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Power Couples: Affordable Sofas & Armchairs (+ All The Rules For Getting The Perfect Match)

I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t come off snobby or controversial (but if you’re on this blog, I hope you understand it’s purely out of love and also to be helpful): Step away from the matching sofa and armchair sets. Yes, it’s so very easy to walk into a store and pluck a pre-determined pairing straight from the sales floor. Easy is great! I get it. I ADORE things to be easy. But easy doesn’t always = interesting in the design world.

That said, marrying a sofa with an accent chair or two doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, with a few simple rules, it can be nearly as easy as that matching combo. Pinky promise. Let’s get into all the things you need to know and then we’ll do some shopping together!

Sofa & Armchair Combos: The Rules to Follow

I pulled these from a post Emily wrote in 2018 on sofa and armchair power couples, without the “affordable” angle like today. I still very much agree with them all (though I’ll go ahead and disagree with part of #2 below and say that I love a velvet sofa paired with a velvet chair of another color. So bold and maximalist).

  1. Scale: This one is pretty obvious, but your chair shouldn’t be petite if you have a massive and grand sofa. They should both complement each other in scale and be relatively the same size and proportion.
  2. Fabrics: Although this rule can sometimes be broken, typically you will want the pairing to have two complementary fabrics. Steer clear of having a leather couch paired with a set of leather chairs, or a velvet couch paired with two velvet chairs. The same goes with patterns – if you have a patterned chair then get a solid sofa. As mentioned this rule can be broken, but is a bit harder to pull off so play it safe by sticking to the rule.
  3. Seat Height: This is a big one that a lot of people forget when they start purchasing. The seat height of your sofa and chairs should be within 4″ of each other, if not less. That means if the seat height of your chair is 17″, the seat height of your sofa should be as close as possible to that (ideally no shorter than 14″ and no taller than 20″). This will prevent you and your guests from being at awkward differing heights when you are all seated together. When in doubt, pick a taller sofa and lower armchairs.
  4. Legs: This rule applies to other furniture pairings as well, but if your sofa is quite heavy and boxy then consider having a chair that has a longer leg profile to help balance out the visual weight. Or visa versa, if your chair is really heavy then look for a sofa that has a little bit of a leg to it so that neither feels too heavy or too light.
  5. Style: This is an add-on from Arlyn in 2023 because I think it needed to be said. You can have a lot of fun mixing and matching styles, but there should be something that unites the pairing visually. You can combine mid-century and Hollywood Regency, Art & Crafts, and neo-classical. Have a ball, but consider the silhouette and material mix when you do. If you have a curved sofa, try looking for an armchair with a more sinuous shape if the style and era don’t relate. Have walnut legs on an old Chesterfield? A modern chair with a walnut frame will bring things together stylistically.
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: a budget and rental-friendly living and dining room (with 80% thrifted finds)

What’s an EHD post without some visual examples, right? I’ll walk you through a few now that we have guidelines in place to show you things in practice.

In the above living room, the vintage sofa is a hefty, blocky baby, while the blue velvet armchairs (in a nice color contrast to the white bouclé) are lighter with peg legs and no arms. And since those are a bit more traditional, the vintage leather sling chair—with a wood tone similar to those of the other seating—bridges the gap and keeps things funky.

There is so much flexibility with armchair style when your sofa is clean-lined like the one above. Almost anything could work here (though I’d avoid something overly glam or Victorian, for instance). The low-slung embroidered chair pops against the white walls and the denim-y fabric of the sectional still feels earthy and casual. I also like how the sloping arm counterbalances the straight lines of the larger piece.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to design a pass-through room — reveal: the portland family room

This is a great example of so many of our rules together in one photo: a linen slipcover contrasts beautifully with the warm nutmeg leather of the chairs. An open wood frame is airy and interesting as an answer to the simple, blocky sofa silhouette. And while my eye is only estimating it, a lower seat on all pieces will keep this conversation area comfortable and effortless without anyone towering over anyone else.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: arlyn’s bright & happy rental living room makeover

Gee, I wonder what this room is doing here? Kidding, it’s my living room, of course, and admittedly, I didn’t consider any rules when putting it together. I just bought what I liked and went with it (which is also always an option…there is no power couples police that’ll come and take your things and put a lock on your door).

