How to Find Your Dream Sofa When You Can't Do the Sit Test in Person

living room

Design by Sara Tramp for EHD Photo by Tessa Neustadt

It doesn’t matter if you’re a maximalist or minimalist, traditionalist or mid-century maven: A great couch is integral to every person’s home. Your couch is where you kick back and relax after a long day. Where you catch up with friends over a glass (or two) of wine. And, yes, where you spend hours on end catching up on your favorite television shows.

However, buying a couch can be seriously complicated. When my boyfriend and I moved into our new apartment on the west coast, we spent hours searching for the perfect piece.

And unless you want to recreate the iconic “Pivot” scene from Friends, it’s probably in your best interest to ditch the brick and mortar storefront and buy your sofa online. Problem is, most companies’ direct-to-consumer business models skip one very important part of the couch buying process: The sit test. 

But just because you can’t test a couch IRL doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find the couch of your dreams online. According to Zoe Garred, director of product development at Article, knowledge is power. “I think much of the hesitation around shopping for a sofa online comes from not knowing what to look for,” she explains. 

To help, Garred is sharing her tips to finding your dream couch online—yes, all without doing a sit test. 

01 of 05

Settle on a Style

When it comes to buying a couch, comfort is key; however, it’s also important to choose a sofa that caters to your aesthetic. After all, a sofa is one of the largest pieces of furniture you’ll buy, so it’s important that it meshes with your home’s overall vibe. 

Not sure how to find the right sofa for your personal style? Create a Pinterest board or folder of living rooms that pique your interest—and see if your favorite spaces have anything in common. Do you love the look of a luxe, low-slung sofa? Fancy a mid-century modern couch? Want to stay on trend with a curved piece?

Once you decide on a style, you can narrow down your search by color and price point.

leather sofa
Article Sven Leather Sofa $1,899
02 of 05

Measure Up

If Ross Geller taught us anything, it’s that measuring your space before you purchase a couch is crucial. And no, we don’t mean just the width of your front door. 

“Measure everything from your elevator to your hallway and door frame to ensure it will be a smooth delivery process,” she says. “The last thing you need is for your furniture to arrive and you’re unable to get it through the door.”

Once you finish up measuring the area leading into your space, go ahead and measure your living space, too. A couch that’s too big or too small for your room will look out of place. 

navy sofa
Burrow The Nomad Sofa With Ottoman $1,690
03 of 05

Materials Matter

Sure, the logistics of your couch are important; however, you ultimately want a couch that’s actually comfortable. So how do you do that? According to Garred, the material matters most. “No matter your style, we suggest looking for high-quality materials for pieces in high-traffic areas,” she explains. 

Full aniline leather or hard-wearing fabrics are two of Garred’s favorites. If you want to curl up with a glass of hot cocoa or a cold one, performance fabrics are durable and make it easy to wipe away any spills.

Since you won’t replace your couch as often as you do your bedding, it’s important to invest in materials that can withstand the test of time.  “Martindale rub-test results are also a good indicator of product quality,” Garred explains. “The rub test simulates the natural wear of the sofa, so you’ll want to choose something that can withstand 25,000 rubs or more.”

Don’t see any mention of the Martindale rub test or fabric quality? Ping the customer service team—or consider it a sign to keep shopping.

yellow sofa
Floyd The Sofa $1,395
04 of 05

Fake a Sit Test

While I love buying my home essentials from the comfort of our apartment as much as any other modern renter, I really miss the fun of the classic sit test. “Customer reviews are a helpful resource to determine couch comfort,” Garred says. “Look for reviews from past buyers to give you an idea of how soft or firm the furniture is and how it holds up over time,” Garred says.

She adds reviews from bloggers and home décor publications (ahem!) are great places to find an honest take on the sofa in question.

I know what you’re thinking: Sigh, reading the customer reviews is so obvious. However, this was one tip I didn’t take super seriously until it came to buying a couch of my own. 

You see, my boyfriend and I were on the hunt for a couch that was comfortable enough for both hanging out with friends and cozy movie nights in, two of our favorite past-times. While every customer had their own opinions about the couch we eventually purchased, an overwhelming amount of reviews mention this specific model was really comfortable. 

Sure, everyone’s idea of comfortable varies, but it was a good indication that we’d like this couch—and we do. We’ve owned it for less than a week and I’ve already fallen asleep on it several times. Now that’s comfortable.

West Elm Harmony Down-Filled 2-Piece Chaise Sectional $2,898+
05 of 05

Consider the Return Policy

Ultimately, mistakes happen. No matter how much research you conduct, you might wind up with a couch that's less-than-dreamy. Before you add a piece to your cart, err on the side of caution by checking out the return policy. 

“It’s always a good idea to factor in shipping costs and return policies into your decision. As with anything you buy online, you want to give yourself time to fall in love with your new purchase.”

Article, for example, offers 30-day returns periods and will even pick it up for you. Admittedly, nobody wants to go back to the drawing board; however, it’s a lot better than owning a couch you don’t totally love. 

white sofa
Bobby Berk + A.R.T. Furniture Upholstered Larsen Sofa $2,003

Related Stories