Couch Designs

The Secrets of Interior Design: How to Choose the Perfect Couch

Rebecca Hay shows you how to shop like an interior designer and choose the best couch for your needs.

How to Buy like an Interior Designer: Tips and Tricks from the CEO of Rebecca Hay Designs

Wouldn't it be great if you had a friend who was an interior designer? Someone you can text or call and ask pretty much any design question under the sun?

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the amazing Rebecca Hay from Rebecca Hay Designs for an exclusive interview. Rebecca is a seasoned interior designer, founder, and podcast host of Resilient by Design so she is a true industry veteran and knows a whole lot about couches. She shared some incredible insights on the evolving world of interior design, and I’m so excited to share them with you!

Not only did cover a TON of ground in our discussion, from the evolution of interior design to choosing your couch style to what types of fabrics her clients choose most often, but we had fun doing it! I now feel like I have that friend I never had, the interior designer with all of the info I need, only a phone call away. Here are some highlights from our conversation


Fundamentals From My Conversation With Rebecca About Interior Design

  • The evolution of interior design: Historically, interior design was an exclusive service for the uber-wealthy, dominated by celebrity-type designers. Think Martin Short in Father of the Bride – well-connected and secretive about their sources. But, as Rebecca pointed out, the industry has transformed. Today, it’s more inclusive and collaborative. Thanks to platforms like HGTV, Pinterest, and Instagram, homeowners are more design-savvy and involved in the process.
  • Collaboration over competition: Rebecca emphasized the shift from competition to collaboration among designers. “Rising tides raise all boats,” I said, highlighting the importance of sharing knowledge and resources. This collaborative spirit is paving the way for new designers to enter the field and grow with confidence and profitability.

How To Actually Choose a Couch The Right Way

  • Choosing your couch style: One of the common questions we get is how to choose a couch style. Rebecca’s approach? Start broad and narrow it down. She encourages homeowners to look at images and identify what appeals to them. Is it the deep, comfy look perfect for movie nights, or a sleek perch ideal for cocktail parties? Understanding the purpose of your couch helps in making the right choice.
  • Functionality first: Rebecca is a big advocate for function-first design. She shared that while a curved couch might look trendy, it might not be the best fit if you need to maximize seating space. It’s all about balancing aesthetics with functionality to ensure your furniture meets your lifestyle needs.
  • The great cup holder debate: Here’s a fun tidbit: I asked Rebecca if she’s ever placed a couch with a cup holder in a client’s home. The answer was no. While cup holders serve a functional purpose, they can be tricky to clean and might not always align with a high-end aesthetic. It’s a reminder to consider practicality and maintenance when making design choices.
  • Sectionals vs. multiple pieces: Sectionals are cozy, but they’re not always the best choice for entertaining. Rebecca suggested considering multiple pieces of furniture, like a three-seater with two club chairs. This setup offers flexibility and facilitates better conversation, especially when hosting guests.
  • Navigating color choices: Color can be a daunting decision. Rebecca generally leans towards neutral base palettes, which can be accented with colorful pillows and rugs. For those concerned about mess and durability, darker shades like navy can be both practical and stylish.
  • The fabric factor: When it comes to fabric, Rebecca highlighted the debate between stain-resistant synthetics and natural fibers. While man-made fibers are incredibly durable, natural materials like cotton, wool, and linen offer a timeless, elegant look. It’s all about finding the right balance for your home’s needs.

An Interior Designer's Insights on Couch Shopping

  • Where to shop: For those wondering where to shop, Rebecca shared that while she often designs custom furniture, there are great retail options available. Stores like Crate & Barrel offer stylish, ready-made pieces that can sometimes be more cost-effective than custom designs.
  • Final thoughts: This conversation with Rebecca Hay was BEYOND enlightening. Her insights on the importance of functionality, the shift towards collaboration in the design community, and practical tips on choosing the right couch style were invaluable. Whether you’re looking to revamp your living space or simply curious about interior design, I hope you found these insights as inspiring as I did.

Stay tuned for more expert advice and tips on And don’t forget to check out Rebecca’s podcast, Resilient by Design, for more design inspiration!

