Sofa buying guide: 8 steps to your dream sofa

a large pale blue corner sofa in a living room with grey panelled walls to illustrate our sofa buying guide

Need a sofa bed for guests to sleep on? Or maybe just a new squashy comfy model to watch telly from? No worries. Our sofa buying guide has you covered.

Follow the eight steps in this sofa buying guide and you’ll be happy as Larry (whoever he is). Because a sofa is an investment piece, usually costing over £1,000, so it’s important to get it right.

Sofa buying guide

1. Ask yourself what purpose the sofa will serve

Do you want a comfy sofa to watch TV on while snuggled up with your partner? Do you want to take occasional naps on it? Does it need to seat a lot of people or only one or two? Or maybe you need a sofa bed for hosting guests? The answer to these questions will determine what kind of sofa you go for. Of course, some sofas can serve a few purposes (such as the corner sofa bed pictured below). But knowing what you’re in the market for narrows down your options.

a large lilac corner sofa with wooden legs in a panelled living room with a wooden floor
Sofa buying guide: The Cleverton Corner Sofa Bed in House Linen Argent, £2758, Willow & Hall.

Sofa buying guide

2. Consider what style you want to go for

So there’s traditional, contemporary, mid-century, Chesterfield and country. All have their merits, but the right sofa for you will depend on your décor. Love modern styling? Go for contemporary or mid-century. After something stately and elegant? Chesterfield and traditional are your friends. Like the rustic country look? Go for country. You can always create a mood board if you’re not sure your sofa will suit its surroundings.

a mustard velvet Chesterfield sofa with wooden legs in a white living room with a rug on the floor, illustrating a buying guide
Sofa buying guide: Hampton Mustard Velvet Sofa, £949.99, Furniture and Choice.

3. Think about the filling

Yes, this tip is all about F-words: you can get foam, fibre and feather fillings for your sofa. Foam is the firmest, while fibre and feathers are more comfy and squashy. So your choice of filling really depends on how structured you want your sofa to appear. However – curveball – you can get a combo of all three fillings! And this mix is becoming more popular. So check the filling of your proposed sofa before you buy.

a blue L-shaped sofa with wooden legs in a grey panelled living room with a blue rug on the floor, illustrating a buying guide
Sofa buying guide: The Alderton Chaise Sofa Bed in Stain Resistant Linen Cotton in Nordic Blue, £1778, Willow & Hall.

4. It’s all about the fabric

Another F-word is up next: sofas can come in many different fabrics, so definitely order swatches to check you love the one you have in mind. There’s (deep breath) leather, wool, linen, cotton, bouclé, velvet, cotton blend, synthetic fabrics, and many more besides. So also take into account the upkeep each fabric will require to keep them looking their best. Leather will age and develop scratches and creases; wool, linen and cotton will develop bobbles and pilling; velvet will stain easily. As long as you’re aware of the downsides and remedies, you’ll be able to buy with confidence. Sofa, so good.

a velvet L-shaped sofa bed with wooden legs in a white panelled living room with a lilac ottoman, illustrating a buying guide
Sofa buying guide: Doze Corner Sofa Bed, from £2975, Rose & Grey.

5. What shape and size will suit you?

We’ve all fallen in love with the wrong piece at times. So ask yourself: can your compact room really fit a sprawling corner sofa? Conversely, will a bijou sofa be drowned by your large living room? Do you want to stretch your legs out on your sofa – and if so, can you? The good news is, there are two-seaters, three-seaters, four-seaters, corner/L-shape sofas, modular models, chaises and everything in between. So if you can’t have the love of your life, you can at least fall for a different piece.

a white L-shaped sofa in a living room with a neutral rug on the floor
Sofa buying guide: Oswald Corner Sofa, from £1740,

6. Consider its arms and legs

Your sofa might cost you an arm and a leg, but if you select them carefully, at least you’ll be pleased with them. Sofa arms come in four main types – scroll, Howard, square and flared. Sofa legs are even more varied, with six main types – plinth, glides, sabred/splayed, bun feet, turned legs and stiletto. Whew! So there’s a lot of choice, and by Googling the above styles, you’ll make sure your chosen sofa is exactly to your liking.

a modern brown sofa in a large living room with a dining table in the background, floor to ceiling windows and a cream rug
Back in Action Stressless Stella 2 Seater sofa in Batik Leather in Caramel, £2,719.20, Back In Action.

7. Measure your room and check your dream sofa will fit

So you want to ensure your sofa will actually fit through your front and internal doors and into your house! Then you need to check it’ll fit in the room it’s intended for. Make sure it’s not too snug a fit: it’s better to have a bit of space on one side for a side table, and in front for a coffee table. Jamming the sofa into an alcove will compress its arms, crease the fabric and make it look constricted. And are the delivery men going to go red in the face trying to squeeze your sofa through your home? But equally, you need to ensure the piece is large enough to look right in your space.

a traditional grey linen sofa with wooden feet and pastel-coloured cushions next to a wooden side table with flowers and accessories on it
Sofa buying guide: The Buttermere Sofa Bed in Linen Sterling, £1301, Willow & Hall.

8. Test out the sofa in person

Lastly in our sofa buying guide: have a bounce on some cushions! So there are lots of online sofa retailers these days, and they do provide swatches, which is great. But, if possible, it’s best to have a proper sit down and bounce on your dream sofa. Check it’s not too stiff and uncomfortable and has a bit of give (but not too much). Like mattresses, sofa firmness is a matter of personal taste, so check that the sofa matches your preference. If it does, you’re good to go!

a green velvet sofa with wooden legs in a white living room with a purple rug on the floor, illustrating a buying guide
Sofa buying guide: Bergen 3-seater sofa, £899, Dwell.

So, did you enjoy our sofa buying guide? Then you’ll also love our guide on how to measure up like a pro.

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