Anyone who has spent time on an uncomfortable sofa will know that getting the arm height just right is essential to being able to relax. Here we look at standard sofa arm height and assess the benefits of high or low sofa arms.
Related: Standard Sofa Dimensions
How to Measure the Sofa Arm Height
When measuring the height of a sofa arm, you should start at the surface of the sofa seat cushion and measure up to the top of the armrest. The total arm height from the floor is not relevant to comfort because the position of your arm and where your elbow naturally bends will be affected by the height you are sitting at, which is why we measure upwards from the seat cushion.
Sofa Arm Heights
6 inches or fewer
Sofas with an arm height of 6 inches or fewer are considered to be low. These types of sofas are not great for lounging and so work best in formal scenarios such as office lobbies.
7 to 9 inches
Arm heights on sofas measuring between 7 and 9 inches give the sofa great versatility. These types of sofas can work well in professional spaces but are also ideal for casual relaxing.
10 inches or more
Sofas with arm heights measuring 10 inches or more are considered to be high. Depending on the style of the sofa, these can look formal and prestigious, but they also offer a good level of comfort.
Benefits of High Sofa Arm Height
Balance High Ceilings
High sofa arms help to balance out the room if you have high ceilings, while a low-armed sofa in this type of space would look slightly odd and out of place. Sofas with high arms also help to create a feeling of intimacy in a large room.
To be able to lean an arm on a high sofa armrest, you need to be sat up straight, so if you select a sofa with a high armrest, you should find that your posture improves and you sit more upright. This can be beneficial to the muscles in your back and help to prevent back pain by avoiding slouching.
Good for Lounging
A high armrest can be good for lounging as it creates a barrier at the end of the sofa, which you can prop cushions up against for laying back or getting more comfortable. It can help a sofa feel snugger by enclosing the seated area at either end, creating an environment more conducive to relaxing.
Benefits of Low Sofa Arm Height
Create Open Feel
If you have a small room, then sofas with low arms will help the space to feel more open. This is because low arms do not create visual barriers or interrupt sightlines, therefore creating the illusion of a more open and airy space. By contrast, a sofa with high arms can cut up a room, which is useful in defining areas of a large space, but in small rooms can make the area feel too confined.
Can be Formal or Casual
Low-armed sofas are very versatile in terms of the types of rooms they work in. A sofa with low arms can look very formal in an office or professional setting, but it can also look relaxed and laid back, depending on the design you choose.
Good for Resting Head
If you like to lay down on your sofa, then a sofa with a low arm will provide some support for your head and neck, making it a great spot to take a nap or relax.
The most important factor when thinking about what type of arm height you want to have on your living room sofa is comfort. This is because this will probably be a place where you and your family spend a lot of time, so it’s imperative that you be comfortable; otherwise, you won’t want to hang out there. Think about the way you are most likely to use the sofa and what you like or dislike with regards to the arms on your current sofa.
Many people will choose a sofa based purely on looks and will be surprised to find that the arms of the sofa can play a huge part in how you’re able to position yourself on the sofa and your comfort levels. If you like to sit on the sofa and lean to the side, then a medium or high arm will work best for this. Low arms aren’t compatible with people who lean to one side, as they tend to be too low down for where the forearm will rest and will feel unnatural. However, if you like to lay your head on a sofa arm, you’ll want an armrest with a low height so that your neck isn’t bent at a harsh angle.
Side tables are most commonly positioned at the end of a sofa, next to the armrest. If you have side tables you want to keep, then you’ll need to think about how a new sofa will look next to them, or if you’re buying new side tables to go with a sofa, you should check that the table height is compatible with the sofa arm height.
A sofa with a high arm will need to be paired with a side table with a tall tabletop. This is because leaning over a high arm to put down a drink on a low table can be very physically awkward to achieve, and it also means that you can’t see the items on the table while sitting on the sofa as your vision will be blocked by a high arm. This is inconvenient and can also lead to knocks and spillages. The height of your side table should be similar to the overall arm height. It can be a few inches lower or higher, but not a considerable amount, as this will make it impractical functionality-wise and also make the room look unbalanced.