Help me buy a couch

My girlfriend and I have lived together for a year and it’s time to get rid of the old futon that has been functioning as a couch and join the adult world of actual couch ownership.

The problem is that I have no idea how to even start the couch hunt, or even what I’m really looking for. Probably not something with sections, but deep and long enough so that we can both lay on it comfortably to watch a movie. I’m toying with the idea of leather? Bad idea?

I have something like this or this in mind.

So, lend me some wisdom on couch buying. Do and Don’ts. Things to look for or avoid. Does it make sense to spend a lot on a couch now, or wait until I’m settled somewhere a bit more permanent? Etc.

I would go to IKEA. I know people like to dis IKEA but they make lots of nice, classy, practical furniture for a reasonable price.

Phatlewt and I have the “ektorp” cloth sofa; the upholstery is fully removable and machine-washable which is darn handy when you have three cats. Plus, if we get sick of the color we can buy a new cover and get an instant fashion update

Your nearest IKEA stores are in Paramus or Elizabeth, NJ and Hicksville, NY (Long Island). You can pre-shop at or even buy many items online for home delivery.

edited to add, to actually see the ektorp couch you should switch to a less-hideous upholstery option with the drop-down

Thanks for the advice. Nearly all the furniture I own is from IKEA, actually.

Unfortunately, while I love IKEA in theory, my two experiences at the NJ store have been terrible and I’ve vowed never to return. Both times parts of furniture were missing or broken and in Manhattan it is a serious hassle to return stuff and get new ones. And the customer service there was beyond ridiculous.

But since you speak well of the couches, I’ll keep an eye on craiglist. We don’t have any pets, but washable upholstery would still be very handy.

I love our couch, but it’s too heavy for one person to move around. So consider size if you’ll be rearranging furniture.

Try to buy from a store that will let you have it on trial, for a few days at least. I had a couch and coffee table for a week, and the store picked it up when I changed my mind, no questions asked.

I’m sorry to hear that; I’ve exclusively used the Hicksville, LI location and had positive experiences there. Its actually walkable from the Hicksville LIRR stop, although its not a short walk really.

Do you have (and use) air conditioning? The worst part about leather is that it holds heat very well, and you stick to it in the summertime. The second worst part about leather is that it holds cold very well, and it’s cold to sit on in the wintertime (although that’s overcomeable with some strategically placed blankets). Finally, consider your projected budget and buying style in 10 years or so - leather couches are almost impossible to slip cover well, you will have to pay for reupholstering or to replace the couch when the leather starts to split and degrade, even if the structure of the couch is still sound.

I got rid of my leather couch and replaced it with a suede microfiber one. It’s not quite as easy to clean as the leather, but I prefer the feel of it on bare skin, and when it gets too stained to clean, I can slip cover it with ease and get more life out of it.

Hmm. We do have A/C and heat is never a problem at our place (like many NYC apartments near the bottom of the building, it is frequently too hot during the winter). But you make a pretty convincing argument against leather. I thought the two things it really had going for it were durability and tactile qualities.

So talk to me more about fabrics. You mention suede microfiber. Are there other advantages and disadvantages to it? Any sort of standard printed polyester/cotton blend would look a little out of place in our contemporary Manhattan apartment, which is part of the reason I had leather in mind. What are the other big fabric options?

Microfiber seems to be the trendy thing (at least in our area) right now. It’s fairly easy to clean, although water will stain it, so you have to use microfiber specific (alcohol based) cleaners on it. Most spills will bead up on it, rather than sink in, and you can quickly blot them away with no residue. It has a nap to it, just like animal based suede, so it can look…uh, mottled, I guess? A sweep of the hand can make it lighter or darker, is what I mean, as can your butt. So that, to me, gives it a rich, luxurious look that I like. YMMV.

This is the style I got, although I got it in the sofa sleeper style. Contemporary, but not too much so for me. I like the clean lines of contemporary styles and the rich fabrics and overstuffed comfort of traditional stuff, so this was the perfect compromise for my tastes. The same fabric is available on many shapes, from Contemporary to Country.

Note that it’s also a cheap ass sofa. That’s 'cause I’m poor! But I’ve found the quality to be fine. I’ve had it for two years now, I think, and it’s holding up admirably, despite the earnest efforts of two cats, a toddler and a teenage boy to destroy it. If you have better things to spend your money on, I do recommend Value City - their quality tends to be far higher than their image.

Oh! One other thing to consider - if you’re tall, get a high backed sofa. My husband is 6’4", and the difference between a high back and a low back is a whole lot for him.

Did you buy yours online?

It may not be what you’re looking for, but for what it’s worth, I went through the “how & where do I buy a couch” dilemma not too long ago, and ended up buying from I’m pretty satisfied; I had to assemble it myself, but I got a nice sofa delivered to my door for under $400.

No, 'cause I wanted to feel how it felt to sit in before I bought it, so I went to the store to try a few on. I did have it delivered, though, for a small extra fee ($60 or so.)

I did, however, have a problem with delivery - they brought me the wrong color. I called the store immediately (before the delivery guys left), and they arranged delivery of the correct couch two days later, and told the guys to leave the wrong couch there so I would have something to sit on in the meantime. Really nice customer service, acknowledged their mistake, and of course didn’t charge me for re-delivery.

Can you recommend any specific cleaners that work well? We bought a microfiber sofa and two chairs less than two years ago, and I hate them because they look horrible all the time. I’ve tried everything I could find, and the only thing that worked was professional uphosltery cleaner guys who charged a fortune. (My furniture gets spilled on, peed on, barfed on, and drooled on frequently, because I have three small boys.)

I’d love a leather couch, it’s strongly recommended for people with asthma.

Just something to consider.

I do have allergies. I imagine it’s the same principle, yes? Fewer dust mites and such?

Well, my mother bought me this Stainsafe Fabric Care Kit , which is alright. But what really works better than anything: baby wipes. Uh…Huggies Natural Care, to be precise. Others might be fine too, but that’s the brand that goes on the baby’s butt and face and hands and my feet (hardwood floors + toddler + clumping cat litter mean soles turn black in about 2 hours, no matter how often I sweep and mop!) and to clean the painted bookshelves and cat puke off the floor and spots off clothes AND dirt spots off the sofa. Seriously, I don’t remember what I used for General Cleaning before I had a baby!

Just take a wipe and vigorously scrub in circles. My WAG is that baby wipes are good at so much general cleaning because they have alcohol (or a similar non-water solvent) as well as a touch of oil, and just a touch of water (doesn’t seem to be enough to stain my couches, but you should test yours first in a hidden spot), so they dissolve all the common types of filth.

Thank you! I always have a case or two of baby wipes on hand (2 kids still in diapers), so I’ll try that. Never would have occurred to me.