Buying a new sofa is a big investment for most, and whilst colour, pattern and size are likely to be front of mind, there are other design elements to consider. “A sofa shouldn’t be an impulse purchase," says Jemma Jaques, the visual design lead at The Lounge Co. "Aside from your bed, it’s the one piece of furniture that you’re going to spend the most time on. "Trends come and go, but you have to live with a sofa for 10-15 years. Always choose a sofa that you love and don’t be swayed by what your neighbour has just bought or the latest 'in thing.'"
Do...try before you buy
There's little standardisation across sofas, and so the depth of the seat or height of the armrest can vary between models. Some sofas provide considerable back support, whilst others are designed to sit low to the floor to encourage lounging. Trying a sofa before buying is really the only way to ensure its dimensions suits you.
"If you were planning on wearing the same pair of shoes every day for the next twenty years, you’d buy some decent ones! The same goes for a sofa," says Jemma. "Something cheap and cheerful might seem like a good idea at the time, but when it falls apart or just isn't comfortable anymore, you'll wish you had invested in well-crafted furniture. Check what the frame is made from, and always ask about guarantees on a sofa before you buy it."
Do...future-proof your sofa
"There's nothing better than a box-fresh sofa," says Jemma. "But modern family life means it probably won’t stay that way for long."
The quality of both the frame and upholstery will contribute to the longevity of your sofa. A solid hardwood frame is your safest bet, but be wary of a particleboard or metal construction as both can lose integrity over time.
Don't...forget to measure
"There is nothing worse than taking delivery of a lovely new sofa and not being able to get it through the door," says Jemma. "Our advice is measure, measure and measure again! "It's not just a case of making sure the sofa will fit in your room of choice – will you even be able to get it there in the first place? Consider access to your property, potential obstacles and whether you're going to have to get your new sofa in a lift or up flights of stairs."
Without physical samples of your sofa upholstery, it can be difficult to judge the scale of a pattern, or how the natural and artificial light in your living room will affect the colour or sheen on a fabric.
Most retailers will offer free or low-cost swatches, and if you're redesigning your whole living room, they can be gathered alongside paint swatches or wallpaper samples on a moodboard.
Don't...overlook extra features
Sofas can be with you for a decade or more, so it's wise to future-proof your choice wherever you can. Extra features like a matching ottoman or storage are always handy, and modern sofa beds are such that you can barely discern their hidden mechanisms.
"You might want to consider a modular or sectional sofa, which as the name suggests, comes in separate units. A great option if you've got an awkward space to fill or if you plan on moving house or growing your family. Simply add, take away or rearrange the modules to create a bespoke sofa that's perfect for you."
"Most sofas will come with a choice of cushion fillings, so it's always good to know what you prefer. Feather or fibre is soft and squidgy but will require daily maintenance to keep it looking ship-shape," says Jemma. "If you're after something a little more supportive, then foam is a good option that bounces back after you've sat in it."