Sofa Buyers Guide
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUYING YOUR IDEAL SOFA
The sofa is one of the biggest and most important furniture investments you can make. It’s often the centrepiece of the living room, the place you curl up in front of the TV, and have a brew with visiting friends and family. Choose your sofa wisely and not only will you have a piece of furniture that makes a real style statement in your home, but also a comfortable companion for years to come. So, how do you ensure you pick the perfect sofa? The answer is lots of planning and consideration, from how your sofa will be used day-to-day to how it will complement the look of your living space. With so many varieties of sofa to choose from, we’ve put together our very own comprehensive sofa buying guide to help you out. Use it to your advantage and you’re sure to find a sofa that fits right in with your lifestyle and home.
You’re likely to live with your sofa between 8 and 10 years. So it’s important to consider the function of that piece of furniture before deciding on the size and fabrics.
What to consider in regards to size and style of room:
- What type of room will your sofa be put in? A living room? A child’s playroom? A dining room? Room type can influence style and even the functionality of the sofa
- Will it be a main or secondary piece of furniture? A secondary sofa is designed to complement the main pieces in your room, not fight for dominance
- How many people live in your home? This will tell you the size or number of sofas needed to cater for your family
- Do you need your sofa to have built-in storage?
What to consider in regards to maintenance of sofa:
- Do you entertain/have the family around often?
- Do you have pets?
- Will meals be eaten on your sofa?
- How heavy is your sofa? Will moving it around your living room be easy? Are you able bodied enough to move the sofa you’ve selected?
A larger couch may be a better option for your living room if you have a big family or entertain often. For those with children, a sofa that easily wipes clean (like leather) is a must. If you have pets, removable sofa covers ensure hair missed by the vacuum is removed when washed or dry cleaned as per manufacturer’s guidelines, or choose a tougher fabric that can be frequently vacuumed. Confident your pets won’t scratch the sofa? Consider a leather couch, as you can wipe the hairs right off. The type of property you have will also affect your decision-making when buying a sofa. You wouldn’t buy the same sofa living in a traditional farmhouse as you would in a city apartment. Choose a style that suits your property.
SOFA AND LIVING ROOM SIZE
Your choice of sofa is always going to be dictated by the size of your living room. Choose a sofa that is too large for your living space and it will overpower your existing furniture. But choose a sofa that is too small and it will look lost, and may not seat the number of people you need it to. Your sofa also needs to complement the style of your décor and the existing furniture that may already be in your living space. The key to success is getting the balance right between style and maximising your use of living space.
How to maximise your living space
Whatever shape or style you think you may want, it’s important to leave yourself enough living space. As a general guide, one large sofa can make a small room feel less cramped than lots of smaller pieces, but only if there is enough room to move around. Rooms with high ceilings can take a sofa with a higher back, while low backs can offer the illusion of more height in your living room, and can also be used effectively in open-plan rooms to emphasise the sense of space. Placing your sofa in a small living room? Choose a compact design with neat arms to free up more space. How you manipulate the use of light in your room can also give the illusion of space. For example, if you’re working with a small, poorly-lit room, a neutral coloured, compact couch may be your best option.
Open plan living room
If you’ve chosen to go for an entirely open plan living space, a conventional sofa might look a little lost. To make the most of an open plan living room, consider dividing the space into different zones. Each zone should have a specific purpose. A relaxing zone could consist of your sofa, a TV and a coffee table. Your couch should be large to ensure it makes its mark in your open space – lots of smaller pieces could look disorderly and cluttered.
As a general rule, putting any large piece of furniture by your windows is a bad idea, as it will block out the light and view. However, if your living room features a bay window, the extra interior space offers more ways to arrange your sofa. A low backed sofa will ensure plenty of light still shines into your living space. One option is to put a sofa in front of your bay window, away from your other living room furniture. This creates a relaxing sitting place where you can watch the world go by. Bear in mind that leather and fabric will fade when left in direct sunlight for a long period of time. For example, a black sofa may turn a dark shade of blue. You can minimize the risk of fading by keeping your sofa out of direct sunlight, or decreasing your sofa’s exposure to sunlight by occasionally keeping your blinds or curtains closed. Also, bear in mind that, like fabric, leather will fade when left in direct sunlight.
