How to Choose a Sofa for Your Home
Words by Michaela Quinn
October 11, 2023
Gone are the days when sofas were just a place to sit and relax. Like many people, you may have found that your sofa has become the new dining room, bedroom and office all rolled into one.
We conducted a survey which revealed that while 80% of people still spend time relaxing and watching TV on the sofa:
• 63% use it to eat and drink
• 55% like to sit on the sofa to socialise
• 19% work from it
Your sofa sees a lot – from those late-night heart to hearts with friends to the weight of all your family on special occasions – so finding the perfect style to suit your lifestyle has never been more important.
Let’s not forget that a sofa is a big investment too and one that contributes significantly to the comfort and style of your home. So, it’s a good idea to take time to do some extensive research before settling on style.
Want to know how to choose a sofa that’s right for you and your home? In this comprehensive sofa buying guide we’ve rounded up everything you need to know and what to consider when browsing the different sofa styles available.
Find the right sofa style for you and your space
From contemporary to retro, every sofa style brings something different to your space and can help capture a little of your personality along the way. Whether you love to lounge on luxurious velvet or sit pretty on a printed fabric, here’s a breakdown of the different sofa styles for you to choose from:
A grand sofa with rolled arms, a low back and signature button detailing, the Chesterfield sofa makes us think of stately homes and country pubs. With origins dating back to the mid-1700s, this classic sofa style never fails help you to make a statement. Chesterfield-style sofas are typically available in both leather and fabric finishes to complement every home.
Looking for a sofa that’s simple and minimalistic yet stylish and tasteful? Then a contemporary sofa could be your perfect match. A great choice for modern homes and sleek city apartments, this style incorporates clean lines, block colours and bold geometric prints. Contemporary sofas with legs are a great choice for small homes as the area underneath gives the impression of additional space.
The classic sofa never gets old. It’s a winning option for traditional Victorian homes or country cottages. Look out for the heritage-inspired designs available that feature scroll arms, button back detailing, and floral or checked prints.
Retro sofa styles are making a huge comeback in the world of interiors – whether it’s art deco glam or mid-century modern. A sofa with vintage appeal can work well in both modern and traditional homes, adding a unique twist. Marked by curved shapes and angled wooden legs, a retro-inspired sofa is sure to add a distinctive edge to your space.
Also known as a Bridgewater sofa, this classic sofa style will bring a relaxed feel to your home. Characterised by a low profile, low arm rests and removable cushions, the traditional versions of this sofa feature a skirt and a rolled back. A country sofa is a great choice if you’re looking for adjustable firmness, as the backs and cushions aren’t held in place.
Choose the right material for you
Your ideal sofa material will come down to a few factors – comfort, cleaning, overall maintenance required and style. Kids and pets roaming the house? A leather sofa can be quickly cleaned of grubby finger marks and mucky paw prints. Looking for something a little luxurious? Velvet is your friend. To help you decide how to choose a sofa fabric, we’ve rounded up what to consider for the materials available.
Offering a true sense of sophistication, leather sofas are a popular choice for many households. Durable, easy to clean, and available in a range of different styles, you’re sure to find a leather sofa that suits your space. Leather sofas can last around five years longer than fabric sofas, making them a great investment and the ideal choice for properties with kids and pets.
Velvet sofas are another popular and stylish fabric option. Available in a variety of tones, velvet sofas are versatile and can add a hint of luxury to your space. The fabric is soft, comfortable, cosy, and fairly easy to clean.
Ideal for vegans, vegetarians, and the eco-conscious, faux leather is an excellent choice for those looking to combine style with sustainability. Faux leather sofas are durable, easy to keep clean, versatile, and suitable for a range of décor.
Although trickier to keep clean, cotton blend sofas are extremely comfortable due to their breathable fabric. Perfect for lounging and relaxing, there is a diverse collection of cotton blend sofas available to purchase.
Sofas made with woven fabric are hard-wearing and durable, capable of lasting for years. Available in a variety of styles and colours, these sofas are easy to clean and great for homes with kids and pets.
Want to know more about sofa fabrics? Take a look at our helpful Leather vs Fabric guide.
How to choose the right colour sofa
Colour has a big impact on our mood and for many of us, the colours we feature in our homes reflect our personality.
Whether you want to bring a little sunshine indoors with a daffodil yellow two seater or prefer to keep things dark and mysterious with a velvet sofa in a navy hue, reminiscent of the night sky, there’s a sofa colour out there for you.
However, many of us prefer our sofa to do all the hard work and complement whatever wall colour we’re currently enjoying – before changing our minds six months later and pulling out the roller again. If you decide to keep things neutral then beige, grey, cream and taupe are ideal sofa colour choices. These shades are easy to decorate around, and you should have no trouble switching up your décor styles over the years.
Want to make your sofa a focal point in your room? Opt for a bold accent colour like orange, red or blue. You may have to be slightly less daring with the rest of your interior, but the ‘pop’ of colour that a bright sofa can bring could be well worth it.
When choosing a sofa colour, remember to consider how it will be used and who will be using it. A white or cream sofa may look beautiful, but with kids and grandkids on the loose, it may not be a wise choice.
Measure up the space
After spending all that time and energy to find the perfect sofa for your home, the last thing you want is for it not to fit through the door or in the place you envisioned.
Measuring your space might not be the most exciting part of getting a new sofa, but it’s certainly one of the most important. By measuring the room, you’ll feel confident that your new sofa will easily slot into place when it arrives and avoid any disappointing surprises. Knowing the dimensions you have to work with can also help you choose your sofa size.