Make Sure to Check Out Rebecca's Youtube Channel

Click Here to Learn More About Rebecca Hay Designs

Rebecca Hay Interview:’s Interview with Expert Interior Designer, Rebecca Hay

And I think historically designers were those firms or, or let's say celebrity-type designers. Like I'm picturing Martin Short in Father of the Bride, right? Like they were well connected. Totally. That was like when decorators were really reigning supreme, and designers only served the uber-wealthy. And they were very tight and closed with their sources. And so that still exists in our industry today, and it's changing.

Hey everyone, it's Alex with, and I'm here with my new friend Rebecca Hay from Rebecca Hay Design. She is the founder and Chief Rebecca Officer. CEO, love it. I just came up with a new title and also a popular podcast host of Resilient by Design. I was a guest recently, and thank you so much again for having me there. Amazing. Rebecca Hay, here she is. Woohoo. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, Alex.

My pleasure. So we want to learn a little bit more about you. We want to qualify you a little bit as someone who is an expert in the field of interior design so that we, when we give some advice to the lovely users of about how to do things like figure out what your couch style is and how to answer all the interior design questions that couch buyers have, that they need to answer for themselves before even maybe going and hiring an interior designer, and certainly before going couch shopping. So that's the goal of today's conversation. Are you up for the challenge?

Always up for the challenge. Can't wait.

Fantastic. Now from the map behind you, it looks like you're joining us from the country of Russia. Is that the case?

Absolutely not. No, I am north of the border though. I am in Canada.

Oh, different country. I just got confused which one. Got it. Nice try. I know when you put a map of the world out, you realize that Russia is a large part of it.

It's humongous.

It's unbelievable. The world world and showcasing where all of our students come from, and we can talk about that, but lots of pins in North America, no pins in Russia yet. Never know, though.

I love it. So you mentioned students. I think that's a good segue into explaining a little bit more about what you do. You're not just an interior designer, but you have a lot of sort of irons in the fire, and you're aiming to do some very interesting things in the interior design space. Please tell us about that.

Yeah, absolutely. So I've been in interior design for over 15 years, running my own business now for 10. It's our 10th birthday this year, actually, which is exciting. And throughout the journey, designers kept coming to me and asking, Rebecca, can you help me with this? Can you tell me a little bit more about how you run your business? Or they would see that we were getting featured in press and doing these incredible projects. And so along the way, I started to give back to the design community, get designers together, and teach and help other designers. And that's what I do today. That's what my podcast is all about, Resilient by Design. I teach designers how to run an interior design business because, let's face it, they don't teach you the business side in design school. And I have online courses, I have in-person get-togethers and meetups, but really I am serving the design community and trying to really break through some of those barriers and those myths that the interior design industry is snooty and unapproachable. And I'm really making space for designers and new designers who are looking to start or launch their design firm and grow it with confidence. And let's be honest, also be profitable. So I'm helping designers.

That's important too. Why do you think the interior design world gets such a snooty reputation or such a bad rap? Is it just like a bunch of legacy vibes that our foremothers and forefathers... I don't know what the heck I'm saying. Is it a legacy vibe that former interior designers of the past have brought into the space that you and your contemporaries are trying now to shed?

Yeah, I think so. The industry has shifted a lot, even in the 15 years that I've been doing it. But it really has shifted from this sense of, I'm not sharing my suppliers with you, you're my competition, keeping a really tight ship, closed doors. And I think too, there were not as many designers before, let's face it. It has exploded. This industry has exploded. And so now really anyone can become a designer. They can go to school or choose not to go to school and have an innate talent and just start working in the industry. And I think historically, designers were those firms or, let's say, celebrity-type designers. Like I'm picturing Martin Short in Father of the Bride. They were well connected. Totally. That was like when decorators were really reigning supreme. But there was this sort of sense of there were not that many of them, and designers only served the uber-wealthy, and they were very tight-lipped with their sources. And so that still exists in our industry today, and it's changing. Thank goodness, because I firmly believe that collaboration over competition helps everyone all day long. We are not each other's competition. There is enough work out there for all of us. Rising tides raise all boats. I'm a big believer in that as well.

