Photo above: French Connection Hoxton three seater sofa £1199 exclusively at DFS www.dfs.co.uk
Article by Barbara Chandler
Sofas have a lot to cope with. They host your long mobile phone chats, entertain your friends, spend hours keeping you comfy during a binge watch, a daytime nap, a TV meal and a Zoom call. Research tells us that we sit on our sofas for up to six hours a day.
Take time to do your sofa research
So, when you’re in the market for a new sofa, it pays to visit showrooms and sit on a few. Take off your coat, settle well back and check the support that’s offered for your head, back, arms and legs. In a recent survey by the consumer champions at Which? comfort easily topped people’s sofa-buying priorities. You cannot judge comfort online – it’s a very personal matter.
Good looks and cushioning
Along with comfort, you’ll be looking at style. Two-seater and three-seater sofas are the most popular sizes. And of course, styles vary widely, from the uber-trad and bulky Chesterfield with scroll arms, turned “bun” feet and diamond buttoned-back, to the popular contemporary couch with box-like seat and back cushions, plus wood or metal “stiletto” legs.
Feather or fibre fillings feel great but will need more plumping than firmer foam (better grades are labelled HD, which stands for high density). A sofa back with “fixed” upholstery and no cushions is super-sleek but you’ll probably need to add cushions for softening. And if you’re tall, or like to read or doze on the sofa, look for a higher back. Older people may prefer a higher seat for ease of getting on and off the sofa.
And how about the arms?
Arms set the style. Popular mid-century modern sofas have slimline arms that flare outwards and can take up as much space as a wider, square arm. Consider how you like to lounge. Over low, flat arms? Or supported by something more substantial?
Corner sofas are missing arms at one end and butt together for an L-shape. These are a neat use of space – or can “zone” a large, open-plan room. Modular units are even more flexible as they’re easy to deliver, to rearrange or expand and move. A “chaise” or “lounger” unit extends into a footstool.
Don’t cram a large sofa into a small space. Consider a two-seater with an additional chair – maybe a “snuggler” or an even larger chair-and-a-half.
Sofa beds are super-useful
If you go for a sofa bed and it’s going to be in regular use, it’s worth paying a little more to have a sofa seat that unfolds into a thick, quality mattress. Be sure to check the mechanism in the shop, and try out the sleeping surface. “Click clack” sofa beds are budget buys and with these, the back simply folds down to give you a rather firm bed for one – or perhaps two, at a pinch. Try Dusk www.dusk.com and Futon Company www.futoncompany.co.uk which offer sturdy storage drawers to glide under your sofa.
Vital buyer tips
Check out delivery costs. Measure the width of your doors before you shop, to make sure your chosen sofa or sofa bed will fit through them. And ask about any guarantees, how long they last and what they cover.
Choosing the right colour and fabric
The fabric and colour or colours you choose are crucial. Your sofa is a big purchase and has to last a long time. Coverings should feel good against bare legs in summer, for example. It’s essential to get swatches to feel and scrunch. View them in different lights, and do a few test spills of coffee, for example, plus some food and or wine. Ask about “rub tests”. In a factory a machine works away until a fabric literally breaks down. Anything over 15,000 rubs is pretty good, and 25,000 rubs is super-tough. Check up on fading and cleaning.
Patterns undoubtedly make a statement. But will you still love them five years down the line when you change your room’s colour scheme? They’ll more often be printed on cotton, which will wear better if mixed with a little man-made fibre. Patterned linens are softer but can crease, so for the best of both worlds, go for a traditional “linen union”, which is a linen/cotton mix. Sofas & Stuff has exclusive patterns from the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Horticultural Society, plus sophisticated weaves and plains, www.sofasandstuff.com
Velvets, with their soft sheen, now come in “smart” versions that won’t crush or stain. Their low pile adds a seductive glow to popular shades such as midnight, mustard, dusky pink, olive and mushroom. Wool is natural and feels good in winter and summer – but can pill. Understandably popular are tight weaves in clever fibre blends, for example linen/wool/polyester, for the best of several worlds.
Leather is expensive but very popular, though it can look a bit “formal” when it first arrives. However, leather soon “wears in” and wears well and these days a leather sofa can be beautifully soft and come in wonderful colours. Plus, leather is easy to clean. It can feel a bit cold in winter – but it’s easy to add a cosy throw and warm things up.
Carefully measure the space where your sofa will sit. It helps to outline sofa shapes with masking tape on the floor, or cut them out in newspaper. Take pictures of your space with your phone from multiple angles before you go shopping. Remember, you have to use your sofa – stretch out your legs; move around it. Can everyone comfortably watch TV? Where will they put food and drink? And will you need space for an adjacent table and lamp? Is there a power point nearby? You’ll want to avoid a trailing flex…
You also need to check delivery access to your home. It is surprising how many people do not do this. Consider stairways with tight corners, while lifts (particularly beyond the second floor) can be tricky. Heal’s has a useful guide at www.heals.com/furniture-access-guideline. Some sofas have removable arms and you can even buy “sofas in a box”. Try Swyft www.swyfthome.com; the Evie by Habitat at Argos www.argos.co.uk or Boxit designs at DFS www.dfs.co.uk/content/boxit
* In a recent survey of nearly 3,000 shoppers by Which? Magazine about all-round sofa-buying satisfaction, John Lewis came out top, at over 80 per cent www.johnlewis.com. Scoring over 70 per cent (in descending order) came Ikea www.ikea.com then Next www.next.co.uk; Sofology www.sofology.co.uk; Furniture Village www.furniturevillage.co.uk and M&S www.marksandspencer.com.