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Put the sofa you're considering through the curl-up-and-get-comfy test in person. This is one piece of furniture you should not buy online.

ViktorCap/iStockphoto

On the furniture front, this decision is up there with dining tables and mattresses; it’s a capital-I Investment. So naturally, you don’t want to walk into a showroom cold or, worse, make an impulse online buy. Before you take a seat, consider these steps to help you find a sofa with style and staying power.

Sort out the scale

What’s the maximum size sofa your living or family room can handle? Find three sofas you like online and use painter’s tape to outline their dimensions on your floor one after another to see how comfortably each piece would fit the room. Is there ample room to move around or are things feeling crowded with your other furniture? Next, arm yourself with the measurements of your front door and any interior doors the sofa needs to squeeze through before taking its position.

Insist on quality

There are plenty of circumstances in which it’s smart to search out the look you love for less – this isn’t one of them. It’s tempting, I know, because a good sofa doesn’t come cheap. But then again, even a cheap sofa doesn’t come cheap. Aren’t you better off saving up for one that’s worth it? Skimp with a right-for-now solution and you’ll pay for it in the long run. Subjected to everyday use, the sofa’s legs will wobble, the upholstery will fade and the frame could crack. I’ve heard too many horror stories to count.

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To ensure maximum durability, choose a solid hardwood frame and ask plenty of questions about the cushion fillings. Feather cushions tend to flatten and need constant fluffing, while foam is firmer but may lose its shape and require replacement. A cushion with a foam core surrounded by feathers is the best bet. Put every sofa you’re considering through the curl-up-and-get-comfy test in person; this is one piece of furniture you shouldn’t buy online.

Save looks for last

Do you want one, two, or three seat cushions? A traditional English roll arm sofa or contemporary tuxedo style? Think about upholstery, too: Leather and velvet are both hardwearing and resistant to stains if you have kids and pets. Is the room formal or casual? Are you feeling brave enough for a jolt of colour of craving the neutral embrace of beige? There’s no wrong answer, but doing your homework in advance will make the purchase-day decisions less overwhelming.

Need some advice about interior design and decor? Send your questions to personaldesigner@globeandmail.com.

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