And it's, I think it's fair to say that you are, as you mentioned, students, and you told us why you have students. You are a teacher. We also talked about the fact that interior design has just become a lot more approachable. And case in point, you have agreed to come to and tell our users about certain things that they may be curious about, that they may want to hire an interior designer to discuss, but maybe they should just, they could think about these things first prior to doing that or prior to going couch shopping, certainly. So one of the questions I think we get all the time is, okay, where do I start first? Do I, well, I don't even know what style I like. How do you choose a couch style? How is that something, how do you guide people in that part of the process? Or do you generally just, do you throw some pictures in front of them? Or do you have a more existential character, backstory conversation about, what if their couch was a celebrity, who would it be? What methods do you use?

I wish I was that cool. I don't have a crazy system like that. I would say most interior designers don't. And I think that the consumer nowadays, the homeowner, is really more savvy than they used to be. I think because of television shows like HGTV, Pinterest, decor magazines, Instagram, and the like, I think that homeowners are bombarded with imagery of designs and spaces in beautiful homes all the time. And I do like to give our clients, or the homeowner, a lot more credit because I know that they usually come with an idea of what they like or what they don't like, but quite often they can't articulate it. And so one of the great things that you can do as a designer, and if you're working with a designer, would be to ask the designer to help guide you when it comes to design style. Like, show some pictures. Like you said, Alex, I like to show a few photos if the clients are really clueless, meaning that they really don't know what they want. They know they want it to look good, and that's it. And I will do this or that, and you can start to get a sense of what clients like. And so if you're the homeowner looking at images and pictures and starting to narrow it down and understand, what is it about that couch that I like? Is it that it looks so comfy and deep, and I feel like I can curl up and watch a movie? Or is it that it looks like a great perch for me to sit and have a cocktail? And so it's starting to have those conversations with our clients because, let me tell you, it can be a big investment. And so we want to make sure that when we are helping and guiding our clients to select their furniture for their home, their couches, that they're making the right decision, and we're guiding them in the right way.

I don't know if that answers your question.

That makes perfect sense. That does, and it answers it great. And I think some really good images that you gave us were the couch that's so comfy that it really is deep, and you want to curl up and watch a movie, or a cocktail perch, a couch that could act as a perch to have a cocktail on. I think I can see the difference between those two things. And I think customers generally have a lot of difficulty, and I've seen in my experience discerning between two different types of couches. I think starting with broad strokes and giving images to them like that, or if you're doing it for yourself, really starting broad and then narrowing in on something like a shape. Now, a shape is something that is often discussed a lot, and it's quite literally the difference between one couch and another can be the shape of the arms. And I think customers in general, some people can see very clearly the difference between a skinny tapered arm and a rolled arm. But I don't know, how do you guide people in the conversation about shapes, or what are your general thoughts about shapes and couches? Is it something we should be thinking about from the jump, or is it, I don't know, maybe I'm overstating?

No, totally. And I love that you're asking this question because this, I'm going to geek out for a second here as a designer, and designers, if you're watching, you'll appreciate this. I always say in my design firm that we are function-first design because, of course, we're going to make it beautiful. That's what you're hiring us for, and of course, your home is going to be beautiful when you pick a stylish couch from whichever supplier. But if it doesn't function for you, it's a total miss. And so I think it's having those conversations early on about, like I just said, what is the purpose for your couch? Those curved couches, hey, I've done them. I've put them in client homes, and they look super fab and cool, very trendy, but they may not be the right fit for your home if you are looking for a couch that can maximize the seating potential, and you can fit six to seven people, and you want your kids to be able to hang out and play video games with their friends. Because a curved sofa is not a maximum use of space. And so it's really thinking about, first and foremost, how are you intending to use your couch? What is the intent? Are you going to be someone who wants to have a beer and watch the game? Maybe you want an armrest so you can rest your arm while you're holding a drink. Talking about a tapered arm versus a big square flat arm. So it's a constant balance between what appeals to me aesthetically and what really is going to function for me and my family. And oftentimes, the conversations I have with clients are steering them sometimes a little bit away from what they thought they wanted because they saw it in a magazine. Once I start asking questions about how they intend to use the couch or use the space.

