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Fabulous sofas for small spaces

Melissa Dunlap is a writer, editor and blogger specializing in lifestyle communications. Fueled by curiosity, and a tad too much coffee, Melissa enjoys dissecting current trends for the modern woman. When she's not having dance parties w...

Small space, big style

Just because you're in a small space doesn't mean you're stuck with boring furniture. We chatted with a pro and are sharing the secrets to finding a small sofa that's big on style.
Sutton Sofette (West Elm, $799)
Sutton sofette (West Elm, $799)

Think you're stuck with using basic (and boring) functional furniture in your small apartment? Think again. We chatted with Regenia Payne, creative director for Taylor King, a North Carolina designer and manufacturer of artisan-crafted upholstery, and got her tips for finding a fabulous sofa for small spaces.

What to look for

First, know the dimensions of the space you're trying to fill. Then look at the measurements of the sofa and compare the length, depth and shape.

Next, take a look at the shape. "If it's overstuffed, is it going to look too crowded in the room? If it's more streamlined, then it'll appear like there's more room around the piece of furniture," she says.

Sabrina Soto shares her small space decorating secrets >>

Does size matter?

Mid-size sofas typically range in the 70- to 80-inch range. "Some people even have to go down to a 60 inch, which would be about a loveseat size," Regenia explains.

The maximum size for a small space would probably be about an 84-inch length and probably no more than 38 inches deep. Regenia says a sofa that's more than 38 inches deep can sometimes look a little clunky. "Sometimes if they get really deep, then the proportions start looking out of whack with a smaller sofa length."

Best sofa designs for small spaces

With so many options available, it can be tough to know where to even start in choosing a specific sofa design.

Regenia recommends looking at a transitional design — one with thin arms that are only 2 to 3 inches wide and looks more streamlined.

Those who want a more traditional-looking sofa should check out the English arm sofa because "it's a little more sculpted and sloped."

She recommends avoiding overstuffed sofa arms because they can look "big and clunky" and make your space look even smaller.

Details to look for

Klyne Apartment Sofa (Crate & Barrel, $1,099)
Klyne apartment sofa (Crate & Barrel, $1,099)

When choosing a sofa, the smallest details can make the biggest difference.

"In a smaller space, you may want to go with a tapered leg. That way the sofa has air underneath it so it doesn't look so boxy and clunky to the floor," Regenia recommends. "Sometimes the skirts can make it look more massive than it really is."

Just because a sofa is small in size doesn't mean it can't be big in presence. "If you use tufting and shape, that'll add to the depth of the sofa, which will make it appear bigger than it really is even though you're in a smaller space."

Make sure to pay attention to pattern. Some patterns can make a sofa appear bigger than it really is, Regenia warns. "If you put a plain fabric in a white or neutral, or a soft blue or green color, it'll make the sofa seem like it's a little more ethereal and give it some more air around the piece so it's just not so heavy."

Color is key

You might be obsessed with hot pink, but that doesn't mean you should buy a whole sofa in the bright, bold shade.

"If you go with more of the middle and neutral tones, that's going to give you a lighter, airy feel," Regenia says. The "reds, golds and some dark browns can make it look a little more cramped."

She compared selecting a sofa color with painting walls. "If you use lighter colors the room seems bigger, and if you go with the darker colors on the wall it tends to make the space seem more confined."

Sofa vs. couch

You hear both of these terms tossed around. Do you ever wonder what the difference is?

Regenia says it's purely terminology. "Sofa" is the proper name used within the design profession and with the manufacturers, while "couch" is the slang name. It's street language vs. technical language.

Double duty

What should you look for if you need a sofa that does double duty either as a guest bed or as office seating?

  1. Go for comfort. If choosing a sleeper sofa, "Look for a comfortable mattress, where you can't feel that bar across the middle when you pull it out," Regenia advises. She says Taylor King has a sleep sofa with an air dream mattress that you can blow up for comfort.
  2. Get formal for a business environment. For an office, Regenia recommends a tight-back sofa where the upholstery is shaped to the sofa's frame (vs. loose-backed sofa cushions) so it seems a little more structured and formal.
  3. Use a daybed. "You can sit on it with the pillows during the day and at night take all the pillows off and it's a twin-sized mattress." You can also add a trundle bed underneath it to sleep two people.

Sofa alternatives

Looking for something a little more untraditional? Try one of these options:

  1. Chair and a half: It's smaller than a sofa, but also folds out to a twin bed. You can place two of these facing each other with a cocktail table in between, Regenia says.
  2. Chaise: This long lounging chair is also a good alternative to a traditional sofa in a small space.
  3. Conversation areas: "People keep doing conversation areas where they'll group four swivel chairs around a cocktail table instead of doing a traditional sofa."

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