We were getting married in a few weeks and had just purchased our first house. We were furnishing it with odds and ends from our parents – a chair here and there that had seen better days, my old dresser and desk, and a large Igloo cooler was transformed into a coffee table when draped with a throw. My parents bought us a new refrigerator, a washer and dryer. Between the wedding expenses and those appliances, they were tapped out. Kevin’s parents helped with the down payment on our house, and a few chairs.

We purchased a few necessities like a mattress and kitchen table so that we could live in the house once we returned from our honeymoon. It was definitely a hodge podge of furniture, but it was all we could afford. It didn’t matter; we were in love and excited to have our own place. I was finishing my last semester of college, so with a car payment and house note, we didn’t dare buy anything absolutely necessary.

My mom came over to the house to assess what we had and looked at the expanse of our mostly empty living room. It looked bare except for the small black and white TV (complete with rabbit ears) on a metal rolling cart, two odd chairs and my makeshift coffee table. She tapped her feet and walked around the room. That’s when she announced that we must buy a sofa.

“But we can’t afford it, Mom.” I exclaimed as firmly as I could.

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She then used that voice moms use to explain things to small children and people who are slow, schooling me on the niceties of polite society. I soon learned that  a sofa was basically what separated us from hobos. We would need the sofa when we entertained. Clearly her view of our life and our real one had nothing in common

I was still a poor college student, made poorer by house payments. While she clearly pictured me hosting dinner parties with silver trays and smoked salmon, we were thinking pizza in the box with a few friends sitting on the floor. It was only a few short months before that I was wearing a toga to frat parties, so what did I know about proper parties?

She pursed her lips, meaning that she wasn’t done with the conversation. A week later, my mom called and announced that she wanted to discuss the ‘sofa situation.’ I reminded her that there was no sofa, thus no situation. Undeterred, she announced, “I know, that’s the situation that I want to discuss with you. Did you decide which sofa you are going to get?”

Clearly she wasn’t getting the point.

There would be no sofa, if we had to buy it. I hoped that was the end of the discussion. Once my mom realized I wasn’t going to budge, she decided to go up the chain of command. She said she was going to pray about it, because we NEEDED a sofa. I really didn’t care whether we had a sofa or not, I was simply elated that she had stopped badgering me.

I had all but forgotten about the sofa, when about a week later, I got a call from a dear friend, saying that that her mom was going to give her a loveseat and chair, but that she had no room for it. Would I like it? I almost fell out of my chair. My mom got her way after all. I accepted them sight unseen. It didn’t really matter what they looked like, our living room vibe was a cross between Bewitched and the Brady Brunch. The loveseat and chair were a brown, rust and cream plaid fabric that was truly ugly. Still, it was extra seating and now my mom was happy. What better to go with my bright yellow igloo/coffee table?

The next year, after I graduated from college, my graduation gift to myself was a new sofa . If you’re in the market for a new sofa, I have a few tips for you.


Choose a solid color sofa over a patterned one. The patterned sofas can be quite tempting because they are ‘on trend’ and add a lot of panache to the room, that is until a few years later, when they are not on trend any more. You don’t want a sofa that looks like the hot trend from five years ago. As much as I love patterns, I now buy solid color sofas. Sofas are expensive and you certainly don’t want them to look dated a few years down the road. If you choose a solid color, then you don’t have to worry about the fabric pattern looking dated. Choose a classic form and you won’t have to worry about your sofa looking dated any time soon. You can easily add patterns with fun pillows. They are much easier and less expensive to change out when you get bored with the fabric.


If you have a sofa with two seat cushions, then usually only two people will sit on it. The two-cushion sofas are odd when three are sitting on them, since the center person ends up sitting half on one cushion and half on the other. If you need the sofa to seat three people most of the time, then really think about the number of cushions. No one wants to sit on the crack.


Buy a sofa that’s too short, and it’s no good for taking a nap. Buy a sofa that’s too big, and it could feel awkward in your living room. Measure your space and think about what size fits the space best. Also consider if you have someone on the tall side that will be using the sofa for naps. Do you need room for four people and a large dog? What is the size of your doorway? Can you get the sofa through your door? These are all important things to consider when you select the size of your sofa. Some of the oversized sofas can overcrowd your room, so be sure you don’t go too big for the room.


The very best way to test out a sofa before purchase is to actually sit in one. There is just no substitute for sitting on it, seeing the fabric in person, and walking all the way around it. This gives you the best and most information about the sofa. But, testing out a sofa in person is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more purchases are made online. Often the particular sofa you want is not available for you to test in a showroom. If you can’t go see it and sit on it, then you must rely on customer reviews. It’s an expensive purchase, so I highly suggest you read as many reviews as you can about the sofa and get as much information as you can before making the purchase.

No matter which sofa you choose, the important thing is to have a sofa, because without a sofa, we’re just hobos fooling ourselves.

——————————————————————————————————————–All photos courtesy of Anita Joyce