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What is the Most Comfortable Seat Depth For a Sofa?

By Jeff Frank


What is the most comfortable seat depth for a sofa? My husband feels most seats are too short. I think most are too deep.

August 24, 2020


Seat comfort is an extremely complex subject.

Multiple factors, including depth, all work together to achieve the final result.

Ideally, seating will feel comfortable to a wide range of different size people.

Seat depth is only one of 6 critical design elements that work together to determine furniture comfort.

The choice of fabric or leather is also important, but does not affect the other comfort factors.

The 6 design elements affecting comfort are:

  1. Seat depth
  2. Seat height
  3. Seat pitch
  4. Back pitch
  5. Type of foundation (This is far more important when the cushions are thin or when low resilience cushions, such as down/feathers, are used.)
  6. Type of cushion

Cushions are especially critical.

Top quality cushions can overcome some defects in the first four comfort factors.

Poor quality cushions may feel great when the furniture is new, but quickly become uncomfortable after only a year or two.

Good cushions can maintain their initial comfort for 10 years or more.

Seat height and depth are critically linked together.

Lower seat heights require deeper cushions.

Higher seat heights require narrower cushions.

Seat depth, height, pitch and pitch are all inter-related.

Changing any one of these design elements affects the others.

The most common combination for American style furniture is 19 – 20″ seat heights combined with 21″ – 23″ seat depths (from the front of the back cushion to the front of the seat cushion.)

European style furniture often has seat heights that are 2 – 4 inches lower than American seat heights.

The lower seat heights require deeper seat depths (and sometimes increased back pitch) to compensate.

Increasing the seat pitch makes the seat cushions feel deeper than those that are not pitched.

Many mid-range sofa manufacturers do not pitch their seats. (Adding a pitch to the seats makes the manufacturing process more complex and adds expense.)

Seats with “flat” pitches “feel” narrower and less comfortable than those with identical depths that are pitched.

A pitched seat, with the front higher than the rear, can make the furniture “feel” 2-3 inches deeper than the same sofa with an unpitched seat.

Cushions are a critical (and highly variable) comfort factor.

Foam density and thickness strongly influence comfort. Coil spring cushion construction can offer  increased durability and comfort

Cushion quality is affected by time and usage and the physical characteristics of the people using the furniture.

Even if all five comfort factors seem perfect to you when trying out the sofa on the showroom floor, cheaply made cushions can lose resilience and comfort within a single year.

Top quality cushions that feel great when new can be expected to still feel that way many years later.

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