Finding the best sofa for your living room can be tricky, so let our buying guide give you a helping hand
Choosing the best sofa for you to plonk your backside on every evening after work is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Not only does it take pride of place in your living room, but there’s every chance that it will spend the next decade there, propping up behinds with a modicum of style, and ideally a healthy dash of comfort.
The problem comes when you’re just not sure where to start with your search. Do you want a traditional or modern look? Two or three-seater? Leather or fabric? Before you even set foot in a showroom, the sheer amount of choice is dizzying. And even when you have a rough idea of the look or style you want, there’s a whole wealth of other things to consider. How can you ensure the quality of the construction? Will it offer the kind of comfort and support you’re after? Will the upholstery look as good five years down the line?
Our guide aims to make the process a little easier by breaking down all the key things you need to know before splashing out. And if you just want to start window shopping right away, you’ll find a list of the sofas we think are the very best on the market a little further down the page – with choices that cater for every budget and every style.
How to choose the best sofa for you
What size and shape should I choose?
The first thing to think about is where your sofa is going to fit. What manufacturers refer to as small, medium or large can vary enormously, but here’s a rough guide to what you can expect:
- Small – a two-seater sofa is approximately 152cm – 174cm wide
- Medium – a two to three seater sofa is approximately 174cm -191cm wide
- Large – a three to four-seater sofa is approximately 205cm – 214cm wide
It’s worth working out whether you would like only sofas or a mix of sofas and chairs, taking into consideration how many people you want seating for in total and how much space you’ll have left (a room overcrowded with furniture is never a good look).
Also, think about whether the shape works with the style of your home. For example, high backs go well in rooms with high ceilings, while corner sofas look good in larger living spaces and make for a good divider in open-plan homes. Also consider if you’ll need your sofa to double up as a bed – if so, go and have a look at our dedicated sofa bed roundup.
How important is the frame?
Without a robust and durable frame, your sofa will have much a shorter lifespan. Hardwoods such as oak and ash are best. Softwoods like pine, as well as plastic or metal, can buckle or bend and even snap. Ideally, legs should either be part of the frame or screwed or pegged in, not glued.
How long will I have to wait for my sofa to get delivered?
This really depends on the type of sofa you are ordering and where you buy it. Sofa delivery can be anywhere from the same day to 12 weeks, and even longer in some cases. To get delivery of your sofa sooner, try buying a sofa that is already in stock and does not require any customisation. It’s also worth noting that different stores have different policies on different products, so don’t assume all sofas on sale in the shop are available for same or next day delivery.
What filling is best?
This can make a massive difference to comfort, support, aesthetics, maintenance and longevity. Foam is the most common synthetic filling. It’s low maintenance and feels supportive – but make sure it’s not too hard (uncomfortable) or soft (doesn’t last) and expect it to lose volume a little over time. If you prefer a more casual, softer sofa, go for a feather or fibre filling, but expect to pay more and you’ll need to plump it up regularly. Increasingly, manufacturers use a layer of foam with a fibre wrap – this gives you the best of both worlds by being supportive with a soft and relaxed top layer.
What about the springs?
This isn’t something most people think about, but different kinds of springs make for a different kind of feel, just as they do with a mattress. If you can, feel the springs through the upholstery to check they’re close together and strong because if they are flimsy or there’s not many of them, the sofa is more likely to sag over time. And remember that sofas with webbing or mesh instead of springs may not be as comfortable.
What kind of fabric should I go for?
If your sofa is going to be used daily, go for a durable fabric like cotton, linen, microfibre, leather or wool. If you’re going for a pattern, your best bet is to get one weaved in rather than printed and try to get a fabric that’s been treated for stain resistance. When it comes to colour, remember all fabrics fade in direct sunlight. Once you’ve found the fabric you like, get a swatch to check it goes with the décor of your room and looks the same in natural daylight as it did under the synthetic light in the shop.
What about getting the sofa into my living room?
