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Sofa Seat Depth: The Key to Buying the Right Sofa

A sofa can really make or break a room, and sofa seat depth can really make or break a sofa. That's because the dimensions of a sofa determine just who can enjoy having a sit down and how much. An ideal sofa is 36 inches high with a 19 inch seat height, 40 inches deep, and 60 inches long. But we live in a world where sofas,  people, and hallways come in all shapes and sizes. So before you invest in yourself make sure you invest in doing some research.



What is Sofa Depth?

Sofa depth is actually two types of depth. And these two types of depth are also both known by two types of names. Yes, it's confusing, but only at first. Overall depth is also known as outside depth; it's the distance from the back of the sofa to the front. Seat depth is the distance from the front of the seat to the sofa’s back cushion. Now it makes sense: the overall depth is literally the distance from the sofa’s front to its back; seat depth is literally the distance of the cushion you’ll be sitting on. When your depths are on the lower side you end up with a sofa that promotes upright posture whereas a sofa with greater depths encourage lounging.

Photo by Africa Studio on Shutterstock

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Consider Room Size.

Maybe what you like to do is lay out on the sofa while watching TV, cuddling a loved one, human or otherwise. In that case, a sofa with a bigger seat depth is for you. You may even consider a chair to provide an option for someone who's staunchly anti-lounging (yes, such people exist).


You also need to consider the size of your room. A small room with a big sofa will mean having less space to move around in, which means that a lower seat depth would be more appropriate.And, don't worry, you can probably lounge on almost any type of sofa. Meanwhile, a big room may benefit from a sofa with a greater seat depth to achieve an inviting look (as opposed to a sofa with a lower seat depth feeling inadequate relative to high walls).


Photo by Africa Studio on Shutterstock

Don’t Forget Seat Height.

Aside from seat depth, you also need to consider seat height. Just imagine a sofa with a seat that's lower than 18 inches that also has a seat depth greater than 23 inches. Sure, that's maximum room to snuggle, but it’s also maximum room for struggle. You'll have to swing your momentum forward or lean up against your own knees just to get up, which will make any guest feel off-kilter. And the last thing you want is a sofa that makes people not want to sit.


Photo by XtravaganT on Adobe Stock

How Seats Work.

It doesn’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that couch cushion. That goes without saying. Outside and inside seat depth are moot points without taking what goes in between into consideration. A concrete slab would make for a poor sofa just as much as a garbage bag full of bird feathers would. Instead, most cushions occupy a middle ground of a supportive core surrounded by a soft layer. Variation of that combination is what leads to the firmness or softness of your seat. In general, there are four types of cushions.


  • 100% Down: Actually, a sack full of bird feathers is an option. 100% down cushions lack a middle core. They're super soft, but they're also susceptible to flattening out since there's no core to keep their shape. So, you've got to flip, fluff, and even replace these cushions on the regular because no one wants to feel the suspension of the sofa under their butts.


  • Down-wrapped: This type of seat is exactly what it sounds like: a core wrapped in down. Most often, foam is used. This is ideal for people who like to lounge on their sofas. It still requires regular flipping and rotating, however, to maintain their shape.


  • Fiber-wrapped: Now we're entering the arena of less soft cushions. These seats are foam cores wrapped in polyester fiber. They're supportive while still providing some give.


  • Inner-spring: A spring wrapped in down or fiber wrapping will provide the most support. You can still lounge around on these types of seats; you just won't sink into them like hot fudge on ice cream. They require the least amount of fluffing and rotation.

Photo by WorldWide on Shutterstock

How Many Cushions Do You Want?

Once you’ve got a handle on the type of sofa seat depth you desire and your cushion style of choice, the last decision to make is how many cushions you want. One? Two? Three? More?!

All of these options come with their own pros and cons.


  • One Cushion: Modern look, no spaces to lose things; difficult to rotate and flip.


  • Two Cushions: Roomy for two; uncomfortable for any third party.


  • Three Cushions: Modern look, accommodating; more space to lose things.


  • Four or More Cushions: Good luck!


Photo by Piyanut Sirikate on Shutterstock

Everything else is just an opportunity for your aesthetic sensibility to shine through. Just don’t forget to measure your hallway too. Otherwise all your research will have been for nothing, and you'll be reminded of it every time you sit on a couch you hate.


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