Buying Guides

Sofas and chairs

Buying a sofa

Buying new upholstered furniture is a major investment, so you'll want to get it right. Things to consider:


Map out the space using newspaper, or mark your floor with masking tape to assess the best size

Surrounding space

Leave yourself enough room to walk around comfortably and to retain a spacious look and feel


Ensure furniture will fit through doors and hallways. If it looks like a tight fit, choose an option that’s partial or full assembly or with removable arms

Full extension

When choosing a sofa bed or recliner, check that there's enough room for it in its extended position


  • High-back sofas and chairs may look best in rooms with higher ceilings

  • Low-back furniture can give the illusion of more space

  • Modular furniture can enhance open-plan space and can also be helpful in smaller spaces thanks to its flexibility

  • Some of our most popular sofa beds come without arms, so they’re perfect for smaller spaces or rooms with challenging access

  • Some of our sofas can be delivered with bolt-on arms or, if larger, multiple parts - these can be ordered in our shops

Our sofa sizes

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.

Grand  211cm+
 191 – 210cm
175 – 190cm
up to 174cm

Modular sofas

  • Can be built to match the style and space of your home
  • Attach together in a configuration that suits you
  • If you’re moving your sofa’s location, or perhaps you have an expanding family,  you can buy extra units and pieces that change the shape and size of the configuration

Sofa shapes: Backs, seats, legs & arms


The style and comfort offered by the back of the sofa is as important as the seat. There are several types:

Fixed back

  • The back frame of the sofa is sprung and upholstered, rather than using loose or fixed cushions
  • Offers smart, clean, more formal lines with easy maintenance
  • Tends to offer slightly firmer seating

Scatter back

  • The upholstered back frame of a sofa is hidden by loose cushions to give a more informal style
  • Scatter cushions usually contain polyester fibre or a luxurious feather filling
  • Plump up feather-filled cushions regularly to keep them looking their best

Cushion back

  • The conventional look of a British sofa is the cushion back
  • Two or three boxed-sided cushions of an equal size will be placed across the back
  • Cushions can normally be turned and moved for wear and tear, but on leather sofas and occasionally fabric ones, cushions may be one-sided and sometimes fixed in place

As with backs, seats can be fixed or cushioned; this affects the sit and your individual comfort.

Fixed seats

  • The seat of the sofa itself is sprung and upholstered
  • Offers a neat, tailored appearance which requires no maintenance
  • Wear can be very focused on the specific points where people sit because there are no cushions to turn
  • This type of sofa suits more robust fabrics with less stretch to match its more formal appearance
  • Fabrics with more stretch may "puddle" or ripple over time as the foam interiors settle

Cushioned seats

  • More conventional and normally reversible on fabric models
  • The sit quality depends on the cushions fillings; natural ones needing regular plumping
  • The softer the seat cushion, the more upkeep it will need to keep it looking in good order

The design of the arm can identify a sofa or chair as classic or contemporary.

Wider arms give a presence and scale, but can take up a significant amount of overall length. A narrower arm can  help maximise your seating space in small rooms.

Howard arms

  • Very classic style where the arm is low and stops short of the front of the sofa or chair

  • Usually accompanied by a T cushion (one that extends in front of the sofa arms in a T shape)

  • A popular look for period homes


Legs are usually wooden and available in a section of natural colours.

Many shapes are delivered without the legs attached to prevent damage, unless they’re  integral to the frame.


The filing defines the level of support and maintenance.

