Sofas and chairs buying guide

Buying new sofas and chairs is a major investment, so you'll want to get it right. We want you to be delighted with your choice, and with so many different options available, it's good to resarch what’s best for you and your home before you buy.

And if you can't quite find what you heart desires, discover our Any Shape, Any Fabric service, to create the sofa or chair you want in the fabric you love. For more food for thought, watch videos about choosing a sofa and choosing a sofa bed.

Size of sofa

Sofas

Any choice you make when buying your sofa or chair will obviously depend on the size of your room and how many people you want to seat at any one time. If you'd like some help calculating space, many of our branches offer a measuring service.

Getting new furniture can be exciting. But we do want you to make sure that your new sofa will fit before you order, so please take a little time to measure up before you make your final choice.

See our guide to measuring up. For tight spaces or doorways, some of our sofas come with bolt-on arms or in 2 parts. These will generally be to order, so do ask in our shops.

You need to try and envisage proportion too - many of our ranges have 2 or 3 sizes of sofa to choose from. A rough rule of thumb is that a large sofa (see sizes below) will seat 3 average size adults comfortably. Small sofas will accommodate 2, and we also have compact or "snuggler" sofas which provide an oversized chair for one or a cosy sofa for a couple.

To gauge a safe distance between your leather sofa and a radiator to prevent cracking, move your hand away from the radiator until you can no longer feel its heat; at minimum, this should be about a foot (30cm).

Chairs

Work out whether you're best off with 2 small sofas or one large sofa plus a couple of chairs - they may offer more flexibility as they can be positioned more easily. It's worth remembering that the arms of a sofa can make a big difference to the amount of seating capacity as well as ease of access to a room. If your room is small, narrower sofa arms give the illusion of a more compact piece. Whatever the size, avoid perching on the arms of the sofa as this can distort the sofa frame over time.

High backs on sofas and chairs may look best in rooms with higher ceilings. Lower backs in less open rooms can give the illusion of more space, but can also be used effectively in open-plan rooms to emphasise the sense of space.

Open plan space can also be enhanced by using modular furniture in large configurations, but this type of furniture can be helpful in smaller spaces too because of its flexibility.

All our sofas are titled according to their size (width measurement) so that you can see at a glance whether one is going to be right for you.

Sofa materials

Leather or fabric?

Leather has become enormously popular. Once considered a luxury, new techniques to manufacture less expensive options has made it much more affordable. Plain styles give a more contemporary feel, but we have more traditional choices such as studded arms and button backs, especially in accent chairs.

Leather

Technology has enable the achievement of all sorts of finish, from distressed and antiqued to exceptionally smooth and soft, where the semi-aniline dyeing process removes most of the flaws. Corrected grain leather will have had most flaws covered up, but because leather is a natural product, markings will differ from piece to piece and dyes may not take identically throughout the hide.

Unless you go for a very smooth, highly treated finish, your leather upholstery will age with use and for many people this adds to the character - it stands up to wear and tear very well.

Leather sofas are easy to look after - just remove dust with a slightly damp cloth. Keep them at least 30cm away from direct heat sources to prevent it drying out, and remember that, just like fabric, it's not immune to the fading effects of sunlight.

Leather

Fabric sofas present you with a bigger range of colour options. They usually come in a fibre mix for strength and texture, and all our ranges are throughly tested for durability. We also sell microfibre upholstery that can be simply wiped down with a damp cloth to clean, and so are ideal for households with children or pets. Use soapy water or even baby wipes on stains.

Sofas with washable or dry cleanable loose covers are also available, otherwise we recommend the use of a specialist company to clean your furniture at home. Use an upholstery brush or crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner to remove dirt and dust, and always attend to spills immediately. Be sparing with the use of spot chemicals as they can cause a ring or fading - try plain water first.

Think carefully about strong colours in a very sunny room in case of fading, but rotating cushions will help to slow the process.

Upholstery swatches service

We offer a free online service to help you choose the right fabric colour and texture for your new sofa or chair.

When you've found a shape that you like, you can order any or all of the colour swatches available for it by clicking 'Free swatch' on the right of the page. If you like the look of more than one model, you’ll need to place separate orders for each in the same way. These will be posted to you or to any UK address by our suppliers within around 5 working days.

Please order only the swatches you need, and make a note of what you've ordered; if the swatches don't arrive in the specified time, please re-order them online. Should your second order not arrive, then do contact Customer Services on 08456 049 049 with details of your order, so that they can chase it for you.

This free service is only available in the UK. We’re sorry, but the service doesn’t include samples of leather upholstery (though you can view these in our shops), nor does it include curtain fabrics – again, please ask in our shops.

Fillings for sofas

It may not be uppermost in your mind, but the filling in your chosen sofa does make a difference. Just as they offer different levels of support, sofas and chairs will require different levels of maintenance depending on the filling. Foam or foam with fibre will make an easier life for anyone with more limited mobility or strength.