But looking at it with unbiased eyes, the wood and cane chairs add warmth to the cobalt velvet of the sectional and because it has such a deep seat, I opted for two chairs rather than one since they were a bit more petite. Otherwise, the sofa would have overpowered the accent seating in scale.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: brady’s living room refresh with the citizenry

And now, for all of our favorite part: the shopping. I put together 14 power couples that check most if not all of the rules boxes, including seat height (I checked them all for you). However, before proceeding, I just want to bring some attention to the word “affordable” here. This word is absolutely, without a doubt, completely suggestive. What is affordable to me might be completely out of the question for someone else, and vice versa. But as someone who has worked in the furniture business for the last three years, I know how much prices have become inflated. It’s, well…really bad.

To give you a quick example without fully diving into it, a sofa my previous company sold for $1,500 when I started in 2020 is now roughly $2,400. For the same piece of furniture. They didn’t start sprinkling gold coins inside the cushions. The frame is not suddenly made of platinum. Same sofa. Shipping costs for manufacturers have skyrocketed, materials cost upwards of 40% more (from the wood to the foam to the fabric), and the craftsmen who build the pieces are charging more for their time. These costs are passed down to the consumer.

To think that a standard sofa at IKEA will run you close to $1,000 (and sometimes more) should tell you everything you need to know about the state of furniture prices today. Buying thrifted and secondhand is a fantastic way to sidestep a lot of this, not to mention is far better for all of us. Be sure to look around for similar pieces and beyond on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Chairish, and your local shops.

All that said, I had to pick some fair and realistic parameters for today’s shopping picks while still trying to keep a semblance of quality in mind. Sure, you can get a $300 sofa from Amazon, but well…you’re gonna get a $300 sofa from Amazon.

Our sofa budget here is $2,000 while our armchair threshold is $700.

Combo 1: Brynn Feather Filled Sofa | Arbon Wood Dowel Accent Chair with Cushion Arms

Why It Works: The blocky, straight-forward shape is super versatile, but I picked a cushion-heavy spindle-y armchair to add some visual interest.

Combo 2: Ella Custom 3-Seater Sofa | Modern Armchair in Cream & Walnut

Why It Works: I love the look of this sofa from Interior Define (it comes in a massive number of color options, FYI). The single bench cushion is sleek and pairs well with the equally sleek (yet light due to the metal frame) chair.

Disclaimer – We know that Interior Define had a lot of issues in the last couple of years but they have been acquired by Havenly (the company that owns The Inside) and they’re now handling all operations.

Combo 3: Aria Sofa | Everse Ivory Wool Bouclé Lounge Chair

Why It Works: Interesting + interesting = very interesting. Curved shapes echo each other here while the bouclé is a great counterpoint to the rust faux suede (which is a performance fabric so it can take a beating).

Combo 4: Bari 91.25” Upholstered Sofa | Marna Petite Accent Chair

Why It Works: Man I’m really into this look. Eclectic, “grand-Millenial” chic. It wasn’t easy to find a chair that paired well enough with this Chesterfield without feeling overly heavy-handed or too mismatched, until I came across this fun print from Anthropologie (it’s on sale!). The subtle wingback picks up on the more classic vibe while the pattern play keeps things interesting and fresh.

Combo 5: Liz 102” Upholstered Sofa | Higgins Sling Armchair

Why It Works: This is a large and in-charge sofa, so really, I’d get two of these chairs from Target to go with it, otherwise a single one may be a bit dwarfed. While the seat comes in a few more subdued fabrics and colors, I picked the evergreen velvet because the cream upholstery was screaming for some drama.

Combo 6: Portland 81″ Square Arm Leather Sofa | Bria Checkered Chair

Why It Works: Two small-scale pieces perfect for a compact apartment or room. A leather option south of $2,000 is not an easy feat, so this one barely squeaks by. The trend-forward print on the chair adds some playfulness to the seriousness of the sofa at just the right proportion.

Combo 7: Leanna Camel Channel Tufted Velvet Sofa | Vivian Park Upholstered Swivel Chair Cream

Why It Works: Channel tufting, while very trendy right now, is actually rather classic (first finding popularity in the 1920s), which I think pairs so nicely with the traditional slope arm and skirted slipcover of the swivel armchair here.

Combo 8: Maxwell Custom Sofa | Leroy Upholstered Accent Chair

Why It Works: I own this same sofa but in the sectional version (and in cobalt blue velvet) and also very similar chairs (which I decided to marry with a different sofa below). The Maxwell Sofa is low, with a seat height of 16″, so the 15″ seat height of Leroy here keeps everything roughly on the same level.