Foam Upholstery

If you…

  • Want a firm and supportive sit

  • Like a more tailored appearance

  • Are looking for minimal, easy upkeep with occasional cushion turns to allow even wear

  • Expect to slowly lose a little volume over time

Foam upholstery could be the best option

Fibre Wrap Fillings

If you…

  • Like a good level of support with a soft top layer

  • Want a softer look and feel to sofas and chairs

  • Would prefer to just plump and turn cushions occasionally to maintain comfort and wear

Fibre or foam with a fibre wrap is a good choice

Feather or Fibre Filled

If you…

  • Like to curl up on the sofa and prefer a more relaxed, casual look and a softer sit

  • Are happy to plump up cushions daily and turn them weekly

Feather or fibre-filled upholstery is ideal

Upholstery fabrics

If you…

  • Would like a bigger range of colour options

  • Are looking for a sofa that can simply be cleaned with water

Choose upholstery fabric over leather.

Almost all stains can be removed from Aquaclean fabrics using water and all our upholstery fabrics are tested over and above standard requirements for domestic wear. The majority will happily withstand family life, though some fabrics in our collection are more delicate and better suited to lighter or occasional use.


Woven chenille
  • Beautiful soft yarn which can be made from man-made or natural fibres
  • Will flatten over time, more so on most used areas like seat cushions
  • Will develop a worn-in look
Woven velvet
  • Can be made from silk, cotton or synthetic fibres and is best suited to less frequent use
  • Lustrous pile in all types causes colour variation, and can develop a distinctive crushed look
  • Velvets can develop natural lines, bruises and shading over time
Linen and linen blends
  • Have a casual lived-in look with natural creases that soften over time
  • Can feature characteristic slub effects for a textured look 
  • Surface can fuzz or ‘pill’ over time, a natural characteristic that doesn't affect durability
Plains & semi plains
  • Come in many fabric types
  • Hardwearing and can work well for all types of interior
  • A good option for day to day family life
Woven stripes & jacquards
  • Can be florals, damasks or a variety of  individual patterns
  • Combines different yarns to create distinct decorative effects
  • High abrasion resistance
Woven wool blend
  • Rich cloth lends texture and warmth
  • Wools are washed and can be brushed to provide a felted look and feel
  • Pilling and bobbling are natural characteristics
  • Extremely versatile, whether pure or blended
  • Comfortable, easy to care for and easy to live with

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.’ These will be posted to you or to any UK address by our suppliers within 5 working days.

This free service is only available in the UK.

chesterfield style sofas are available at john lewis

Leather upholstery

If you…

  • Want a surface that’s easy to look after

  • Has a soft, supple, natural finish

Then opt for leather upholstery. Depending on the finish, it’s resistant to soiling and you can remove dust with a slightly damp cloth.

Just like fabric, leather can fade with the effects of sunlight. Place furniture at least 30cm away from direct heat sources to prevent it from drying out.


Good to know

Leather is a natural product, so there are natural characteristics on each leather hide used to make our sofas - these could be things like brand marks, slight colour variants or wrinkles. A large sofa could be made with as many as four hides, but we have strict guidelines to make sure any noticeable marks aren't in a prominent place. It also means that no two pieces will be exactly the same.

There are a number of different types and qualities of leather upholstery, described below:

Aniline leather
  • Dyed to colour and has either received a thin, clear lacquer or no coating finish at all
  • The original leather is showcased at its best; natural blemishes or marks only enhance the stylishly rustic finish
  • Colour variation will be a feature, and areas of the upholstery will develop further variation with time
Semi aniline leather
  • All the natural beauty of aniline but with the addition of a thin surface coating
  • Achieves an unprocessed look, while the thin protective layer helps offer a little more serviceability
  • Natural marks, lines and scars will be present along with variances in shading and texture individual to each piece
  • Delicate surface coating may mark or scratch, but doesn’t affect durability and enhances the unique appearance
Full grain/corrected grain pigmented leather
  • While natural characteristics may be noticeable, this leather has an embossed decorative grain pattern with a consistent appearance
  • Improved durability and resistance to soiling
  • Produced in a range of colours
  • Corrected grain leather has its top surface abraded and then printed to give a uniform texture - perfect if you like a sleek, flawless finish
Antique appearance / waxy leather
  • Milling process opens the wax to purposefully crack the leather and enhance the antique appearance
  • Develops a 'lived-in', heritage-inspired look over time
  • Lighter areas will be evident on the arms and are more obvious on leathers with waxy finishes
  • Natural shade variation, markings and scars will be evident to enhance the character
  • Waxy leathers will mark and scratch during use, which adds even more personality to each piece
Buffalo leather
  • Hides have deep pores and a defined textural finish
  • Luxuriously supple and soft feel
Bonded leather fibre
  • Man-made material composed of 80% to 100% leather fibres
  • Material which looks similar, or identical, to genuine leather for a minimal cost

