Dear Urbaneer – Choosing A Couch


As realtors representing both buyers and sellers in the downtown freehold and condominium housing markets, we see a lot of terrific properties that could have sold faster if they had the right couch placed in them. A small condo with an over-sized piece will look crammed and uncomfortable. A contemporary house with a tired dated chesterfield can create a style clash that creates visual chaos, disharmony and potentially a lower sale price. In an era where promoting property as a “Lifestyle Showcase” is part of the reveal of most every Home Renovation Show, more and more homeowners are struggling on how to choose the right furniture. Which brings us to this month’s Dear Urbaneer post which features a question from one of our clients:

“Dear Urbaneer.

What do you say to the gal who has a problem with commitment. When it comes to choosing a new couch I freeze in fear that I might be making the wrong decision.

I try to tell myself that it’s “just a piece of furniture”, but when it gets down to making a choice I get overwhelmed and can’t make a commitment.

It seems there’s no shortage of good options, BUT I’m freaked out that the moment I decide I’m going to find a better item around the corner.

When does a gal know when to say “I DO?”


Scared To Commit”

Here’s our response:

“Dear Commitment-Phobe

Urbaneer wants to reassure you that your experience isn’t unusual. In fact, we’ve been fascinated for quite some time how Buyers can spend fifteen minutes viewing a property before acting on a purchase and yet be mired in molasses when it comes to committing to a couch. We recently asked some of our clients why they believe it’s easier for them to invest several hundreds of thousands of dollars buying a property and yet choosing a piece of furniture can be a struggle. Here’s what we deduced:

People often find making a real estate purchase easier than choosing a couch because they’re not only just indulging their desire for a “home” but they’re also purchasing an ‘investment’. Even though buying a property is significantly more expensive, if a buyer feels it’s being done with prudence, that its acquisition will ultimately build equity and long term wealth, and that the property is desired by other purchasers, then proceeding with an offer can be justified as an ‘intelligent’, ‘sensible’ and ‘rational decision’. Buying a couch, on the other hand, offers none of that. Whatever the acquisition cost, the moment you’ve made the commitment and carried it across your threshold, your piece of furniture has instantly depreciated and is only worth its function and the price you put on the satisfaction of owning it. It’s much like buying a new car… the moment you drive it off the lot, it’s worth a fraction of the cost. The longer you own it, the worse it wears, and it can very quickly sustain a stain or scratch rendering it unsightly. For many this is considered too risky a venture, or too hedonistic and self-indulgent an acquisition. Worse, if you bring your couch home and it doesn’t fit, appear right, or match your other belongings, you run the risk of feeling like its purchase was a complete waste of money. The sheer prospect of this possibility leaves a lot of couch buyers wary, if not too frightened to take the leap.

We also discovered furniture shoppers are increasingly suspicious about the entire retail process. When you’re buying a property the buyer has the opportunity to review recent comparable sales and evaluate what the property is worth to them. They then have the opportunity to negotiate with the seller to arrive at a value which is mutually agreed upon. Buying a couch is different. The price tag on the piece is generally non-negotiable, and there isn’t a lot of on-hand data available to the buyer to determine whether the price is realistic or not. Worse, buyers know that retailers might have a large mark-up on a piece yet there’s little opportunity to negotiate a potential discount at the point of purchase. Instead, the onus is on the shopper to wait for the retailer to advertise a ‘sale’. A lot of couch buyers live in fear that they’re going to be the person paying full retail price only to walk by the store the following week and discover they could have purchased it for substantially less. The inability to negotiate leaves some couch buyers reluctant to even proceed. Mind you, for the discount minded you can always search for furniture on or and sleuth out a used piece of furniture for significantly less, although that opens up a whole bunch of other concerns like hidden damage, bed bugs, or purchasing a piece with a salacious past.

Couch buyers typically don’t know where to begin on which chesterfield to choose. Given there’s so much available on the market with prices that range from cheap and cheerful to stratospherically expensive, shoppers, how does one start their search? Urbaneer recommends you take some time to identify your own personal style. Go to a website like or purchase some home magazines like Canadian House and Home, or Elle Decor, and begin creating a Style File of those pieces you find most attractive. After awhile, you’ll begin to see you’re making some consistent choices both in colour, shape and style. Once you’ve found a theme, make the commitment that this is the kind of couch you want.

