More and more of us are making the choice to order a sofa off the Interwebs without actually sitting in it before we buy it. A few years ago, one might pull the trigger on an online chair purchase, but draw the line on a bigger deal, like a couch. We care more about our sofa being comfortable…whereas with chairs, we might prioritize style, color, and/or fabric pattern and care slightly less about comfort.

But these days, especially throughout the Covid era, an online sofa buy is looking like a more attractive scenario. If you’re considering purchasing your own sofa or sectional online, here are some useful tips for avoiding buyer’s remorse after delivery day:

  1. Check the return policy.

    If you have to pay return shipping on something heavy like a sofa, it may not be worth the effort to send it back if you end up hating it. You can always try to pawn it off on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but that’s a pain in the ass you’ll want to avoid if you can. Companies like Joybird used to offer a very generous free return, but they’re no longer doing that, so make sure you’ve done your research and don’t make any assumptions!

    teal mid-century sofa from Joybird called the Eastwood pictured in teal fabric

    I purchased the Eastwood sofa from Joybird online a couple years ago, in a brighter teal fabric (no longer available).

  2. Order fabric swatch(es).

    Waiting for snail mail to deliver fabric swatches might sound like an annoying delay, but seeing your actual textile options in person can be super helpful for making an informed decision on your online sofa buy. Colors are seldom accurately displayed onscreen, and although something might look pretty when viewed online, it may not feel nice in reality.

    Also, fabric swatches are instrumental for trying before buying…whether it’s to see how well the fabric responds to spot cleaning wine spills and cheeto dust (don’t judge), or to see whether or not it shows every little hair your fur baby sheds.

  3. (Sofa) size matters.

    A shocking number of furniture buyers do not consider size when making purchasing decisions. Will your dream couch fit through your doorway(s)? Will it overwhelm your living room, or be dwarfed in it? Will it be comfortable to you? These are all the reasons why it matters so much to do your due diligence where size and proportions are concerned.

    Consider the sofa you have currently and are anxious to ditch. Note the things you wish were different—sometimes it’s just important to know what you don’t want. Would you prefer taller or shorter armrests? Is the seat depth (distance from the front edge to the seat back cushion) comfortable to you, or do you need sixteen throw pillows behind you in order to not get swallowed up in it? Although lately it’s difficult to find a sofa that has a taller back, is that something that might help you decide between two options you’re considering? Do you like the seat height? Note these measurements so you can compare to couches you’re considering and adjust where needed.

    The average sofa has an overall depth of 36″. If you go smaller than that, you’re probably going to be forced to sit up straight and proper, unless you are on the short side yourself. In terms of length, most sofas run around 90″ long. Is that too big for your space? If so, consider some of the many “apartment sofa” options on the market today. They’re longer than a loveseat (which is usually around 70-75″ long) but shorter than a standard sofa.

    Wider arms take up a lot of real estate, so if you’re in a smaller space, you want to pick something with narrow armrests.

    Art Deco design modern Stitch Sofa from CB2

    The art deco inspired Stitch Sofa from CB2 features very narrow arms.


    Plush Arm modern sofa from West Elm

    The Plush Arm Sofa from West Elm lives up to its name.

  4. Number of seat cushions.

    It’s astounding that they make any full length sofas with only two seat cushions, although I understand it’s cheaper to manufacturer two versus three. But no one wants to sit on the break between two cushions, so if you have two seat cushions, only two people will feel comfortable sitting there. If we ever get to entertain inside our homes again, this will become more important. If you don’t (didn’t) entertain much at home and like a more minimal look, you may prefer two seat cushions (or one) rather than three. Either way, it’s an important consideration when exploring your sofa options online.

    EQ3 Elise modern mid-century sofa at Five Elements Furniture in Austin, TX

    The Elise Sofa from EQ3, available at Five Elements Furniture here in Austin, features a single seat cushion for a trim look and no seat cushion cracks to straddle!

  5. Read the reviews.

    Online reviews of furniture can be a mixed bag of tricks. It can be hard to gauge the perspective of the writers…not everyone’s definition of “high quality” is the same, not everyone cares about the same sofa characteristics, and we all know that some reviews are written by vengeful, unhappy people who wield a flame thrower every chance they get. But if there are several reviews on a couch or sectional you’re considering, you can see patterns that are positive, negative, or neutral, and overall you may be able to avoid buyers’ remorse if reviews reveal poor construction or execution of design.

Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate the waters of purchasing a sofa online. As always, if you need the input of a fab interior designer in Austin to help you make your choice, I’m just a text away.

Happy shopping!