  • Foam upholstery will feel firm and supportive, and lends a more tailored appearance to a sofa. It will recover well and all you'll need to do is turn the cushions occasionally to allow even wear. Over the years, the foam will compact and lose volume a little, though this process is much slower with high resilience foam.
  • Fibre, or foam with a fibre wrap, will give a softer look and feel to sofas and chairs. Just plump and turn cushions occasionally to maintain comfort and wear
  • Feather-filled upholstery will have a more relaxed, casual look and a softer sit - ideal if you like to curl up on the sofa. You'll need to plump up cushions daily 

Why buy from us?

  • 95% of our sofas are made in the UK
  • All our sofas meet or exceed British dometic testing standards
  • All our fabrics exceed the British standard rub test, ensuring longevity
  • All materials comply with The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988
  • All sofas are overlocked
  • All sofas include a Harco wire to ensure a durable seat platform
  • Feet are bolted, not screwed on, for security
  • Seat webbing is pulled to the same tension on all products, to make sure the seat wears evenly, no matter how you sit on the seat pad

Other types of sofas

Sofa beds

Of course the ultimate flexibility comes from the sofa bed! Not just for living rooms, sofa beds are worth considering for studies or spare bedrooms where you want more than a single bed but don't want to commit the space permanently. Our sofa beds are built to last, with simple and sturdy pull-out mechanisms and good mattresses - comfortable for both sitting and sleeping. Bear in mind that sofa beds tend to have a firmer sit because of the mattress mechanism beneath.

The chaise longue or day bed is a gorgeously self-indulgent option. However, some modular systems and sofa beds come with a chaise section which adds interest to the shape and is ideal for anyone who enjoys stretching out on the sofa.

Wicker and rattan furniture

Upholstery swatches service

Usually associated with conservatories, but a great choice for any light room. The lightweight chairs are useful as occasional chairs around the house as they're easy to move - but lightweight doesn't mean low strength. The practice of weaving strips of rattan bark or similar materials to construct wicker furniture began in India centuries ago, and it's very durable furniture - it's just unlikely to feel as comfortable in sitting for long periods as it lacks the padding!

Additional enhancements

Co-ordinates

A matching armchair is the obvious accessory for your sofa, and it will usually be made in exactly the same way. You might also want to consider an accent chair to co-ordinate rather than match - we've a superb range of chairs, including recliners, that are just ideal for relaxing in to watch TV or listen to music.

Extras

Armcaps are available to order in our shops to match some fabric sofas. These will help to preserve an area of heavy wear, and they're usually washable. You can also order an extra set of loose covers for a sofa so that you don't have to any inconvenience when removing the originals for cleaning. Please ask us about these when you visit our shops.

Cushions and throws

Many of our sofas come with co-ordinating scatter cushions and we sell a wide range of cushions and throws online and in our furnishing fabrics departments that will help you create a relaxed look and vary your decor - after all, your sofa should last for years, so changing the cushions and throws can help update it.

Footstools

Many of our ranges come with matching footstools, plenty of which are large enough to act as extra seating. Easy movement means they're very flexible, but some are quite sizeable and bear that in mind when calculating space. Some will also have a lift-up top, giving you a handy storage option.

Our guide to upholstery fabrics

If you're opting for our Any Shape, Any Fabric service to customise your sofa choice, when you're choosing upholstery fabric, it’s good to think about the look and feel that will suit your sofa or chair shape as well as what you really like.

Rest assured, all our upholstery fabrics are tested over and above standard requirements for domestic wear, and will happily withstand family life.

To help you get it right, here’s some detail on the most common fabric types. 

Woven Chenille

Beautiful, durable and soft, chenille can be made from natural or man-made acrylic fibres and create a formal or relaxed feel. It has a distinctive crushed look or shows natural shading and lines.

Woven Chenille

Woven jacquard

Fine and lustrous, jacquard fabric has a raised design or pattern woven into it.

Woven jacquard

Woven velvet  

Smart, soft and luxurious, hardwearing velvet can be made from silk, cotton or synthetic fibres. All have a distinctive crushed look or show natural shading, and suit more formal interiors.

Woven Chenille

Woven stripe

Striped designs come in many fabrics and work well with co-ordinating fabrics or to break up patterns. Different stripe widths can create a variety of looks, from formal to relaxed.

Woven stripe

Linen and linen blends  

These have a casual, lived in look with natural creases that soften over time. Linen blends’ high linen content means they naturally pill, but this doesn’t affect their durability. Some textured blends have a natural slub effect.

Linen and linen blends

Woven wool blend

This rich cloth lends texture, warmth and a luxurious feel, and pilling and bobbling are natural characteristics.

Woen wool blend

Semi plains

These can come in many fabric types, are hardwearing and can work well for all types of interior. 

Semi plains

Cottons

Natural cotton fibre is extremely versatile, whether pure or blended. It’s comfortable, easy to care for and easy to live with.

Cottons