You’re buying a sofa, you want to shop wisely, but you’re setting yourself a reasonable(ish) budget. Turns out that’s a very attainable goal these days: In addition to the newer cohort of flat-pack-sofa start-ups, even the behemoth furniture brands are beginning to expand their reach (by offering rentals, for instance). Interior designers will tell you to spend as much as you can on this piece — considering how it anchors your home and sees more sides of you than your mother — but after consulting with dozens of such expertsCrystal Ann, Penelope August, Kylie Bass, Bobby Berk, Sasha Bikoff, Ashlie Broderic, Eliza Clark, Ralli Clasen, Taylor Clouse, Shanti Crawford, Kim Daunis, Shannon Eddings, Baylee Floyd, Nina Freudenberger, Lauren Geremia, Emily Henderson, House of Nomad, Max Humphrey, Alexandra Kalita, Kroesser + Strat, Dan Mazzarini, Ashley Montgomery, Natalie Myers, Karen Nepacena, Briana Nix, Clémence Polès, Jenn O’Brien, Ariel Okin, Aelfie Oudghiri, Susana Simonpietri, Sara Story, Olivia Stutz, Angela Tafoya, Joslyn Taylor, C. S. Valentin, Andrea Van Soest, Carrie Waller, Silka Weiss, Sarah Wittenbaker recently (40 in all, plus some style and décor editors), I found that many of them have beloved options for under $2,000.
In total, their list amounted to over 80 full-size sofas. To narrow it down, I looked for the models that kept getting mentioned again and again; after gathering those with votes from at least three different experts, seven standouts emerged. Then I went and sat on them for myself.
A few notes about the process: The experts had vetted the sofas for looks and brand reputation; my task was to see what they felt like. My testing method borrowed advice from ergonomics specialists like Esther Gokhale, a posture-focused integrative therapist in the Bay Area, who said that keeping a lengthened spine matters most. She recommends trying sofas by spending at least one minute in four positions: lying down, reclining for watching TV, leaning with your back supported by pillows or bolsters, and stacksitting, i.e., perching upright on the edge. For fidelity’s sake, I expanded my criteria to include working from a laptop and writing in a journal.
I also used experts’ tips on checking for quality. For instance, “A well-made couch has such tight construction that the arms and legs are like part of the frame,” says Joanna Jones, an interior designer in New York; additionally, she looks for some blend of foam and feathers (even faux feathers) as a sign of comfortable cushions (as opposed to just foam, though that’s not an instant deal breaker). On the upholstery front, I was reminded that while leather costs more, it will age gracefully into an attractive patina; cotton or linen weaves don’t have the drama of leather or velvet, but they hold up. (Speaking of velvet, Jones calls it “very tricky.” If you have your heart set on it, she recommends at least looking for 100 percent cotton velvet and avoiding the viscose velvet blends that will show every drop of water and, over time, your butt indentations.)
As with any big investment, individual needs and preferences should shape your decision. Your ratio of napping to working to binge-watching to eating breakfast to entertaining guests is your own. In the end, there may not be a universal best, but there’s most certainly a best for you, even at a reasonable price.