Couches and Sofas

What is the difference between a couch and a sofa, anyway?  Nothing!  In the real world, the terms are used interchangeably, there’s no style difference nor a structural difference.  I had always assumed a sofa was a more formal couch – not so, it seems sofa tends to be the term used by older generations and just may have been assumed to be more formal.

So now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s talk about choosing sofas and/or couches for the family room.  It’s the largest piece of furniture, so it should be the first piece chosen for the room if you’re starting from scratch.  You shouldn’t paint first then match the sofa to the paint.  Choose the sofa, then paint to match the décor.  There are more paint colors than upholstery colors and styles, and paint is less expensive.


Do you really need one?  They’re not always the best choice for a family room.  Usually there’s a favorite seat on every sectional – you know, the one with the perfect angle to the television set.  It’s going to flatten and wear more than any other piece and the whole darn thing will look worn and it will be like having to replace the whole room of furniture.

They also tend to swallow up smaller rooms and they never seem to have just the right sections at the right angles to fit in to your room, so you end up changing the arrangement to suit the couch, or the sofa, if you must.

Sectionals are also often arranged against the wall and in the corner – two furniture arrangements that can make a room look smaller – decorating on a diagonal can make rooms look larger and getting furniture away from the walls can actually open up space in many rooms.

There are plenty of sectional choices that may just work for your family room.  Think outside the box and the right angled sectional and consider a straight line design to include pieces that meet your room’s look and décor.

Price Range

If you have small children, the rule has always been to buy cheap while they’re young since it will get ruined anyway.  Well, it’s going to get ruined much quicker if you go for the lowest cost couches.  Consider slipcovers as an alternative, they can not only make the switch when they get worn and ruined, they can be switched for instant room makeovers.  I have to say, Pottery Barn offers the most slip-covered and versatile couches that I’ve seen.  But the slipcovers can run from $100 - $200, which isn’t cheap, but considering the cost of a couch – it may be more budget friendly than it seems at first glance.

Certainly don’t go for the high end designer couches if you have small children, save that look for the empty nest.  It’s best to stick to the mid range couches for family rooms.


Obviously, the family room couch needs to be comfortable.  Of course, try them out while shopping, don’t be afraid to stretch out into lounging and television watching positions.  Seat height is important as well, is it easy to get off the sofa and stand up, or is it a booty-sucker making you look like an idiot struggling to get up?

For comfort technicalities, make sure the cushion density is of 1.8 foam or higher.  If the sofa doesn’t list the grade of foam and salesperson doesn’t have a clue, that’s not a good sign.  The 1.8 is the density grade of the foam and the higher the better.  Anything 2.0 and up is considered high density foam which has a softer surface, more support and more durability.