If you have an awkwardly shaped or open-plan room, you may benefit from a sofa that is designed to maximise its space. Here are a few options to consider:
Modular sofas combine individual pieces of furniture to create a variety of sofa set-ups. This offers a great way to mix and match your furniture to suit any style or living space. You can choose to make your furniture large or small, depending on the space available. Modular furniture offers flexibility that’s perfect for smaller living spaces. Choosing a large arrangement of modular furniture can also help enhance an open plan living space.
Corner sofas fit snugly into the corner of your room. That means they utilise living room space that a standard couch cannot, freeing up more room for you to take advantage of. Some types of corner sofas also have adjustable segments, allowing you to create different sofa lengths on each side of the corner. For example, you could opt for your sofa to be three segments long on one side and one segment short on the other. A corner sofa’s unique shape can divide larger, open-plan rooms to create a more intimate space. Some corner sofas are also available as sofa beds.
Recliner sofas have a footrest that pulls out, allowing you to put your feet up. There are two forms of recliner sofas: manual and electric. Manual recliners use a pull handle located on the side panel of the sofa. Some recliners offer the additional benefit of lying back in a fully reclined position. Electric recliners use an electric motor to raise the footrest by the touch of a button. The button tends to be either on the side of the couch or on a handheld remote control. More modern recliner designs use a minimal amount of space, while maintaining the necessary comfort that they’re designed to provide.
Sofa beds are sofas that convert into beds, giving your home a little bit more flexibility. It’s an extra place for your guests to sit comfortably or sleep, which works just as well in spare rooms as they do in your living room. Sofa beds range from 3 seaters, 2 seaters and chairs. Most of them pull out from the seat, an action that is designed to take little effort. So, if you’re buying your sofa bed from a store, test the bed mechanism, and if it isn’t easy to do, move on to another sofa bed. Sofa beds can come with storage options, offering extra space-saving solutions. This is commonly a hidden area underneath the cushions, which is the ideal place for items such as bedding, pillows and even some of your toddler’s toys.
Before purchasing your new dream sofa, you want to make sure it fits perfectly inside your living space. So take the time to measure up the space requirements for both your sofa and room before making your final decision.
Deciding on your sofa space
- Decide on the sofa location and space you’re going to need for it to comfortably fit in your room. Then use newspaper and masking tape to mark out the amount of space it requires
- Check that there’s enough space to walk around your sofa. Plus, check that the positioning of your sofa doesn’t obstruct your doors or drawers
- Measure the height of the area where your sofa will be placed to ensure it can be moved into that area
Measuring your sofa
For sofas, first measure the width and then the diagonal depth. The diagonal depth is found by measuring from the highest point of the back frame to the front of the arm. Then measure from the bottom rear corner of the sofa up to the point it crosses your measurement of the back frame to the front of the arm. The measurements of the diagonal depth must be less than the size of your entryway.
Ensuring your sofa can access your property
Not only will your sofa have to fit into your living room, but also through your doors, halls, stairs and even up in a lift, if you have one. Here are a few things you’ll need to consider before your sofa is delivered.
Measuring the hallway
- Measure the height and width of all doors and hallways that your sofa will need to pass through
- Check for fixtures, fittings and immovable objects like radiators that may obstruct your hallway
- Measure the distance between the access door in the hallway and the interior wall in the room where the sofa will be put. This measurement must be more than the width of the sofa
- If the corner is tight, it might be easier to stand the sofa upright to gain entry. Before you do this, you should measure the ceiling height. This needs to be greater than the width of the sofa to ensure entry
So you’ve now decided on the size requirements of your sofa, possibly the type, where it will be placed in your living space, and are confident it can access your property. Your next consideration is possibly the trickiest of them all, the style of sofa you’re going to select. So no pressure! If you’re buying a sofa for a large living room, you can afford to let a large sofa dominate. So feel free to be bold and consider a grand design, and give it plenty of space to stand out rather than push it up against a wall. However, if you have a smaller living space, you may not have as much choice in regards the position of your sofa. Aim for a compact sofa with clean lines and neutral colours, as anything too dark or too loud can overpower a small room.
Contemporary or Traditional ?
