... find a sofa you love

Ultimate Sofa Guide

Ultimate Sofa Guide: Find A Sofa You Love

It’s a jungle out there. Sofas come in all shapes, sizes, colours, materials and more. How are we supposed to know which sofa exactly fits in our home and suits our style? Homefitters ultimate sofa guide is here to help. Combined with our market-leading ‘Sofa Searcher’ database, we break through the complexity of finding a sofa you love – saving time, money and frustration.

The Great Sofa Hunt: Everything You Need In One Place

You’ve realised that you need a new sofa – maybe you’re moving home or maybe it’s just time for a refresh. With so many different sofa retailers as well as fabrics, sizes, colours and styles to choose from it can feel overwhelming to find the perfect sofa. However Homefitter is here to help.

Increasingly people are turning to the internet to buy furniture. Benefits of this include being able to review a much larger number of potential sofas without having to travel around multiple stores and easily compare prices to find the best deals. Of course for a sofa there is no substitute to actually sitting on it so many people use the internet to find a preferred option or create a short-list and then head into a sofa showroom to test it out. The best prices tend to be online so once you’ve found that dream sofa it’s easy to compare and purchase online.

Homefitter has pulled together the ultimate sofa guide to find, maintain and replace your sofa responsibly. In addition our patented ‘Sofa Searcher’ simplifies the search process to find a new piece of furniture that suits your style, space and wallet. Our extensive product database is continuously updated and has smart filtering and search functions to enable you to find your dream furniture in no time. Simple as that. 

Read on and we’ll share our five key steps to finding a sofa you love. We’ll also share tips on how to maintain, clean and responsibly discard your sofa at the end of its lifecycle.

21 percent of UK consumers have bought furniture and household goods online in the last 12 months, while 30 percent claim to mostly look online for information about these product

Statista (2021)

Chainieux [CEO of Made.com] said that currently some 10-15 percent of the UK furniture market is online. He reckons it will be [...] one third in the long term

Reuters (2019)

[The] average brit takes about 88 minutes to choose a sofa

Zoopla (2017)

Table of Contents

5 Steps To Find A Sofa You Love

Choosing a sofa that complements and fits your living space, style and wallet can be a daunting task. However we’re going to walk through exactly how to find the perfect sofa in five easy steps. 

Step 1: Evaluate your living space

Usage & lifestyle

The first thing to consider is the main purpose of the living space where the sofa will be situated. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Who will spend the most time on the sofa? For example people with back-problems will want a sofa with more support
  • What type of activities will take place while sitting on the sofa? For example if you’ll be watching TV you may want upper back and/or neck support
  • What type of wear and tear will the sofa have to withstand? For example if you have kids, pets and/or parties you may want to look for a more resilient sofa 
  • What is the intended lifetime of the sofa? For example if you redecorate often you may not need to opt for as sturdy a sofa 

Some people will also want to take into consideration the sustainability profile of a sofa or a sofa retailer. This may include looking for:

  • Environmentally sustainable sofa materials For example, look for FSC/PEFC certifications & reclaimed/recycled materials
  • Sustainable manufacturing practices for sofa retailers For example, look for ‘Code of Practices’ for suppliers and supplier auditing programs from sofa retailers

Sofa sizing 

The perfect sofa should fill your living space, but not make it feel cramped. Use a tape measure to measure the space you have available (i.e. width, length and height) to narrow your sofa search. If you don’t currently have a sofa in that place you can use newspapers or masking tape to illustrate where the sofa would sit. Walk around the living space outside the area you’ve just marked off and see if it feels cramped or if any door openings seem tight.

Delivery considerations

Consider which doors, hallways and staircases your new sofa is going to need through before you start your search. If your sofa is going to need to get through some tight spaces you may need to look for a sofa that is delivered in parts rather than fully assembled.  As a rule of thumb, you want to ensure that either the depth or width of the sofa is smaller than the width of your entryways. Remember to leave some wiggle room for packaging.

19% of our [2,900] survey respondents who experienced sofa delivery problems told us they had trouble getting their sofa through the front door

Which.co.uk (2021)
Ross Friends Sofa
Friends: Ross shouting "PIVOT!"

Pro tips

  • If you are buying an extendable sofa, measure your space with and without the extendable part (e.g. a sofa bed that folds out).
  • If the weather allows it, consider unpacking the sofa outside before bringing it into your home - it will typically be easier to get your sofa in without packaging around it.
  • If you expect the delivery van to struggle for parking space, block off some space in the road the night before using cones or bins.