I love it. And here's a yes or no question for you. You mentioned sitting down on the couch and watching a game with a beer. Have you or would you ever place a couch in a design installation in a client's home that has a cup holder?

I have not done it. Would I? Is this a trick question? I'm going to say... What's the right answer? I'm going to say no. That's just a personal choice.

Interior designers placing reclining couches with cup holders in a lot of homes, which is interesting, right? Because it does serve some purpose, doesn't it, from a design perspective? Or do you feel like it's an absolute no if you're concerned with design?

I don't love the look of it from an aesthetic standpoint. Take that or leave it, take it for a grain of salt. But what I would also say is think about functionality again. Sure, it functions. You can put your glass or your beer in it, but who's going to clean it? How can you clean it? Is it removable? What happens when that beer explodes and it goes all over? These are the things that I'm always thinking about. Maybe it's because I'm a parent and I have two young children, but functionality when it comes to cleaning, that to me would be a no. So I would say no.

Kids are gross, and I know too from personal experience. So yeah, totally, maybe you got to think twice about certain elements that you would not have originally. That's a great point. But you mentioned function a few times, and I think function is very important. You also mentioned maximizing seating space. So this is a common thing, and I sold a lot of couches to a lot of people. And one of the most basic questions that is a little bit less design in a way and more function-based is how big of a couch to get, right? Because if people, especially with big families or they entertain a lot, they want to have this 10-piece modular behemoth that costs God knows how much money. But also not every room can handle such a big piece of furniture. So at some point, you have to make certain concessions. Like, okay, I often have six people over, but am I getting a six to eight-person couch or sectional? Or from a design perspective, maybe it would be better to keep some more open floor space and keep a flow to the room, and maybe that's more important. So how do you reconcile that for people that you've worked with in the past, and how does that conversation normally go?

Okay, this is such a common conversation, Alex. Obviously, you know that oftentimes clients want, or homeowners want, a sectional because you see it again, you see it everywhere. It looks so cozy, wouldn't it be amazing? I can lie down, I can put my feet up. And yes, if the purpose of the sectional is for you to put your feet up with one or two other family members and watch a movie or watch a show, great. But actually, sectionals are terrible when you're entertaining a lot of people because if you think about it, nobody wants to be the man in the corner, the girl in the corner, no one wants to sit in that corner. And so what we find is that when you're entertaining, consider having multiple pieces of furniture and not just one behemoth, as you call it, because it's, especially if you don't know the other people that well. Like, it's one thing if it's a kids' slumber party, it's a whole other thing if you're inviting a few couples over from the neighborhood that you've just met. And one thing I've noticed is oftentimes when we have that conversation with our clients where we say, listen, maybe a three-seater with two club chairs is actually a better solution because then you can move the furniture around, you could bring in a couple of dining chairs, and you can have an actual conversation where you're face-to-face, not side-by-side. It's tricky to have a conversation when you're sitting right next to the person.

That's true. You can really crane your neck. Crane your neck. They're sitting, you can crane your neck. You could end up with the chiropractor.

And I have a post about that too, about sitting styles on a couch. I have a chiropractor, my chiropractor Dr. Bond, he joined me last week, very excited about this one. But I digress. He tells us all about how to sit and how not to sit on couches.

Oh, I want, I'm going to listen to that one. I'm going to watch that one.

You should. We should, because we've all had, falling asleep like that, we've all had these experiences, and we've all had experiences at a party where someone's sitting in that corner of the sectional, and whether their shoes are on or off, their feet are encroaching upon your personal space if you're sitting next to them and talking to them. So I'm happy that you mentioned that. But it sounds like really considering what your use is going to be of it is extremely important. And as obvious as that may sound, people don't often consider these sort of basic elements. What is my style? How much space do I have? How much will I be using this couch, and in what way will I be using it? So I love that. Yeah, let's talk about colors. Okay, colors are something that really throw people for a loop, right? Because when I first started in the furniture industry around 20 years ago, there was no question about what was most commonly bought. It was beiges, browns, sometimes grays, but it was mostly like neutral-colored, earth-tone type couches. Every now and again, a white one, but usually those were slip-covered back in the day. And now, and I know because my company that I used to run was very, we were bullish on all these very bold, bright, beautiful colors. We had like hot pink and bright blue and stuff like that. And I think those are great, but they also aren't always great. So how do you navigate these conversations surrounding color? Do you go bold with it? Do you go neutral with it and jazz it up with some bold colors? Like, I'm sure you like color at least a little bit, being a designer. So what are your thoughts on colors with couches?