There’s a wide range of stunning sofas out there for you to choose from. But will you opt for a traditional or contemporary style? Traditional sofas exude elegance and ornate style with typical features including scroll arms, decorative turned legs, a buttoned back or polished brass castors. Expect plenty of support and comfort. Contemporary sofas are renowned for their low backs and small arms, and they’re commonly low to the ground and have exposed wooden or metal legs. That’s less support for your back but that’s made up for with a cool looking piece of furniture that adds a sense of space to your living room.
Combining traditional and modern styles Contrast modern furniture with rustic, vintage pieces to create a décor full of richness and depth. Here are a few inspiring ideas:
- If you have contemporary furniture in your living space, try traditional wooden flooring to make the room warmer and more inviting
- Add simple white slipcovers to traditional sofas to give them a more contemporary look
- In a modern décor you can add character by adding a feature or accessory inspired by cottage/farmhouse style, introduce features or accessories with soft colours, vintage furnishings, feminine florals
- Choose an eclectic mix of old accessories to decorate a clean and modern living space
WHAT SETS THE STYLE OF THE SOFA?
The style of a sofa can be recognised by its arms, back, and the legs or skirt. The design of those features dictate whether the sofa is contemporary or traditional in style, as does the way it’s upholstered and trimmed. Here are a selection of the most well known styles of sofa.
English or club sofas
The club sofa is a 19th-century classic offering a casual style that’s versatile enough for a variety of home décors. The arms, in comparison to other sofa shapes, are lower and more compact, making them a good choice for smaller rooms. Upholstered from the back to the seat cushions, this is a comfortable piece to sink into and relax.
Most commonly tufted in leather, Chesterfield couches are renowned for their high rolled arms, tufted back and seat. This type of sofa has connotations of men’s clubs and traditional libraries.
Midcentury modern sofas
Midcentury modern sofas embrace a streamlined form, featuring straight, squared lines and low squared legs. This style rose to prominence from the mid 1940s to 1970, a combination of pared-down forms, contemporary patterns and natural materials.This retro style of sofa has become more desirable again due to the influence of popular shows like Mad Men.
Scandinavian styled sofas
Scandinavian style (also known as Scandy) sofas are influenced by a design movement that began in the 1950s in the Scandinavian countries Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Scandy styled sofas are characterised by minimalism and functionality and remain as popular today as they were 60 years ago.
Individual armless sofas, corner units and ottomans (upholstered seat or bench) combine to create flexible pieces of modular furniture. The style is typically clean-lined and contemporary.
Once you’ve selected a size, type and style of sofa, it’s time to look closer at what you could be buying. If the opportunity is there, visit the store to see the sofa(s) you’re interested in and ask the store assistant a few more questions.
Here is our top 5 tips:
1. Sit on the sofa
There’s no better way to make sure your selected sofa is well made than to sit on it and give it a quick once over. The sofa should feel heavy and if you grab the arm and back, you shouldn’t be able to bend the frame. If possible, sit on the sofa with another person to make sure you don’t roll together.
2. Ask how the sofa is made
High quality frames are made from hardwood and the parts are glued, dowelled and screwed together. Another popular frame is softwood, and this is often glued and stapled. More affordable sofas use no-sag springs, while the cheapest sofas don’t use springs at all and instead use webbing made from elastic and man-made fibres. Premium sofas use a combination of springs and padding that’s made from wool, cotton wadding, felt or hair.
3. Inspect the frame and check the springs
A strong frame means a more durable sofa that will last you years if looked after. Softwood frames, like pine, are popular due to their affordability. Bear in mind that softwoods have a shorter lifecycle than more expensive hardwoods. Softwoods may warp or wobble after five years, but for their money they can still be a great investment. To check the springs, sit down on a corner or outside edge of the sofa you’re inspecting. If it creaks then the springs are possibly incorrectly placed or hitting the frame.
4. Ask about joinery
A sign of a quality-constructed sofa is the joints used to connect the parts. Quality joints include: wooden corner blocks, metal screws and brackets, wooden dowels or double wooden dowels. Nails and staples are commonly used for reinforcement, but be wary of purchasing a sofa just held together by these two items. You can ask your salesperson for written manufacturer information on frame joinery.