  • Step 2: Consider your style

    Colours

    Step A: Brightness

    The first consideration is whether to opt for a light or a dark sofa. Most importantly, consider the wear and tear that the sofa will likely experience. If you have kids, consider the risks of stains, or if you have pets if you’re going to be able to see pet hair if they jump up on the sofa. Dark sofas are much more forgiving when it comes to marks and stains. Also consider the brightness of your walls and your floor. If you have a lightly-toned living space (e.g. white walls and light wooden floor), you might consider getting a lightly-toned sofa (e.g. light grey or beige) which wouldn’t overwhelm the room. Vice versa, if you have a darkly-toned living space, you might want a darker coloured sofa that blends in naturally or a lighter coloured sofa to brighten up the living space.

    Step B: Colour palette

    Next it’s time to look at sofa colours. Here you can see the most commonly used sofa colours according to our ‘Sofa Searcher’ database. As you can see, grey-coloured sofas are the most common, making up ~40% of available sofas in the UK (Nov 2021). If you’re considering a ‘showpiece’ sofa you may want to consider bold colours that draw attention to it. However if you want the sofa to blend into its surroundings you may want to consider more neutral colours such as whites, greys and creams.

    Colours UK sofas
    Source: Homefitter Sofa Search Database (Nov 2021)

    Styles

    Sofas come in a range of different styles and retailers and designers tend to use different terminologies; below we have summarised what we consider the four primary sofa styles.

    Modern

    Also known as contemporary. Modern sofas often have a simple design with jagged lines and may have firmer cushions.

    Classic sofa

    Classic

    Also known as traditional. Some may think of a Victorian style sofa with ornate frames and curved lines.

    Scandinavian

    Typically characterised by a minimalist look with clean, simple lines while not compromising on functionality.

    Vintage sofa

    Vintage

    Often a pre-used sofa with a distinct retro look. Some sofa retailers try to imitate the vintage look in newer sofas too. Think of a mid-century modern style related to the classic sofa.

    Shapes

    The shape of your sofa will depend on your seating preferences and the size and shape of the available living space. As an example, some might prefer to be able to have their feet up while others are keen to avoid the sofa taking up too much space.

    Standard sofa

    Standard sofa

    Also known as a traditional sofa which has one section for seating. The shape is versatile and works well in small and large spaces. Currently, ~70% of sofas in the UK are standard sofas in our ‘Sofa Searcher’ database (Nov 2021).

    L-shaped sofas

    Also known as a chaise sofa or a corner sofa, an L-shaped sofa is great for a large living space. A chaise sofa will typically have an extended cushion which is ideal for putting your feet up on. In contrast a corner sofa will typically have a backrest around the whole sofa, increasing the amount of seating space available. Based on our ‘Sofa Searcher’ database, ~30% of sofas in the UK are L-shaped sofas (Nov 2021).

    U-shaped sofas

    Similar to an L-shaped sofa, a U-shaped sofa is great for large living spaces. It comes with three sections of seating and may have a chaise section or backrests all around. Typically U-shaped sofas will be large with seating space for four or more people. This is the least common sofa shape and makes up <1% of sofas in the UK according to our ‘Sofa Searcher’ database (Nov 2021).

    Materials

    Many  different materials are used for the upholstery of sofas. The material will affect how the sofa feels, looks and it’s durability. You can read more about the durability of different types of fabric in the next section on upholstery. Three common categories of materials include:

    Fabric sofas

    Fabric

    Can be a mix of cotton, linen, polyester, nylon or rayon. Softness and durability varies. According to our ‘Sofa Searcher’ database, ~62% of sofas in the UK are made from fabric (Nov 2021).

    Velvet sofas

    Velvet

    Pile weave of silk, cotton, or synthetic fibres. Soft and feather-like surface, fairly durable. According to our ‘Sofa Searcher’ database, ~22% of sofas in the UK are made from velvet (Nov 2021).

    Leather sofas

    Leather & coated fabrics

    Top grains typically come from cow hide, whereas coated fabrics can be a blend of leather parts and artificial fabrics. Feels soft and is highly durable. May be difficult to clean. According to our ‘Sofa Searcher’ database, ~16% of sofas in the UK are made from leather & coated fabrics (Nov 2021).

    Features

    Some sofas come with special features to look out for.

    Modular sofa

    Modular

    A modular sofa comes in sections and can be configured as you want. This is a good choice if you intend to extend or retract the size of your sofa over time. If you plan to start small and/or want to repurpose a sofa for a different room, modular sofas are a flexible choice.