Once you know the look of the couch you want, explore how much these pieces typically cost and set a budget. If your budget is between $2000 and $4000, understand that the difference in these pieces is often due to quality of construction, the type of fabric used, and the reputation of the brand who made it. Some times you might be able to find the right style of seating and then choose a fabric to have it upholstered in. Urbaneer recently did this by acquiring a 1970s sectional and having it reupholstered in a luxurious Calvin Klein fabric. We had it reupholstered with deep tufted buttons and a tailored skirt to give it an elegant custom feel. The sectional was free, and the $5000 upholstery cost was within our budget for a new couch, though we’ve still never seen anything that is as well-suited to our space. Note, if none of the chesterfields you like are within your budget, consider buying a funky vintage piece to use temporarily that has its own unique personality. Some times we just can’t have what we want. When that happens, we often buy a quirky piece to reflect our personal style in the interim.

Most people don’t have the skill set to know what size of couch is right for their room. When it comes to space planning, a couch should almost always have a table on either side of it, and have ample space around it so it’s not cramped in a room. Move it at least four inches off the wall it abuts. If it’s over a heating vent take care that your couch sits on legs and is without a skirt so air can flow easily. If your couch is sitting in front of a window, consider ensuring that the back is low enough that when you’re lounging on it you can see outside. After all, if it’s in your living room you might want to use it as a perch to watch passersby. Be aware that whichever room your couch is going to be placed, pay attention to the scale and proportion of your room, and ensure your furniture compliments the overall dimensions of the space. While it is possible to break the rules of scale and proportion in interior design, if you don’t understand these fundamental basics it’s an invitation to go wrong. When choosing a couch, we always like to ensure the piece takes centre stage but isn’t visually overbearing.

Prospective couch owners often forgo reflecting on its ultimate purpose, thinking it’s only about a place to sit. However, is your couch a place for you to flake out and watch television, or is it a place for your guests to perch with cocktails before dinner? Without question comfort should be a priority. But there are different kinds of comfort. Being splayed out on a deep soft couch might be ideal for an afternoon nap or cuddling on movie night with your lover, but that same couch might swallow your guests after you’ve served them a delicious rich meal with an abundance of liquor, causing them to pass out in your living room when the party should still be going strong. Keep in mind that sourcing the right couch for the primary purpose is essential when shopping. And make sure you’re choosing an appropriate fabric. Remember, your skin sticks to Leather in summer. Ick!. Some tweeds have a tendency to itch. Ouch! And a polyester fabric can be slippery. Yikes!

If you love bright colours and are drawn to vibrant shades but live in fear you might be making the wrong choice, buy a neutral coloured piece. Creams, taupes or grey palettes can go pretty much anywhere. Use accessories like pillows and throws to give you that pop of colour you crave. If you’re wanting a couch to last for the long term, avoid trendy shapes, styles and shades.

Once you’ve identified the style of couch you like, your budget, the size and shape which will compliment the scale and proportion of your room, its purpose and ideal colour palette, then shop till you find three items that meet all of your criteria. Then, take a deep breath and buy one.

Is this too intimidating? There’s a good chance you hired a realtor to help you find the perfect property. If you were willing to rely on a professional’s expertise to steer you through your home purchase, then perhaps it makes sense to hire a designer to guide you on your couch purchase? For around $75-$200 an hour, you can hire an interior designer to counsel you on how to design and decorate your room, or even just choose a couch! For a nominal fee they can source everything you desire and often pass on their discounts, which often covers the cost of using their services. Even we designers have our own designers to bounce off ideas, help refine our own style, and steer us straight (we often rely on Costantino D’Elia & his team from CozDesign when we need an objective opinion or a specific item). Face it, if it helps avoid mistakes, elevates the presentation of your home, and provides you with a personal custom look that isn’t being replicated elsewhere, then there’s a good chance it’s also increasing the value of your home.

Isn’t that money well-spent?

At, part of our pre-listing and post-purchase service includes helping our clients achieve the look they want. Whether it’s in preparation of selling their property, or if it’s after they’ve made their acquisition, our style service is just one of the many way we distinguish ourselves from our real estate competition. Click HERE for this past post where we helped our clients buy a new couch while passing on our designer discount, and click HERE for a post illustrating how we’re assisting our long term client renovate her home so she doesn’t have to sell!

Have you seen the Worldwide Ugly Couch Contest? Click HERE. Maybe you have a submission?

~ Steven and the urbaneer team

earn your trust, then your business

Like what you’ve read? Consider signing up in the box below to receive our FREE monthly newsletter on housing, culture and design, including our love for unique urban homes and other Toronto real estate!

Dear Urbaneer
Recommended Reads

Previous Post
A Sweet Shop In Riverdale
Next Post
Small Wonders