How to choose the best sofa for your living space

Choosing the right sofa is not just a case of picking the right style or colour. Sofas & Stuff share their advice on sizing, material choice and more

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Whilst the style and colour of sofa you choose will come down to personal tastes, you might want to think about how your home, the available space, and your family’s lifestyle influences your options. Here we look at sizing, fabric, filling and frame options, before taking a look at some signature styles and share tips on maintenance.


How to choose the right size sofa

Most living rooms will not fit a traditional three-piece suite, and we are starting to see people seek alternatives to make sure they have enough seating for the whole family. Mixing sofa styles to suit the space is the best option, using a common colour or fabric to pull the room together.

Before you buy, you can see how different sofas will fit in your room by creating cutouts on the floor with masking tape or newspapers. Allow for the full footprint of the sofa, including the space taken by the slight lean of the back of the chair. You will need even more room for a recliner, and remember you don’t want to press any furniture up against the walls, to allow for ventilation behind. Pushing furniture right back against the wall also can make a room look smaller even if you are gaining floor space. Finally think about circulation space in the room, and don’t place furniture too close to fires or heat sources.

Tip: Don’t forget to make sure you will be able to get the sofa into your room. Measure the depth against the width of your door opening, and check the back is not too high to get through the door either. Where you have to go through hallways and around corners, check the length isn’t going to be an issue.


Getting the proportions right

It goes without saying that a large sofa in a small room will only make it feel smaller. In rooms with high ceilings, high backs can help balance the room, but will do the opposite in a low ceilinged room.


Fabric options

Order fabric swatches to check the feel, and to also help you see the colour in situ against existing décor. Many companies will send you swatches free of charge. Bold colours and patterns are very popular, but if you are concerned about how the sofa will date, go for a neutral option and style it up with cushions or throws.


A popular choice for both traditional and modern sofas, leather is durable if looked after properly, but not the best option if you have pets as their claws are likely to cause permanent (and very obvious) damage. It can be wiped down with a soft, damp cloth and should be vacuumed regularly to keep it clean. Specialist leather care kits will also help keep it hydrated (which prevents cracking), or your manufacturer may treat it with a protective coating for an additional charge.

Cotton, linen or synthetic fabrics

If you want a wide choice of colours, or a patterned material, cotton, linen or synthetic fabrics are the best option. These are popular materials for slip-on covers, that can be washed and are replaceable should you want a new look. Seat and back cushion covers are usually removable too, but should be dry cleaned to prevent shrinkage caused by machine washing. These materials can be treated with a stainguard and are generally easier to clean than most options, making them a good choice for families.


Velvet is quite high maintenance and can be easily ruined by liquid or crumbs. Regular vacuuming, or brushing down with a soft brush, is essential to avoid dust and grime from becoming embedded. However, velvet is a luxurious and fashionable choice that works well on statement furniture.

Quilting or tufting

Tufting, or quilting is the practice of running thread or studs through sections of the material to provide structural support. It helps keep the stuffing in place and results in a firmer, bouncier seat or cushion. It is popular in traditional style sofas, but the dents can complicate cleaning so tufted sofas must be vacuumed regularly.


Down or feathers are very popular and are often used in high-end products. However, they can trigger allergies, so many prefer a hypoallergenic synthetic fibre such as a mono-polymer filling. If you go for a synthetic material, expect to pay more for a product that will last well without loosing shape.


Picking a solid frame

Ask the supplier what the frame is made from. Softwoods like pine are more affordable, but do not have the longevity or resistance to warping of pricier hardwoods. To check the stability of a frame, lift the front right leg six inches off the floor. The front left leg should follow – if not the frame may be flimsy and prone to bending.


What style sofa will suit my home?

In modern homes with large open-plan spaces, corner sofas are a popular choice. They offer flexible seating for sitting and reclining, and tend to seat more people on a smaller footprint than a suite combining armchairs and loveseats. When you choose a sectional corner sofa, it pays to understand the terminology, so that you can build your perfect combination:

  • Right arm facing/left arm facing: This tells you which side the arm is on as you are facing the sofa.
  • Chaise: A chaise will usually be right of left arm facing, allowing you to connect it to other sections. A left arm facing chaise will have a back and an arm on the left which extends half the length of the seat. This will allow you to put your feet up, without an end arm blocking your view of the TV.
  • Corner seat: Corner seats tend to be one seat wide and are used to connect a right arm facing sofa with a left arm facing sofa.

Sectional sofas come in a range of styles and will easily suit both traditional and modern schemes. In all cases, think carefully about the proportions of the sofa to the room — avoid getting carried away ordering the biggest sectional you can, as it will swamp the room.


Traditional styles to look out for

Mid-century style sofas with exposed legs look great in modern homes, but can also be used sympathetically in a traditional living room. Use cushions and throws to work them in to your scheme.

Chesterfields are easy to recognise with their low backs and quilting. Again, they will work in contemporary homes, but look right at home in a period style setting.

Camel-back sofas have a high back which descends in a continuous line to the arms. They often have exposed framework on the legs, arms and back.

Lawson-style sofas typically have separate cushions for the back that can be moved around for comfort.

Bridgewater sofas are high backed with low roll, or scroll arms.

A loveseat is any sofa designed to seat two.