It's such a common conversation, Alex. Honestly, we have this with all our clients because, I'll be honest, as a designer, I do gravitate to a more neutral base palette, and then I can pop it with color with pillows, an accent chair, an area rug. And so I love a neutral sofa or a neutral couch. I love a neutral couch because it has a world of possibilities. I don't have to worry about matching it with the rug and then matching it with the pillows. However, I will say that clients often, and homeowners, are nervous about lighter colors, and I'm sure you've seen this because of mess, dirt, kids. And so I find them always having this conversation between wanting to go neutral and light and get that airy feeling, but then wanting it to be durable. And we can talk about that a little bit later, but the idea of how can I still have a light sofa and it be durable and not show all the mess. So what I do find is when I have clients that are maybe a little bit more open to color, because I love color, I'm not suggesting you put in a wild, bright yellow sofa unless it suits the mood of the home. But we are currently designing a home right now where the clients are so concerned about their kids and making a mess. And we're doing a big sectional, just like we talked about, and so we're going to go with a color. We're doing a deeper navy, almost like a denim. And so that feels almost like a neutral to me. And what I'm seeing, at least right now, as we're recording this, is the trends in the interior design world are leaning towards darker colors. And so it's fun to use color in a different way, have a moody home, use color in your couch, and then bring in some neutral pillows. That way you can have a neutral rug. It's always a balance. But I don't typically design using bright colored couches. It's just not really been my M.O., but hey, you never know. The future could be colorful.

There you go. But you mentioned lighter colored sofas and couches and sectionals. And I think just the way fabrics have changed over the last 15 years, like probably polyester used to be like, oh don't, no, I always joke that 95% of the fabrics in most couches these days are polyester-based. But I think when we were growing up, it was like my uncle Richie's 70s go-out-to-the-disco outfit. It was, you know, horrible, unbreathable, whatever. But it's just a synthetic material that's actually quite cleanable and allows people to have lighter-colored things. How much is stain resistance? Would you ever place a fabric on a couch these days, even in a high-end installation or with a higher-end client, that was not stain-resistant or cleanable? My sense is that it probably makes sense to just do it. There are so many nice fabrics that are, but maybe there are some specific fabrics, like a pattern or like a certain kind of linen or certain type of feel that a customer or client is looking for.

Yeah, that's a loaded question. You probably didn't realize it was so loaded, but to me, it feels loaded because there is this, there's this fight I find in the fabric world between the stain-resistant fabrics, the polyesters, the man-made fibers that you can pour your red wine over and it just wicks all the way off. And I've seen these demonstrations with these indoor-outdoor fabrics where they can, nothing stains it, and they can clean anything. But on the flip side of that is more of a European aesthetic to having natural fibers. So cotton, wool, linen, a Belgian linen, and that I do see in a certain aesthetic. If you are someone who likes a very natural vibe and you are okay with imperfections, with wrinkles, and you're okay with the odd scuff, those natural fibers are actually cleanable. And so I find I'm often having this conversation with my clients and trying to educate them saying, you don't have to go with the man-made fiber. You can go with a natural, as long as you understand it's like marble, right? Love the look of marble, but you have to understand that it's going to patina over time. And there are certain homeowners that really like, and I'm one of them, I love the look of natural linens. I love a natural wool. Those are really quite easy to clean. When the wine pours on it, there's going to be a stain until you get it cleaned.

Right. Yeah, there are ways to clean almost any kind of fabric. They may be unconventional, they may take a little bit more elbow grease or perhaps a paid professional, but there are ways to do it. So I love that take. That's very interesting because most people would guide you in just the direction of what would be easiest. But for the sake of design, it sounds like in certain cases, different types of materials that may not be that crazy performance fabric that everyone's pushing these days, those might be preferable in some cases. I love that.


