Interiors: A sofa is an investment so be sure to pick well with expert help
PUBLISHED: 19:11 10 November 2014 | UPDATED: 19:27 10 November 2014
You just know when you’ve found ‘the one’. Supportive, and always there for you when you need comfort, a snuggle or just to relax.
I’m not talking about a partner - at least, not a human one, but the sometimes more tricky matter of getting the right seating partner; a sofa. Bear in mind that you’ll probably live with it for 10 years or more - that ranks as a pretty long-lasting relationship - and it becomes even more apparent how key that choice is.
But with so much to consider, from size (which in this case, does matter) through to shape and colour, never mind sorting through a seemingly endless array of ranges, finding the perfect match for you and your home can be daunting.
“People often go to enormous lengths choosing a sofa, not just because this is a costly item, but also because it’s the most important piece of furniture in a living room. It can literally make or break the look of a setting,” says Malcolm Walker, buying director at Furniture Village. “We find people may even delay far too long getting rid of an old sofa because it holds memories, and it’s hard for them to envisage a newcomer. It’s understandable there’s an emotional attachment to something on which we’ve spent so much time, and is where we gather as a family.”
Indeed, a lot of life happens on a sofa, so it’s worth taking time to find ‘the one’. Follow the experts’ tips for a seat-match made in heaven...
Get the measure
Charlie Marshall, founder of Loaf: “I’m a fan of sofas which are big enough to lounge around on and super comfy, with deeper seat cushions than average, so they’re inviting to curl up on.”
Measure your room before shopping, so you choose a sofa to fit the space and scale of the room. When you have one in mind, make a paper template of it and lay it out in the room to help you visualise the reality of its size, as display sofas always look smaller in large showrooms.
Ensure it will fit into the house, especially if there are awkward stairs or narrow doorways, although bolt-on arms or removable legs are solutions if space is tight. He advises choosing a sofa made with a solid beach frame, held together by screws and dowels, which will have a longer life than a glued and stapled chipboard model.
Leather sofas are a big trend, as they’re durable and practical and easy to clean.
Check out pattern
Helen Leigh-Jones, designer at DFS: “Don’t be afraid to be adventurous and really push the boundaries when it comes to choosing seating - it’s outdated to pick a matching sofa, armchair and footstool.
“Create an eclectic, customised look by mixing colours and patterns, so a sofa upholstered in a plain fabric could be paired with a leather armchair, or a patterned footstool.”
Don’t be led purely by design. Comfort is key, so sit on a variety of sofas so you really find the one that suits you. For instance, deep-seated sofas can be uncomfortable for short people, while those who love a squashy sofa for snoozing and sprawling will struggle with a lean, low-backed contemporary model.
“People are becoming more adventurous in their decor, so clashing statement patterns and bold colours are starring,” she says.
Pair a sofa with a bold fabric design with a plain backdrop, or if you love bold wallpapers, create a feature wall first and then match the sofa’s colour to the wall.
Plump for love
Kate Hassard, marketing manager at Sofa.com, says: “A sofa, like a bed, is one of the few home items used daily and the centrepiece of a living area, so expect to pay from £800 upwards for a quality piece which will last.”
Avoid cheap versions if you opt for foam filled cushions, as they’ll flatten fast. “An element of love needs to go into a feather-filled cushion, as they require regular plumping, but we’ve minimised that by covering our duck feather cushions in a layer of foam,” she says.
Fabrics should go through a rub test during manufacture, so look for those with a rub count of more than 20,000 for durability.
Choose fabrics appropriate to your lifestyle - those with pile, such as velvet or soft, aniline leathers, rarely survive the onslaught of a young family and pets without sustaining damage. Alternatively, loose covers, another option, can be removed and washed, and choosing them in two colours or patterns means they can be switched to suit different seasons.
“A move away from ‘safe’ decor is allowing bolder colours and interesting textures to play a bigger role, and retro’s ultra-fashionable.”
Malcom Walker, buying director at Furniture Village: “It’s all about finding an ideal combination of style, comfort, quality and value for money. Colour, shape and upholstery style make a huge impact on a room, so take your time and decide whether your priority is style and practicality, cosy comfort and support, or your own distinctive look with a sofa as a focal point.”
“In large rooms, small sofas can look lost. Generally, high-backed sofas with upholstered arms dominate more and need more space around them, while a low-back slimmer sofa can be more discreet, and won’t block a view if placed in front of windows,” he says. “L-shaped sofas can work well in a compact space, or act as room-dividers in an open plan area. Intricate fabric patterns and sofas customised with different details in piping, mixed fabrics or a choice of feet, are increasingly finding favour. While bold patterns bring a room to life, my preference is for large sofas upholstered in neutral tones or leather, which suit any decor scheme.”
Paul Staden, head of marketing at Sofa Workshop, says: “A sofa should be a carefully chosen centrepiece and, frankly, what could be worse than falling in love with a sofa that doesn’t last? A sofa needs to be designed from the ground up, with the best and most appropriate materials used for the frames, springs and fillings.”
Detail counts on an item that will play a large part in your life, so if you like a sofa to stretch out on with low, padded arms for a headrest, avoid skinny, uber-modern sofas that will dash your dreams.
Be clear how many people will use a sofa at one time, and decide if you want a large four-seater or two two-seaters.
Everyone wants buttons - and this is a huge trend which will be massive in 2015, along with distinctive patterns that make a statement and reflect people’s taste.