How to choose sofas and armchairs

If you're thinking of updating your living room furniture with new sofas or armchairs, avoid costly mistakes and choose the right seating for your needs with this guide.

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ABOVE: Café sofa, upholstered in City Skyline cotton fabric, from £1,115 for (H)71x (W)146x(D)91cm, Sofas & Stuff.

If you’re thinking of updating your living room furniture with new sofas or armchairs, avoid costly mistakes and choose the right seating for your needs with this guide.

Sofas are made with different fillings, and your choice will depend on your priorities. Foam is firm and will retain its shape, while fibre is softer, but still hardwearing. More expensive feather fillings are softer still, but you will need to keep plumping the cushions. A combination is often used, such as seat cushions in a high-density foam with a fibre wrap, which creates comfort and durability. ‘Occasional turning is all the maintenance required,’ says Emma Gain, assistant buyer for upholstery at Homebase.

If your sofa is going to be used daily, pay close attention to the frame. ‘Load-bearing parts should be made from a hardwood, such as oak, beech or ash,’ says Emma. Look, too, for legs that are part of the frame, or screwed on or attached with dowels.

Wyatt large sofa in lilac

ABOVE: Wyatt large sofa, upholstered in Tattersall Lilac polyester/nylon mix fabric, (H)85x (W)205x(D)94cm, £649, Homebase.

Consider the size and style of your sofa in relation to your room. Measure carefully to ensure it won’t prevent you moving comfortably through the space – making a newspaper template might help. A low, contemporary design with narrow arms can help keep the look spacious in a small room, and sofas with legs can also make a room feel bigger, as the floor can be seen beneath. Ensure you can get your sofa into your house, and if access is a problem, choose a design that can be assembled inside.

Pick a sofa fabric to suit your lifestyle. ‘If the piece is for a family space, you should probably opt for a tough and tightly woven design,’ says Emma Rackley, director of merchandising at Furniture Village. Think about whether to choose fixed covers, which are generally cheaper, or removeable styles that can be washed or dry-cleaned. Many fabrics can be given protective treatments and insured when you buy. Leather can also prove a practical choice: aniline is most expensive, but can show signs of wear. ‘A semi-aniline leather will give your sofa a good grain surface, improving its robustness and light-fastness,’ says Emma Gain.

ABOVE (left-right): Charming Charles armchair, upholstered in Sanderson Wycombe Indigo linen/cotton/ nylon mix fabric, (H)91x(W)72x (D)86cm, £1,439, Sofa Workshop; Retro fabric tub sofa in red, upholstered in polyester fabric, (H)74x (W)140x (D)74cm, £169, Tesco Direct.

The costs: Expect to pay from around £150 for foam-filled, compact designs to £2,000 and upwards for large designs with feather fillings and hardwood frames.

All prices and stockists correct at time of publishing.