Measuring for a new sofa is relatively straightforward but here are a few tips:
• Use a tape measure to check the height, width, depth and length of the space.
• Leave plenty of room around the sofa to walk and move, checking that arms won’t get in the way.
• If you’ve chosen a recliner, check there’s plenty of space for it to extend.
• Ensure you leave enough space between the sofa and any radiators and heaters.
• Measure enough space for side tables and any other complementary features you might want to add later.
Select your number of seats and shape
Once you’ve measured the area, it’s time to decide which sofa shape works best for you and the number of seats you have space for. The size and shape of your sofa will dictate the entire look and feel of your living room, so it’s important to get this part right.
Generally, a larger living room can accommodate a spacious corner sofa – perfect for families. On the other hand, a cosy two-seater may be the best option for a smaller room. When considering how to choose a sofa size and shape, always bear in mind the number of people the sofa needs to seat.
Here we’ve rounded up some of the most common sofa sizes and shapes:
A snuggler (or cuddler) is larger than a standard armchair but smaller than a two-seater sofa. It's perfect for one person to get comfy, or a cosy option for two.
Also known as a loveseat, a two-seater sofa is a compact, space-saving option for couples and smaller households. Two seaters also serve well as additional seating options alongside larger sofas.
A three-seater sofa is the most common sofa size. It works well in most spaces and can seat three people comfortably.
Have a large room with a little extra space? A four-seater sofa offers a spacious and accommodating option for up to four people, or room to stretch for two.
Recliner sofas come in a range of sizes and feature an extending footrest and a tilting back for relaxation. Recliners are perfect for putting your feet up in front of the TV after a long day.
Corner sofas are ideal for large families or homes with frequent guests. Their ‘L’ shape design gives them a relaxed and stylish look with lots of flexible seating space.
A chaise sofa is based upon the French chaise longue, which is a cross between a chair, sofa and daybed. Perfect for making the most of the space in your room, chaise sofas are great for relaxing and putting your feet up.
A modular sofa features movable sofa pieces which can be arranged together to meet your needs. Versatile and available in a variety of different sofa styles, modular sofas allow you to get more creative with your interior design.
Find the right filling
When it comes to choosing a sofa, what’s inside counts. A sofa’s filling can make a big difference to its comfort, durability and longevity. Choosing the right filling is important, and sometimes it helps to invest a little more to get a firm filling that will last.
There are three main varieties of sofa filling to choose from, although some may be combined to offer twice the benefits.
Fibre cushions are made from polyester strands. This gives the sofa a plump appearance but a soft sit, as the strands compress under pressure. Many people find fibre to be the most comfortable option, however, bear in mind that its firmness can reduce over time when used regularly.
Foam cushions offer a firmer and more supportive seat. Their robust construction looks better for longer and doesn’t require as much plumping as fibre or feather. Additionally, foam cushions tend to appear smoother and wrinkle-free.
Feather-filled cushions offer a similar feel to fibre and are perfect if you want a sofa to sink into. They’re plump and soft but may lose firmness over time. To avoid clumping, feathers are often mixed with fibre.
Try out the sofa if you can
We always recommend you look at your potential new sofa in real life before buying. Why not visit your local Barker and Stonehouse store to get a full view of the sofas available?
You can explore the showrooms or order some swatches to see colours and patterns before you make a decision.
Avoid sofa trends
You may enjoy following the latest interiors trends, but when it comes to buying a new sofa, it’s best to think long-term.
Current trends such as sculptured shapes, quilts and bright designs may seem a good idea at the time – but remember, trends aren’t forever. A sofa is an important investment, so try to choose a product you truly love, and won’t tire of quickly.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should completely rule trends out. Enjoy trends with interchangeable accessories, add an on-trend throw blanket or scatter plump cushions in the season’s latest shades. This way, you get the best of both worlds – a timeless aesthetic that stays à la mode.
Frequently asked questions
What type of sofa lasts the longest?
Leather sofas are known for their longevity. In terms of fabric, sofas that have a dense hardwood frame such as teak, walnut or maple tend to last the longest. For materials, tightly woven textiles such as cotton are typically longer lasting.
How much should I spend on a sofa?
The money you spend on a sofa will depend on the style, material and size you choose. For example, leather sofas generally cost more than their fabric counterparts – however they are a great long-term investment. We recommend taking a look at the different sofa styles available to see which options suit your budget.
What is the best material for a sofa?
Leather and fabric are the two main types of materials used to make sofas. Both options have their benefits, but leather is viewed to be the premium option. Due to the higher costs of leather sofas, many people opt for lower priced alternatives such as faux leather, cotton and velvet.
What to avoid when buying a sofa?
When thinking about how to choose a sofa, you should avoid impulse buying and failing to measure your space. Impulse purchases can be great for small, bargain items, but when it comes to buying a new sofa, it’s best to take your time and find a suitable option for your home.
What determines a quality sofa?
Factors such as a sofa’s material, filling and design will determine its quality. High-quality sofas are built with long-lasting materials like leather and woven fabric, along with a firm filling such as fibre and foam. However, you may view the quality of the sofa on how well it meets your needs.
Want to learn more about finding the right sofa for you?
For more guidance on finding the perfect furniture for your home, check out the rest of our guides:
• Complete guide to finding your perfect corner sofa
• 3 ways to style your sofa for spring
• Behind the design: Our sustainable sofa range
• Garden furniture ideas for 2023
• Leather or fabric sofas: Which is best?
Now you’ve read our sofa buying guide, you should be all ready to shop. We have an excellent range of different sofa styles available – check out our diverse collection today.
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