Combo 9: Winona Armless Sofa | SAFAVIEH Couture Colette Rattan Accent Chair

Why It Works: Here is a version of the armchair I own (which is just a reproduction of a Pierre Jeanneret chair you see everywhere now). Since the frame is complex and eye-catching, mixing it with a simple armless sofa keeps it as the star of the space.

Combo 10: Sven Charme Tan Leather Sofa | SAFAVIEH Couture Osmond Linen Sling Chair

Why It Works: A canvas sling chair and a camel-colored buttery leather sofa will always be a match made in living room furniture pair heaven. They have a very campy, safari vibe that just works. These happen to comply in terms of seat height and scale, as well.

Combo 11: The Essential Sectional | Noemi Charcoal Gray And Ivory Dash Print Chair

Why It Works: Sabai is a newcomer on the scene. Black-founded, sustainable, and ethically built, they’re definitely one to check out on your furniture hunt. Since this sectional nearly crosses the line of our budget, I opted for a very affordable slipper-like chair from World Market. As the sofa is a bit serious, the shape and casual print of the chair adds in a bit of fun.

Combo 12: Eddy Sofa | Donovan Upholstered Swivel Barrel Chair

Why It Works: If you haven’t noticed, the barrel swivel chair is *the* chair of the moment. This shape is absolutely everywhere right now but for good reason. It works so well with a multitude of sofa styles, including a contemporary choice like this one from West Elm. The exposed legs offset the bottom-heavy armchair.

Combo 13: Chamberlin Velvet Sofa | Saboor Upholstered Swivel Barrel Chair

Why It Works: A little glitz for the glam lovahs here. A straightforward yet plush sofa in a fabulous lavender velvet gains some structure from the barrel (ha, again) swivel chair. Bouclé and velvet keep things fancy schmancy, if that’s your look of choice.

Combo 14: Vivian Park Upholstered Sofa | Penn Chair

Why It Works: And finally a wonderfully priced pairing (together they’re less than $1,300!) that’s a little prim and proper classic via the sofa, and a little…rock and roll? Not really, but these great Penn chairs nullify the visual blockiness of the sofa’s skirt as well as making sure nothing gets too stuffy or serious.

And there you have it! Another set of power couples under your design belts. I hope this was helpful and you feel armed and ready to bring together a sofa and a chair in holy living room matrimony.

As always, please leave any suggestions in the comments for other Power Couples that would be useful to you. We’ve done a lot over the past several years, but happy to bring more into the world.

See you next time, friends.

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: A Quick Update: The Changes Ive Made to My LA Living Room

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wally
11 months ago

The other benefit of both matching is that it is easier if your style changes over time – replacing one item is much easier than having to replace a whole set! Also in support of velvet sofas and chairs – if you have cats, it is one of few fabrics cats don’t like to scratch!

Harmony
11 months ago

Welcome back Arlyn!!!! We missed you – and thank you for such a well explained super useful post.

Sarah
11 months ago

So… couch + loveseat + chair. First two match and third compliments? I hate sectionals yet we need the extra seating.

🥰 Rusty
11 months ago

Arlyn!!😀
Well-written, informative post.
Man! I wish I could afford a new sofa, right now!

I’m keen on turquoise velvet. Too much??
I found a great match between what’s in my head and a real-life actual sofa last year on FB Marketplace, but someone beat me to it. Phooey!

The balance between a sofa an accent chair isn’t always as easy as it sounds!
All those consideratiins!
The options of pairings provided here cover all sorts of possibilities.
Thanks…this is a bookmarked post for future musings.

Nice to ‘read’ your voice again… … when do we see your new living room furniture layout??
Can’t wait! 😘 xx

Philippa
11 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

I very much like the idea of a turquoise velvet sofa in that 100-year old house you’ve talked about. Probably not too much at all, if the sofa were classical.

Christina
11 months ago

It’s nice to read you, Arlyn! Super useful roundup, too — I’ve been trying to convince my husband we need a couple of barrel swivel chairs for 4 or 5 years, and the Wayfair one might tip him over.

Your post made me go back and read about your armoire hunt and I hope we get to see your bedroom soon!

Monica
11 months ago

Hi, great combos, but a concern – so many of these sofas are from Interior Define and given their recent biz woes (and not fulfilling or refunding literally thousands of customers’ orders !?!) I will never order anything from them. I know they have new owners, but deciding to buy a brand and still leave tons of current customers in the lurch doesn’t make me feel any better about the newer management than the old. Business practices matter! Would love to see options from companies with a better track record.