    Sofa bed

    Sofa bed

    Increasing in popularity, sofa beds make the most of your living space. A sofa bed will look just like a sofa when not in use. Remember to check the cushioning of the mattress to ensure you get a good night's sleep. Sofa beds come in many different shapes and sizes.

    Outdoor sofa

    Outdoor

    Typically crafted from more sturdy materials (e.g. metal and rattan), outdoor sofas live in your garden, patio or balcony. Watch out for matching tables and chairs as they often come as part of an outdoor furniture selection.

    Recliner sofa

    Recliner

    If you’re keen to have your feet up and/or your back declined, a recliner sofa might be a suitable choice for you. Recliner sofas often come in a leather-type material and are a great way to make the most of a small living space.

    Loveseat sofa

    Loveseat

    This is a specific size and style of sofa rather than a feature. A small sofa that fits between an armchair and a two-seater sofa. It may also be known as a compact sofa or a snuggle seat. Most often it has a single seat and back cushion.

    Pro tips

  • Some sofa retailers will offer free brief interior design consultations which might answer some of your style-related questions.
  • Get inspired and receive top styling tips from the interior design community at Houzz, Pinterest or Instagram. You could take photos of your living space and receive styling-feedback from other people with similar interest on Houzz.

  • Step 3: Check the sofa construction

    FRAME | JOINTS | SUSPENSIONS | CUSHIONING & FILL | UPHOLSTERY

    A poorly constructed sofa will not last the test of time. You’ll see how the surface and the cushions lose their shape and thickness and upholstery starts to lose its texture. Having an understanding of the fundamental construction parts of a sofa will help you evaluate whether a piece can withstand everyday mileage. Have a look at some of the most common construction parts to evaluate before making a purchase.

    Frame

    A frame is the body of the sofa that sits underneath cushioning and upholstery. The four main types of frames are outlined below:

    Particle board

    Particle board

    Probably the least sturdy material made of composite wood materials. Often referenced as medium-density fibreboard (MDF).

    Hardwood

    Hardwood

    Typical types of hardwood include Beech, Walnut, Oak and Cherry. Hardwood is more durable than particle board and is made of solid wood.

    Kiln hardwood

    Kiln dried hardwood

    Essentially the same as hardwood, but dried in big ovens to make it much stronger and more durable. Unlikely to bend or snap.

    Metal

    Metal

    Most sturdy frame material, but can bend over time. Does not snap.

    Joints

    The joints of a sofa keeps the body together. The stronger the joints, the more durable the sofa. 

    Stapled frame

    Stapled frames

    Inexpensive but not durable method for frame assembly. Similar to a picture frame, heavy duty staples keep the frame together. Often combined with glue.

    Double doweled frames

    More sturdy method for frame assembly. Joints are connected using dowels (round pieces of wood you’ll probably recognise from your last self-assembly furniture purchase) that are inserted into pieces of wood, typically with screws and glue. Double doweled frames are the most frames available.

    Suspensions

    At the core of seating comfort, suspensions provide the ‘bounce’ of a sofa. Suspensions are typically crafted in three ways:  

    Webbed suspension

    Webbed suspension

    Inexpensive option to create a sofa support system similar to a hammock. Webbing can be crafted from elastic bands or natural fibers like jute.

    Sinuous springs

    Most common support system for mid-market sofas. Typically constructed with steel wires bent into a coherent line of vertical S-shaped springs.

    Eightway handtied

    Eight-way hand-tied

    More sturdy support system where springs are tied eight ways, from side to side, front to back and diagonally. This technique requires skilled labour and is often more expensive.

    Cushioning and fill

    Further improving seating comfort, cushioning and fill determine the ‘softness’ of the seats. We typically talk about four types of cushioning and fill:

    Foam

    Often the most inexpensive and least durable option. However, some sofas (especially sofa beds) have high quality high-density memory foam cushioning. Foam typically feels more firm.

    Spring coil

    Spring coil

    Typically built into the sofa and with a feather filling. A more sturdy option that keeps its shape over time compared to feather cushioning.

    Fiber

    Fiber

    Synthetic cushioning that is typically combined with foam or feathers to make the cushioning more affordable and less firm.

    Feather sofa filling

    Feather

    Most expensive and luxurious option. Feather cushioning requires a fair bit of maintenance as they must be rotated and fluffed on a regular basis to keep their shape.