Sofa Beds

Sofa beds can double up as a sleeping space by night.

They offer a slightly firmer sit than a normal sofa due to the mechanism,
and come with either a 3 fold or 2 fold system.

3 Folds

  • Support a 5cm foam mattress, making them suitable for occasional use and generally more affordable

2 Folds

  • Unfold once to open the bed space

  • Allows for thicker mattress options to be used; often up to 10cm depth

  • Deeper mattress helps provide a more comfortable sleeping option

Mattress types

Open sprung
  • Support through polyester fibre fillings for softness and cushioning
  • Turn regularly to allow fillings to settle evenly
  • Suitable for occasional use
Pocket sprung
  • The resilient foam in this mattress is overlaid with polyester for support, softness and cushioning
  • Turn regularly for fillings to settle evenly
  • Suitable for regular use
Memory foam
  • High density foam base overlaid with 25mm memory foam that moulds to the body contours
  • Doesn’t require turning, but regular head to foot rotation allows for even wear

We also offer a range of sofa beds different from the traditional pull-out bed, including fold-out foam, stacked mattresses, click-clack mechanisms and trundles.

Sofa Buying Guide Image


Modular sofa sections explained

Single armless unit

  • Usually goes in the middle between other units

  • Use multiples for adding extra seating

Medium armless unit

  • Normally the size of two singles

  • Use it as a bigger seating area

Corner piece

  • Creates the connection for a corner sofa

  • Can be switched so the sofa is left or right facing

Chaise unit

  • Extra long seating area

  • Great for doubling up as an impromptu bed


  • On certain models arms come as detachable pieces

  • Perfect for delivery to properties with limited access

Accessories (in store)

  • Loose covers and armcaps are available to order in our shops to match some fabric sofas; they help to preserve an area of heavy wear


Corner pieces will be marked with LHF (left-hand facing) and RHF (right-hand facing), as you look at the sofa, rather than as you sit on it.


Your upholstery is an investment; help it last longer with some simple care tips:

  • Make sure your sofa sits on a level floor to avoid rocking or damage to the frame

  • Try to avoid sitting on the arms of sofas and chairs as it will eventually distort the upholstery

  • Maintain the shape of scatter cushions by shaking daily

  • Rotate seat and back cushions weekly to ensure even wear

  • Direct sunlight causes covers to fade and will weaken the fibres over a period of time. Try to keep the sofa out of direct light, and if not possible close curtains and blinds

  • Upholstery with fixed covers is designed to be cleaned whilst on the upholstery frame. We recommend that you use a professional cleaning company to clean your sofa, around every 12-18 months.

  • Remember to clean or wash colour co-ordinated items at the same time

  • Always follow the specific care instructions provided on our loose covered upholstery; these pieces have a 3% allowance for shrinkage after the first clean

  • Try to attend to spills immediately using plain water first. If you opt for stain removing products, follow the manufacturer's guidelines and test on a hidden area to make sure it doesn't fade fabric

  • Avoid cosmetic products such as suncream or body lotion coming into contact with your upholstery, and beware of sharp objects like studs, belt buckles and toys snagging fabric

  • Allowing your pets on sofas and chairs is likely to cause premature wear

  • Recliners have many moving parts and it's normal for minor squeaks and creaks while in use. Take care when using the kickboard of your recliner, as you could damage it prematurely if you wear shoes while relaxing in it



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