Admin
11 months ago
Reply to  Monica

i totally hear you on this one! but the new owners (havenly) own and operate a few other furniture brands with great quality and turnaround times (with a track record of success, too). the old brand was absolutely a disaster – that meltdown was unprecedented!!! – but i have all the confidence in the world in the new (woman-owned!!) team. word on the street is that they’re considering a rebrand, too! but in the interim, i do feel confident about sharing their product again – we’ve looked into everything and it is a safe option once again (if you can get past the past ownership – and it’s totally fine if that’s a dealbreaker still!). hope that helps anyone else who is a little on the fence!

Shifra
11 months ago
Reply to  Monica

That’s exactly what I came to the comments for. I’m one of those people still waiting for their sofa… the whole mess was (is!) a complete debacle and it’s not out of the clear yet. Yes Havenly is trying to get people their orders and I appreciate that, but their communication is awful.

11 months ago

Oh, I’m sort of the opposite about chair + couch pairings – I really like maximum contrast, so like, boxy/square chairs with a curvy sofa, differing wood finishes across them, etc. Although I suppose right now I’m looking at a MCM recliner+ottoman (leather, button tufted) being paired next to a sofa from the same era, but one done in a patterned fabric with curvier lines and less blocky wooden feet in a different finish, but they’re both MCM cousins I suppose. I had never thought about the “don’t have all leather” or “don’t have TOO many upholstered pieces” rules all together until Emily pointed them out, but that really clicked and stuck for me! Also good not to have too many solid/hard surfaces; you see this a lot in dining rooms and I swear it’s terrible for the acoustics too. Gotta get some fabric in there somewhere even if it makes things annoying to clean with little kids. Love rules to follow, always! Thank you! One thing I’m always seeking though is how we can make living rooms stylish yet more friendly to older relatives, who never seem to appreciate the lower seat height of a lot of our pieces.… Read more »

SS
11 months ago

A quick thought on the seat height thing – depending on how casual/comfortable your older/elderly guests are, you can have a couple firmer throw pillows available, my grandma has one to make her seat higher :). Or drag in a dining room chair when needed.

🥰 Rusty
11 months ago

Older people need to height to feel able to get up on their own = independence and autonomy.
I’d do anything to have my mum or dad sit in my living room.
When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Harmony
11 months ago

IKEA have a couple of cute arm chairs specifically designed for people that need a higher seat and arms

https://www.ikea.com/au/en/p/omtaenksam-armchair-gunnared-dark-grey-00427267/

Tracy
11 months ago

I like MCM and modern style too. I have a Dean sofa from Room and Board since about 2015. I’ve never had a sectional before, but I love the Reese curved sectional they carry. I follow the Hoss Homestead on IG and she has the Reese in her MCM home and it looks fantastic in her space.

Teri
11 months ago

Great examples here. I was wondering about skirted furniture…if the couch is skirted the chairs should not be skirted? Is that a rule?

Kate
11 months ago

what are your suggestions when you don’t have a wall for a sofa to butt up against? We have a very open concept with our dining room and right now our couch just kind of hangs out in the middle of the room and breaks the dining/living room up……but I’m not loving it.

Katherine
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Do you have room for a console table behind the sofa? I’ve seen couches with a table with lamps or plants depending on how much room you have.

N.
11 months ago

Oooh this is a wonderful guide, thank you! We bought our first house this past year and are trying really hard to make the design look intentional (instead of “went to the store and bought everything at once”). I would LOVE if the blog did a post about styling bi-level living rooms (on the upper level). We have the right pieces but the arrangement has been difficult!

N.
11 months ago

So when you open our front door, you’re on a landing in the middle of a staircase. You can either go up 8 steps to the upper level or down 8 steps to the lower level. One of the “walls” of our living room is a banister. If you Google “bilevel living room”, you’ll get the idea. They’re very common around here!

N.
11 months ago

So when you open our front door, you’re on a landing in the middle of a staircase. You can either go up 8 steps to the upper level or down 8 steps to the lower level. One of the “walls” of our living room is a banister. If you Google “bilevel living room”, you’ll get the idea. They’re very common around here!

N.
11 months ago

That’s what we’re thinking — the banister as the wall. I can’t tell if the sofa looks better right up against the banister or with walking distance between. We’re waiting for custom bookshelves to be installed on the other wall and then we’ll start playing with the layout. Thanks for the advice!

