Choosing the best sofa for you to plonk your backside on every evening after work is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Not only does it take pride of place in your living room, but there’s every chance that it will spend the next decade there, propping up behinds with a modicum of style, and ideally a healthy dash of comfort.
The problem comes when you’re just not sure where to start with your search. Do you want a traditional or modern look? Two or three-seater? Leather or fabric? Before you even set foot in a showroom, the sheer amount of choice is dizzying. And even when you have a rough idea of the look or style you want, there’s a whole wealth of other things to consider. How can you ensure the quality of the construction? Will it offer the kind of comfort and support you’re after? Will the upholstery look as good five years down the line?
Our guide aims to make the process a little easier by breaking down all the key things you need to know before splashing out. And if you just want to start window shopping right away, you’ll find a list of the sofas we think are the very best on the market a little further down the page – with choices that cater for every budget and every style.
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Best sofa: At a glance
How to choose the best sofa for you
What size and shape should I choose?
The first thing to think about is where your sofa is going to fit. What manufacturers refer to as small, medium or large can vary enormously, but here’s a rough guide to what you can expect:
- Small – a two-seater sofa is approximately 152cm – 174cm wide
- Medium – a two to three seater sofa is approximately 174cm -191cm wide
- Large – a three to four-seater sofa is approximately 205cm – 214cm wide
It’s worth working out whether you would like only sofas or a mix of sofas and chairs, taking into consideration how many people you want seating for in total and how much space you’ll have left (a room overcrowded with furniture is never a good look).
Also, think about whether the shape works with the style of your home. For example, high backs go well in rooms with high ceilings, while corner sofas look good in larger living spaces and make for a good divider in open-plan homes. Also consider if you’ll need your sofa to double up as a bed – if so, go and have a look at our dedicated sofa bed roundup.
How important is the frame?
Without a robust and durable frame, your sofa will have much a shorter lifespan. Hardwoods such as oak and ash are best. Softwoods like pine, as well as plastic or metal, can buckle or bend and even snap. Ideally, legs should either be part of the frame or screwed or pegged in, not glued.
How long will I have to wait for my sofa to get delivered?
This really depends on the type of sofa you are ordering and where you buy it. Sofa delivery can be anywhere from the same day to 12 weeks, and even longer in some cases. To get delivery of your sofa sooner, try buying a sofa that is already in stock and does not require any customisation. It’s also worth noting that different stores have different policies on different products, so don’t assume all sofas on sale in the shop are available for same or next day delivery.
What filling is best?
This can make a massive difference to comfort, support, aesthetics, maintenance and longevity. Foam is the most common synthetic filling. It’s low maintenance and feels supportive – but make sure it’s not too hard (uncomfortable) or soft (doesn’t last) and expect it to lose volume a little over time. If you prefer a more casual, softer sofa, go for a feather or fibre filling, but expect to pay more and you’ll need to plump it up regularly. Increasingly, manufacturers use a layer of foam with a fibre wrap – this gives you the best of both worlds by being supportive with a soft and relaxed top layer.
What about the springs?
This isn’t something most people think about, but different kinds of springs make for a different kind of feel, just as they do with a mattress. If you can, feel the springs through the upholstery to check they’re close together and strong because if they are flimsy or there’s not many of them, the sofa is more likely to sag over time. And remember that sofas with webbing or mesh instead of springs may not be as comfortable.
What kind of fabric should I go for?
If your sofa is going to be used daily, go for a durable fabric like cotton, linen, microfibre, leather or wool. If you’re going for a pattern, your best bet is to get one weaved in rather than printed and try to get a fabric that’s been treated for stain resistance. When it comes to colour, remember all fabrics fade in direct sunlight. Once you’ve found the fabric you like, get a swatch to check it goes with the décor of your room and looks the same in natural daylight as it did under the synthetic light in the shop.
What about getting the sofa into my living room?
Take note of the height and width of any doorways, hallways or staircases that your sofa has to fit through when delivered. It’s amazing how many people don’t. Some companies may be understanding about any dimension-related snags – but others may not, so be sure to discuss any access difficulties with the company in question if you’re concerned that it may be a very tight squeeze.
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The best sofas to buy from £449
1. John Lewis Anyday Sweep Small 2-Seater Sofa: Best sofa under £500
Price: £349 | Buy now from John Lewis
This small sofa from John Lewis’ Anyday range, upholstered in the brand’s ‘Saga grey’ fabric, looks surprisingly stylish for the price. You can either assemble it yourself by attaching the components and screwing in the legs, or take advantage of John Lewis’ free assembly service on delivery.
Comfort-wise, some might find the foam and fibre seats a little on the firmer side of things, and the arms are also quite thin. Those after a more plush sofa for regular lounging in front of the TV will inevitably have to increase their budget for a more comfortable option.
However, if you’re after an affordable sofa, perhaps for a first home, you could do much worse than this. Plus, the seven-day delivery time and 15-year frame guarantee from John Lewis certainly isn’t bad either.
Key features – Size options: 2, plus chair; Fabric options: 1; Delivery: Within 7 days; Warranty: 15-year frame guarantee
Buy now from John Lewis
2. John Lewis and Partners Arlo Medium 2 Seater Sofa: Best classic sofa
Price: From £699 | Buy now from John LewisGo to Source