    Upholstery

    The industry standard for measuring the durability of fabrics, retailers use the ‘martindale test’. In short, the test measures the amount of times a pendulum (a double rub) can rub a fabric before it tears. As a rule of thumb, about 3,000 double rubs equals one year of wear and tear. Typically, you’ll want a sofa that withstands 25,000 double rubs or more:

    Martindale test
    Example: Martindale double rub

    Step 4: Find your sofa

    RETAILERS | PRICE | ONLINE VS OFFLINE

    The next step is to find a sofa that meet your requirements. In this section, we will explore different types of sofa retailers, prices and whether to buy a sofa online or offline:

    Retailers

    In the UK sofa retailers make up the majority of sofa sales. Those are DFS, ScS, Sofology, Furniture Village, IKEA, Made.com, Argos, Loaf and many more. The most popular is DFS and some of the fastest growing retailers are Made.com and Loaf. These retailers offer a huge amount of choice and typically good value for money – the vast majority of sofas sold in the UK are sold by these retailers.

    In addition there are also some high-end sofa specialists such as Andrew Martin and Sofasbysaxon. These specialists typically have expensive custom made, designer pieces and are often selected by interior designers for their wealthy clients (typically >£3,000 per piece).

    Price

    Homefitter focuses on sofa retailers and continuously adds more sofas and sofa retailers to the proprietary ‘Sofa Searcher’ database. The latest estimates suggest that the average price of the sofas is ~£850 and spans from £60 to £2,800 per piece from ~1,200 sofas from 5 sofa retailers.

    Using the power of the ‘Sofa Searcher’ database (Nov 2021), here’s few examples of how price varies based on certain criteria:

    • Brand: Argos has the cheapest average price of ~£560 per sofa and Made.com is the most expensive at ~£980 per sofa.
    • Material: On average, leather & coated fabrics tend to be ~30% more expensive than fabric materials (~£1,050 for leather & coated fabric and ~£780 for a fabric sofa).
    • Capacity: On average, a 2-seater sofa costs more than two times more than a 4-seater+ sofa (~£580 for a 2-seater and ~£1,260 for a 4-seater+).
    Price of UK sofas
    Source: Homefitter Sofa Search Database (Nov 2021)

    Buying a sofa can be an expensive purchase and often sofa retailers offer different types of sofa financing. While we acknowledge that sofa financing may work for some people, we encourage people to read the fineprints as it often comes with expensive repayments. If you have the money at hand, it will almost always be a better choice to pay for your sofa upfront.

    Online vs offline

    The most common way of finding a sofa nowadays continues to be in stores or showrooms. However, as with many other retail categories, sofas are increasingly moving online. In the new age of sofa shopping, Homefitter simplifies the search process to find a new piece of furniture that suits your style, space and wallet. We continuously update our extensive product database, smart filtering and search functions to enable you to find your dream furniture in no time. Many sofa websites don’t have the appropriate filters for you to easily navigate their selection of products. Homefitter solves this problem by bringing together sofas from all the UK’s leading retailers in a consistent and searchable database

    Pro tips

  • Most sofa retailers offer free colour swatches that you can order for free. Pin them on the wall where you plan to place your sofa and see how the colour changes throughout the day.
  • If available, use augmented reality apps from sofa retailers to check how a sofa would fit into your living space.
  • If you’re keen to see your sofa in person before committing to a purchase, most sofa retailers have showrooms or retail stores that you can visit nearby. Note that some online promotions might not be available if you buy a sofa in a store or showroom.

  • Step 5: Delivery and returns

    Delivery

    More often than not, sofa retailers will have frequent promotions offering free delivery. You can check if and when a sofa retailer offered free delivery in the past by searching for their brand name and ‘promotions’ online.

    Whether you pay for delivery or not, remember to read the fine print on whether the delivery is to the curb or to your living room. If it’s the latter, make sure you have cleared any entryways allowing the delivery team to easily get your sofa in place. 

    Returns

    If you’re not satisfied with your new sofa, some retailers offer free or self-paid returns within a certain number of days. Check the terms and conditions for returns before buying a sofa to avoid ending up with excessive return-delivery courier costs.

    Love Your Sofa Till Tear Do You Part

    Maintain your sofa

    STAIN PROOFING | WASHABLE COVERS | CLEANING & STAIN REMOVAL

    As you can see below, about two thirds of sofas in the UK are stained from either children, pets or food and drink spillages. The best way to avoid stains is prevention and frequent cleaning. We are here to help.

