sitting on the sofa arms; this can cause damage. The adjustable arms of a sofa sleeper can also be damaged so you'll want to take care with those. You can also choose a sofa with no arms; it makes a small room look larger and often has a modern look.

Cushions: Generally, the number of cushions is a good way to decide how many people will be sitting on the couch. In more modern sofas the cushion is one-piece and any number can sit there as long as they all fit, but in traditional and loose-back sofas, the cushions are divided. Sofa cushions may be loose or strapped in place. Many sofa cushions are able to be flipped over, which can be handy if your kids had dirty hands near the couch.

Frames: Sofa frames are made of wood pieces that are glued and/or screwed together. Hardwoods are more expensive than soft woods, but make up for price with longevity.

Upholstery materials: Sofa upholstery materials range from traditional upholstery fabrics to microfiber and leather. Choose a more durable material, like leather, if your sofa will be seeing a lot of use and a microfiber couch if spills and messes are a concern. A more expensive fabric doesn't necessarily mean a more durable fabric. Expensive silk couches may look beautiful, but won't fair well around pets or children.

Proportion and length: Fit the sofa to the room and to the sitters. If your family is tall, find a longer sofa with deeper seats or a great seat depth to accommodate longer legs. If you are choosing a couch anyone with limited mobility or for an elderly person, select one with a shallow seat to add ease to standing up.

If you have a large room to fill, pick up a living room sofa that will fill the room without cluttering the space; a sectional sofa is an excellent choice. The scale of a sectional sofa will fit the scale of the room, and the varying depths (a reclining chair here, a chaise lounger there) will give dimension to the room. Your living room can have the look of a modern sofa or a contemporary sofa depending on the sectional sofa you choose.

Sofa sets are also a great idea for large living rooms. Sofa sets give you a sofa and loveseat to help you furniture a room, and not only will you save money but your furniture will match perfectly.


The knowledge you need for buying a loveseat is the same as how to buy a sofa, but on a smaller scale; still look for the qualities you would in a sofa.

For a smaller living room, loveseats work better than sofas. Loveseats are sofas built for two and are available in styles similar to sofas. A fabric love seat or leather loveseat is a great choice to complement a sofa or to be the main seating on its own. You can buy the sofa and loveseat together in a sofa set, or as a separate item. Loveseats lend themselves to creating intimate areas where conversations can happen between two or three people, without an ocean of living room floor between them. With the right side table and accent chairs you can make a very cozy living room, no matter the size.

Futons are great for so many rooms. For a small living room a futon is an excellent option, and when guests come to stay, a futon's ability to fold out into a bed can give you an instant guest room. A futon can also fit in perfectly in a family room; watching a DVD on a futon chair lets you really stretch out and relax. Futon furniture is available in a wide variety of styles so you don't have to trade fashion for function. Discount futons are available in a variety of styles, with futon frames of different materials. A metal futon can look very modern, while a wood futon complements a traditional style. Futon covers are often replaceable, if you decide you want a different look. Avoid buying a cheap futon; anything that can go wrong with any cheap furniture, will go wrong.


A sofa isn't the only seating you'll need in your living room; you'll need a few chairs, as well. Adding chairs to the room gives dimension to your furniture design, and it helps you create conversation areas. Make sure that the chairs won't feel too small for the room or next to your sofa. The opposite is also true; a large arm chair can throw your living room furniture off balance and dwarf your other pieces.

Your chair doesn't need to be an exact match to your sofa. You can coordinate the color or style between your sofa and chair. Sticking to pieces that are influenced by a similar time period can help pull your living room together.

As with your sofa, consider how you'll use your living room chairs. If your living room is a formal room, used only on special occasions, chairs with upright backs will suit that formality. If your living room is a casual gathering place, choose armchairs designed for lounging, such as recliners, gliders, rocking chairs and lounge chairs. Lounge chairs can be used in formal and informal living rooms. Lounge chairs are a comfortable reminder of days past, but a leather chair, even a sofa chair, are making a comeback in living room furniture.

Chairs, like couches, have the same basic tips. Check weight capacities; you wouldn't want to embarrass guests by restricting them from sitting in your living room chairs, nor would you want to explain why.

Bean bags chairs

You may remember them as uncomfortable novelty chairs, but bean bag chairs now boast better quality materials, longer-lasting fillers and safety upgrades, such as child-safe zippers to keep little ones from crawling inside. Bean bag chairs can sit proudly alongside your other furniture, and everyone will love this kid-friendly addition to your family room. Bean bag chairs are available in more sizes than before, from a bean bag large enough to hold two adults to bean bag chairs just right for children.

Memory foam chairs are the new generation of bean bag chairs. Memory foam chairs shape to your body each time you lounge on your bean bag chair and fluff back to their original shape when you're done relaxing.

Bean bag chairs come covered in several durable fabrics such as microfiber, corduroy and cotton twill. Many bean bag chair covers can be removed for laundering, so check the manufacturer's care instructions. Separate bean bag chair covers are also available, so if you tire of one color, you can easily change to another.

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