Let me ask you this, and this is my last question. We've armed users with some ideas of how to go out and look for what they want and how to define what they want before they go shopping. And I wonder, what are some places that you like to send your clients to go shopping or that you will shop for your clients? I think a lot of interior designers, like there's, at least in our world, in the industry, like there's a stigma attached where designers work with custom furniture only, but maybe there are some large retailers or even small mom-and-pop retailers that you work with. And if these are regional people, maybe it doesn't make any sense to name names. What kinds of places do you send your clients, and where do you shop for them for couches?

So this is a great question. I, like many interior designers, we do design a lot of custom furniture. I'm also located in Canada, and so it's a little bit different. We don't have the same access to the retailers that you do down south of the border. So we do a lot of custom, and I would say that is our go-to, is to design a custom couch and have it made C.O.M., customer's own materials. So we will select the fabric, and then we will have the couch made. That said, there are times when it doesn't make sense to do custom or the budget isn't there. And it's funny, I was just in High Point Market, which is, High Point Furniture Market is where a lot of retailers and designers go to see all the different wholesalers and companies. And it was really neat to see that there's such an incredible amount, and that's what you share, like you share all the resources way more than I do, and where you can go shopping for a couch. Because for me, I can say that what I would do is I would go to Crate & Barrel. To be honest, in Canada, we don't have a ton of options, maybe a Crate & Barrel. There are other local regional stores here that will bring some of those wholesale products to their stores. But when I was down at High Point, I realized there is so much choice for Americans when it comes to couch shopping, which is why I love what you're doing because it's dizzying, to be honest, all the options. I don't even know, if I had the beauty and the wonder and the opportunity to be designing homes in the U.S., I would just be overwhelmed with choices. I would be so excited. Oh my gosh, I get to shop. I get to go to this place and that place. And oh, that wasn't even an option before. Because the other thing that I will say so that people don't think, oh, she's a designer, she's custom. It can be limiting sometimes to do custom because our custom suppliers in the city of Toronto where I live, they are not doing volume. Any custom house is not doing volume. And so there are certain things that I see, like a curved metal detail or a show wood base or certain aspects, or maybe it's just the shape of the sofa back. In order to get that made custom, it is going to cost so much more money than if I just buy that sectional or that couch that I saw at the retailer. And so there is a lot to be said for great suppliers that do sell direct to the public because sometimes you can get really great design that if you were to have it made custom, it would be three, four times the price.

Wow, that's a really interesting point. And I like what you said about the myriad amount of options available in the U.S., and it can be very dizzying. And that is why exists. It's analysis paralysis, and you just don't know where to start, you don't know where to go. Whereas in Canada, all you have to do is you just start walking with your snowshoes, and as far as they take you, you'll probably only get to one store, is what you're saying. I think that's what I heard.

Basically, when I leave my igloo in the morning, I usually find one furniture store, and that's after hiking for miles, or kilometers as we say up here.

Yeah, kilometers. I don't know anything about kilometers, but it sounds pretty far. Rebecca, thank you so much for being with us and sharing your insight. This is incredibly valuable. We hit all of our marks, and I genuinely appreciate it.

Thank you for having me.

A smiling man with short brown hair and a beard stands on a beach during sunset. He is wearing a black short-sleeved shirt with small white dots. The ocean and sandy shore are in the background, creating a warm and relaxed atmosphere.
Alex Back is the founder and CEO of Previously, he was the co-founder and COO of the popular furniture brand, Apt2B, which was acquired by a large US retail furniture chain in 2018. He worked to integrate Apt2B, one of the very first online furniture retailers on the Shopify platform, into the operations of the 100 year old larger business entity and was deeply immersed in the business operations of both online and brick and mortar retail for 4 years before leaving in 2023 to start Working in various parts of the furniture industry since 2004, he has 20 years experience in retail sales, e-commerce, marketing, operations, logistics and wholesale manufacturing and distribution. He has worked extensively with partners such as Costco, Bed Bath and Beyond and Amazon and his work has been highlighted in many publications such as Forbes, CNN and HGTV, among others. Alex is delighted to bring his experience and authority on couches and the furniture industry to this platform, along with many of his industry colleagues who are helping him keep the audience informed and engaged on a daily basis.
Alex Back CEO & Founder