Sofa buying guide: How to make the right choice

A guide to finding the best style, ideal fit and comfiest seat in the house

By Caroline Rodrigues | 21 November 2021

There are several ways to buy a new sofa. At the lower end of the price scale, a ready-made design can be on your doorstep within a few days. One-stop-shop major retailers offer a multitude of shapes, fillings, and fabrics to choose from, while high-end stores are the place to find more exclusive styles. And if you want something bespoke, there are smaller specialist companies that offer a tailored-made approach, which can be particularly useful if you have a need for a non-standard size. This sofa buying guide covers all the key aspects to consider before committing your cash.

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sofa buying guide: blue three seater sofa from Twenty Twenty in minimalist home

Designed by Anderssen and Voll and made by Muuto, this sofa has a wooden frame with steel rails for support, and has foam and feather filled hand-sewn cushioning. Compose three-seat sofa in Kvadrat FIORD 771, £3,549, Twenty Twenty One

Select a style

First up, consider how you will use the sofa along with how you want it to look. Ideally you are looking for a style that suits your room while being comfortable to sit in, lay on – or both. A high scroll arm with a sprung back is formal and ideal for sitting in an upright position. Whereas a design with low square arms and a squashy, deep seat looks relaxed and is great for laying on.

A big sofa with several seats is good for cosy family evenings watching TV, but a pair of two-seaters facing each other might work better in a grown-up snug. Sectional sofas give you the option to adapt the design to your needs. They are bought seat-by-seat, bolt together as you wish, and can be assembled in L or U configurations. ‘You can add to them and reconfigure them as your needs change,’ says Sally Bailey, owner and co-founder, Baileys.

Roomy enough to seat four, this shapely sofa has a textured fabric cover, deep cushions and tapered pale oak legs. Ercol Novara Grand sofa in N136 fabric, from £2,420, Ercol

A question of space

Always measure your room carefully before starting your search. You could even place a sofa-sized paper template on the floor to give you a clear idea of which dimensions work best. Make sure that it won’t block routes across the room. This is particularly important in an open-plan space, so allow 60cm of clearance around the sofa. It’s also vital to make sure the sofa will fit through any openings into the room. Measure doorways and, if necessary, staircases, and if access is tricky look at sectional options or designs where the arms and/or legs bolt-on after delivery. Sofa in a box companies such as Snug and Swyft provide designs that come in several packages to assemble at home.

Loft corner sofa in dark with ladders mounted on wall behind

Join together a lounger, sofa sections and a corner unit to fit your space. These have a sustainable FSC hardwood frame, supportive steel serpentine spring seats, and cushions in fibre fill with a foam core. Loft corner sofa in Espresso linen, £9,410, Baileys

Get the perfect fit

It really is best to try out several sofas in store to get the seat depth, height and back support that works for you. If you want to sit, rather than lie down, on your sofa, make sure your bottom is against the back cushion, your thighs parallel to the floor and your feet flat on the floor. It might be possible to make small adjustments to the seat height by changing the legs or adding casters, ask

your supplier for advice. Otherwise, a bespoke sofa’s measurements can be tailored to suit your shape, but this comes at a cost. Sofas with recliner seats let you stretch out and relax, and some adjust as you shift position. ‘The BalanceAdapt system, hidden beneath the sofa cushioning, tilts the seat and back cushion, responding to your body’s movement, while supporting your neck and lower back,’ says Anna-Marie Warren, advertising and brand manager, Stressless.

Leather sofa from stressless with footstool

Hidden within this sofa is a system that tilts the seat and back cushions as you move. Stressless Stella 2 seat sofa in Paloma copper leather, £3,478, Stressless.