Full disclosure: that is not the only question. It is, however, an important one. When selecting a couch, there are several factors that will play a significant role in how well your couch matches your lifestyle and your living room space. Why is this important? The best way to extend the life of your couch in the future is to consider how its utility will match the way in which you use it. More bluntly, if you know your toddler enjoys leaving cheesy fingerprints all over the house, a white linen loveseat is probably not the best long-term investment for your family right now. But don’t be discouraged! There are plenty of cheese-resistant materials and sturdy frame structures to choose from. If you keep these basic considerations in mind, you should have little trouble zeroing in on the best couch for your home.

First, you should think about the actual function of your couch. Do you plan to use it primarily as a delicate perch for considerate party guests as they nibble hors d’oeuvres? Or do you have twelve rambunctious children who will stop at nothing when The Floor Is Lava? There is, to be clear, no right or wrong answer. It is simply worth assessing your needs from a couch before setting out to acquire one. It makes the entire process far less stressful to approach the process from a place of confidence, with a list of requirements that are, ideally, as specific as possible. There are, after all, hundreds of options available to you, which can easily become overwhelming.

At the most basic level, the size of your cough is important. Any large piece of furniture can quickly overcrowd a room that is too small for it, regardless of comfort level or durability. As you determine which type of couch fits your needs the best, measure your space. Consider how you want your couch to fit into and alter that space. A sectional, for instance, can be a great way to close off one room from another and, in bigger spaces, can even float in the center of a space. However, smaller spaces, sofas, and loveseats offer more flexibility to work with unusual floorplans and keep the living area looking and feeling open and airy. 

Part of this consideration involves looking at the various custom features available with different kinds of couches. Nearly all couches—the 2-, 3-, 4-, and more-seating—include options to recline. There are also variations on legs that will interact differently with carpets and hardwood. Even the height of your windows, placement of outlets, and lighting can come into play. That said, equipped with your familiarity with your living room (and an added advantage of shopping online is that you can do it from the said living room), you should have no problem matching your space and your needs to an appropriate couch.

Narrowing down material can be much trickier. For the sake of durability, solidly constructed hardwood frames are worth the cost. Upholstered sofas can be trickier to clean, so carefully consider how much you might be willing to pay to maintain your sofa annually. It is often worth paying slightly more now for a more durable material like leather or tightly woven cotton rather than risking costly damage and repairs later. Of course, this is largely dependent on use and what makes you most comfortable. If you select a durable material just because it will last, even though you rather dislike it, odds are that you will spend less time on your couch, anyway. 

Now for style. Though it is rarely safe to assume, you likely have a reasonable sense of your style preferences. If not, simply consider your wardrobe and the closets and living rooms of your friends. There are some you prefer to others, whether you have thought about it or not. You can use these preferences to develop a rough color palette and get a sense of the styles you prefer. For instance, the cottage style tends to be divisive; you either love it or it reminds you—vividly—of your great-aunt’s parlor. Take advantage of the hundreds of options accessible online and browse through the various subcategories to get a good feel for which styles you prefer.

Now for the part, no one wants to consider, but any well-reasoned purchase requires your budget. While it is important not to overreach yourself, keep in mind that a quality piece of furniture will last. Consider, too, how much use your sofa will get and the kind of investment you want to make in the future, and the comfort of your home. Research your options, too. Sites like 1StopBedrooms offer sofa free delivery and affordable monthly payment plans, as well as a price-match guarantee. No one should feel that a quality sofa is out of reach.

Once you have made your selection and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of your new sofa, do not neglect to prepare your living room in advance. Fascinatingly, your couch is most vulnerable to damage during delivery and storage, so installing it directly in its long-term home is the best way to mitigate this risk. Ideally, you will have already measured your space and even used painter’s tape to mark off exactly where your new sofa will reside. This process can even help you visualize how your sofa will fit in your space and allow you to begin making any other décor adjustments that you think are necessary. After all, it is worth a few alterations to make your new couch feel right at home. 

Finally, though it is a little cheesy, a great way to teach younger children to respect your new couch is to have some sort of welcome or sofa-warming party. This does not need to be an elaborate celebration (though, honestly, why not?) However, it is important that your entire family treats your sofa well to help ensure it will continue to keep your family comfortable and connected for years to come.