Liz
11 months ago

I would like to reiterate how terrible the company Interior Define is, and I know they are under new ownership, but the new ownership decided NOT to manufacture and fulfill any of the existing orders that people placed after November 2022! We customers never received a reimbursement and are now stuck fighting with our credit card companies to reimburse us! The new owners could have prioritized the manufacturing of these orders, but instead decided to take over and completely abandon those customers. I would never order again from interior define and I would certainly warn anyone interested in purchasing furniture that this is an unethical company, even if they are now owned by a “female owned business”!

Admin
11 months ago
Reply to  Liz

i’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this!!! havenly acquired ID in an ABC (assignment for the benefit of
creditors, for my fellow biz dweebs!) which means that they only required the IP and
not the liabilities (which i heard were close to $100 mil – so i totally understand that the whole process sucks and that a whole lot of folks got left in the lurch. i am truly sorry to hear about your experience!!). i do just want to vouch for their character though – they’re not ignoring ID’s old customers because they’re shrewd or jerks; they just straight-up did not acquire that part of the business or the ability to fulfill those orders. definitely don’t want to justify the actions of old management (SO irresponsible, super foolish behavior!!!) but i do want to give a little benefit of the doubt to the new gals at the helm 🙂

Kelly
11 months ago
Reply to  Liz

I agree with Liz and Monica. I would NEVER order from Interior Define. Interior Define knowingly defrauded thousands of customers by continuing to take orders they couldn’t fulfill (even offering Black Friday sales while secretly negotiating the ABC with Havenly). It was completely unethical, not just “irresponsible” or “super foolish”. I find it very hard to believe that the owners of Havenly weren’t aware of what was going on at Interior Define, including the fact that they weren’t delivering orders, refunding customer’s money or even allowing customers to cancel orders that weren’t being delivered. Havenly was apparently a-ok with it so long as they ended up with the assets and not the liabilities. Regardless of what Havenly did or didn’t acquire legally in the ABC, the right thing to do would’ve been for Havenly to make things right with ALL of the Interior Define customers with outstanding orders. They rightfully acquired the ill-will associated with Interior Define when they acquired the assets and have to own that.

APC
11 months ago
Reply to  Liz

As a trade member who lost almost $5,000 on a customer order, I agree with you. It’s a double whammy when they took the $$, went under, then left me in the position to find and purchase another sofa to fit in the space. The new company never reached out to their trade members. So I am not sure I would say they are in great hands.

S
11 months ago

LOVE that you provided rationales for the pairings. That was really, really helpful!

Lynly
11 months ago

Why are the coffee tables always a million miles away from the seating in an EHD room? Why such spaced out furniture? That’s what catches my eye. Sure, get the right scale and coordinating furniture, but it needs to be arranged well, too.

pam
11 months ago
Reply to  Lynly

Ya – and a huge rug isn’t the solution to furniture all pushed to the perimeter with a coffee table floating in the middle.

11 months ago

Amazing and unique design! Very nice idea for renew my country house, i ve seen many great examples, thank you so much.

Patti
11 months ago

Arlyn, just revisited your beautiful living room (and sofa!). I live in Canada where we don’t have Interior Define, to my knowledge. I’m looking for a sofa in exactly your configuration and wondering if I could replicate it somewhat with the Crate & Barrel Lounge you had previously. Could you share whether it was comphy-cozy ie napping, movie watching? Was the depth ok and was it easy to get in and out of without help? Lol! Did you use a Performance Fabric? Thanks and your room is fab and happy!

SHM9800
11 months ago

I loved this article. For me I want a beautiful home but I don’t know how to pair things. Please do more of these articles from furniture to objects on book cases and everything in between. Thank you.

Leslie
11 months ago

I’d like to see some content that isn’t a repeat of the things we’ve seen before, with all the pictures we’ve seen a million times. Remake some new rooms! And other people’s, not just your own slow-going renos.

Amanda
11 months ago

I especially love #5 and #7, any thoughts on rugs to go with either?

Isabelle
11 months ago

Great article, I love the combos you mentioned. Since I’m planning to redo the living room, I really needed some ideas. I have a sofa like this (I’ll leave a link so you can see what material it’s made of : https://www.theblockshop.com.au/product/zachery-3-seater-fabric-sofa-oyster-beige-and-black-leg/) and I want to add two armchairs in the same color, but I can’t decide on a material, I want something that will be a different material, but fits nicely with the sofa . Do you have any recommendations?

SDJG
11 months ago

I thought this was a well written with useful information pos. The pictures to see the different combinations and the seating heights. I am hoping for more posts like this such as this about maybe lighting or dining chairs and table.

Thanks