How to Shop Like An Interior Designer

Emily Powers with Three-Sixty Interiors sitting on bench

Your kids are out of the house, and you’re ready for  grown up furniture! Finding the perfect piece shouldn’t cause stress. But there are things to consider before you even set foot in a store. I will guide you how to shop like an Interior Designer!

Use these steps when purchasing any furniture. This is a Case Study in finding the right couch for your space.




tape measure on hardwood floor

Size up the space.

The first thing you need to do is measure the room the couch will go in. Record the size and position of doors and windows. I also like to measure the height from the floor to window sills. Also include the width and depth of furniture you’ll be keeping.

Draw up a plan.

Draw a floor plan to scale, including any windows and doors. It also helps to note the location of any floor vents. This gives you a visual of where you can put the couch. I use SketchUp for clients, but it doesn’t have to be fancy!

SketchUp floor plan of living room

Identify the focal point.

It could be the fireplace, the TV, or a large picture window with a view. This is the direction the couch will be facing. In this case, it’s the TV.

Keep in mind couches do not have to up against a wall! And I don’t like placing them in front of a window unless I have to. Your couch should be about 6’ from the focal point. Any less than that, it will be too close and cramped. Any more, and it will be too far from the focal point. It also makes conversation difficult.

woman on couch with laptop

Determine the scale.

The size of the room will dictate the size of the couch. A large sectional in a small room will make the room feel even smaller. A small sofa will feel out of place in a large room.

(If you want to get real technical, the couch should be around 1/5 the square footage of the room.)

cat on area rug

Start with an anchor.

If a room does not have carpet, I always start with an area rug. An area rug for a Family Room or Living Room should be at least 6’x9’. Place the length of the couch on the longest side of the rug.

gray couch with colorful pillows and artwork

Define a style.

There are too many decorating styles to go into specifics! But even if you don’t know the name of your decorating style, you know what you like (and don’t like).

Have some basics in mind so you know where to (and where not to) shop. Do you prefer leather or fabric? Are you trying to achieve a formal or casual look? 

Because you'll have your couch for a long time, I do not recommend bright, bold colors or patterns.  Keep it neutral, but bring in color with throw pillows.  They are easier and cheaper to change!

Establish a budget.

Coming up with a budget is usually last on my list, but just as important. You can find a couch to meet any budget. Having a number in mind will keep you focused and productive.

Time to shop!

For furniture you’ll sit or sleep in, I recommend going to a furniture store. You need to be able to feel the quality of the fabric. And you'll only know if it’s comfortable or not by sitting in it!

Side Note: For all other furniture, you can shop online, if you want! For these purchases, make sure there are adequate reviews on the product. If there are 10 or less reviews, I move on. I skim over the positive reviews and mainly focus on the negative ones.

dog laying on couch

Taking time in the beginning to plan the space, will save you a headache when it’s time to shop. But although it takes some time, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a deep breath, have fun and go with your instincts!


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