    67% have a sofa which has been stained by a child or pet [....]. Food and drink spillages are currently staining 66% of the UK’s sofas. 22% have even had to replace a piece of furniture because the stain was so bad it couldn't be cleaned

    Furniture Village (2021)

    Stain proofing

    Check if the manufacturer has already applied a stain proofing formula to your sofa. If so, it is worth asking the sofa retailer whether it is appropriate to apply a second layer of stain proofing. Most commonly, we should apply an upholstery protector before breaking in our sofa. As these formulas may contain chemicals, we recommend that you apply the formula and air out your home properly before making use of your sofa. Examples of the most recommended stain proofing agents include Scotchgard Fabric & Upholstery Protector, Guardsman Fabric Defense & Upholstery and Nano Textile TEX-10 (eco friendly).

    Washable covers

    In a particularly active household with either kids, pets or boozy adult gatherings, it might be sensible to invest in a sofa with a washable cover. Even after stain proofing, a washable cover easily comes off and goes in the washing machine. Fresh as new within a washing cycle.

    Cleaning and stain removal

    Cleaning

    Even after applying stain proofing, it is important to have a regular sofa cleaning cadence. Regularly cleaning your sofa will not only keep it tidy and extend its lifetime, but also make sure any excess dirt, crumbs or pet hair is dealt with before they leave stains. Most experts recommend that you clean your sofa on a weekly-to-monthly basis depending on usage. 

    Basic stain removal from household ingredients

    As the first line of defense, you’ll want to try to deal with stains removal formulas based on household ingredients. Think of your stain removal approach as a stepwise ladder – you start with a clear dish washing up liquid and move onto harsher chemicals if the former solution did not work. You might even be able to make your own stain removal formula. As an example, some experts speak of a ‘natural’ stain removal formula containing 1 part dish soap and 4 parts white distilled vinegar in a glass spray bottle. 

    Powerful (and more chemically) stain removal

    If you’re at the mercy of red wine, coffee, chocolate or bodily-fluid stains, a more powerful stain removal product such as an enzymatic cleaner might be required. Again, we’d suggest you try with more natural products first before moving onto harsher chemicals. 

    Machines

    If all hope is lost, the final resort might be to either rent or buy a compact carpet-and-upholstery cleaning machine. If you head down to your local carpet store or dry cleaner, they might let you borrow their machine.

    Pro tips

  • Check Fiverr or Airtasker if someone in your local area might own and rent out a compact carpet-and-upholstery cleaning machine.

  • Disposing of your sofa responsibly

    RESELL OR FREECYCLE | CHARITY SHOP | LANDFILL

    According to the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), manufacturing one sofa produces on average 90 kilograms of carbon dioxide or similar emissions which is equal to driving 220 miles or 350 kilometers. Main drivers of these emissions come from ~42% foams and fillings, ~22% textiles and ~15% from timber and board. 

    According to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA), each year the UK throws away approximately 672,000 tonnes of furniture. The society advises that over half of this waste could be re-used. Only 17% of unwanted sofas are re-purposed, with the remainder going to landfill. To minimise the environmental impact of discarding sofas, we have outlined three responsible avenues that you might consider to get rid of your sofa (in prioritised order).

    Resell or freecycle

    Find a new home for your old sofa. Some people might be in the market for a worn sofa that they can upcycle. If your sofa is still in decent condition, you might even be able to make a small buck from it. Most common marketplaces for reselling or freecycling include Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. You might also be able to hand back your old sofa to a sofa retailer when they deliver your new sofa.

    Charity shop

    Another option is to give your old sofa to a charity shop. Please note that in order for organisations such as the British Heart Foundation to accept your donation, the sofa needs to have a valid fire safety label attached. Examples of charity organisations that offers free sofa collections include British Heart Foundation and Thames Hospice,

    Landfill

    If your sofa doesn’t have a fire safety label, the last resort might be to send it to landfill. If you have access to a large vehicle, you might be able to get the sofa to landfill yourself. If not, companies such as Top Waste provide an end-to-end service for sofa removal, recycle as much as possible and minimise the amount of parts ending up in landfills. Getting professional help to dispose of your sofa typically costs £10-100 depending on your situation and timelines (often companies help within 24 hours).

    Recap

    That’s it – we’ve covered a lot of ground and hope you made it this far. We could go into a lot more detail for each individual topic (and we will in separate articles!), but hope that this guide has given you a better understanding of how to:

    • Find a sofa that fits your living space, style and wallet.
    • Maintain and extend the lifetime of your sofa.
    • Responsibly dispose your sofa when it’s time for a refresh.

    Please leave any feedback in the comments section and feel free to share this with your friends. If you’re a business, feel free to reference this article as long as you credit our site.

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