Buying furniture can be daunting. Stick to my formula, and it can be less overwhelming.
When out in a store, start with what pleases your eyes. "That gray couch has nice lines." Go to the couch, and check the price. If you can afford it, take a seat. Put your arms up, tilt your head back, and curl up as you would at home. How does your tush feel? Your back? Can you fall asleep on this thing? So far, so good? Then, examine the material. If you eat or drink in your living room, evaluate the clean-up factor. I tend to eat on my couch, so, even though I love the look of a sleek, white sofa, I went with a chocolate brown to mask possible stains.
These are some factors to consider in couch material:
Foods--pastas, noodles, anything that can slip off a fork. Tomato sauce will land on the couch. Soy sauce. Oil. Sugar.
Liquids--red wine isn't the only thing to be afraid of. Basically any drink can affect your couch's surface.
Foot traffic--Is this the place you'll always sit when you get home? What about guests? Not everyone is squeaky-clean. If you walk in after a day on a hike or in the rain, you might be bringing some gross stuff in.
Window factor--If the couch will be in front of a window that you keep open, street dust can settle on it. Or, sunlight can fade the fabric.
Pets--This is one of the most obvious factors in buying furniture. If your pet sheds, try to get a couch in a similar color to its fur. You can only clean so much. With dogs, keep in mind the fact that they inevitably track in dirt from the yard or street. Because of that, I wouldn't recommend getting anything in a light color. Cats are a whole other story. They tend to love upholstered furniture. My cat, Sushi, claimed my couch with her claws. I tried everything short of declawing, but nothing stopped her tearing up the tweed fabric. According to many, cats don't like microsuede. If you have a cat, that would be your best bet.
Slipcover--A great option for thorough cleaning is to buy a slipcovered sofa. Many on the market are atrocious; but there are some acceptable ones! I recommend Ikea's Karlstad for the budget shopper. Be warned, however, it isn't comfy enough for cuddling!