Take note of the height and width of any doorways, hallways or staircases that your sofa has to fit through when delivered. It’s amazing how many people don’t. Some companies may be understanding about any dimension-related snags – but others may not, so be sure to discuss any access difficulties with the company in question if you’re concerned that it may be a very tight squeeze.
READ NEXT: The best sofa beds money can buy
The best sofas you can buy in 2023
1. John Lewis Anyday Sweep Medium 2-Seater Sofa: Best sofa under £600
Price: £519 | Buy now from John LewisThis medium sofa from John Lewis’ Anyday range, upholstered in the brand’s ‘Saga grey’ fabric, looks surprisingly stylish for the price. You can either assemble it yourself by attaching the components and screwing in the legs, or take advantage of John Lewis’ free assembly service on delivery.
Comfort-wise, some might find the foam and fibre seats a little on the firmer side of things, and the arms are also quite thin. Those after a more plush sofa for regular lounging in front of the TV will inevitably have to increase their budget for a more comfortable option.
However, if you’re after an affordable sofa, perhaps for a first home, you could do much worse than this. Plus, the seven-day delivery time and 15-year frame guarantee from John Lewis certainly isn’t bad either.
Key features – Size options: 2, plus chair; Fabric options: 1; Delivery: Within 7 days; Warranty: 15-year frame guarantee
2. John Lewis and Partners Arlo Medium 2 Seater Sofa: Best classic sofa
Price: From £749 | Buy now from John Lewis
This chic sofa combines retro styling with clean lines and a neutral finish that make it a great fit for any type of room. Its tapered wooden legs, winged arms and buttoned back are striking without being too modish, but if you really want to make a statement you can order this sofa in pretty much any colour you want, from Bala Crimson Red to Moon Wool Cobalt. You can also choose between light or black wood for the Arlo’s leg finish.
Best of all, the Arlo is supremely comfortable. Its big reversible foam cushions are soft but very supportive, and the sofa feels robust enough to last many years. A great buy.
Key features – Size options: 3 sizes, plus chair, corner sofa and sofa bed; Fabric options: 123; Delivery time: Within 11 weeks; Warranty: 10-year frame guarantee
3. Swyft Model 01: Best “sofa-in-a-box”
Price: £956 | Buy now from Cuckooland
Unlike the now-familiar ‘bed-in-a-box’, the idea of a sofa-in-a-box might raise a few eyebrows. But Swyft, as the company’s name suggests, aims to do away with the hassle of getting a sofa set up in your home, by making one that’s quick and easy to assemble.
In that sense, the Swyft Model 01 delivers emphatically and is a great option for those who live in small spaces. Not only is it extremely easy to build, it looks great and arrives within 48 hours of ordering. As for comfort, you get a 100-day trial when you order direct from Swyft. So, if you’re not happy, you can just return it. Simple.
The downsides?The Model 01 arrives in three boxes which are, inevitably, pretty big and tricky to recycle unless you live near a dump. Although we found it very sturdy to sit on, the sofa’s patented “swyft-lok” technology also means that it’s easy to accidentally lift the side off the sofa when moving it, if you’re not careful. Otherwise, there’s very little fault we could find with this very practical solution to furnishing your new home.
Key features – Size Options: 2, plus chair; Fabric options: 5 velvet, 3 linen; Delivery time: 48 hours (if ordered direct from Swyft); Warranty: 100-day money-back guarantee (if ordered direct from Swyft)
4. John Lewis & Partners Barbican Medium Sofa, Aquaclean: Best durable wipe-clean fabric sofa
Price: From £1,299 (Aquaclean fabric) | Buy now from John Lewis
The words “wipe-clean” don’t automatically conjure up luxury, but John Lewis has achieved the impossible with this gorgeous sofa whose soft, stylish Aquaclean fabric (which you’ll have to select manually from the fabric drop down list) will withstand many a spilled dinner. Underneath is a filling of fibre-wrapped foam that’ll extend the sofa’s life even further, although it is on the firm side.
Aquaclean comes in a range of colours, from light greys to more vibrant reds and oranges. If you’re not happy with what’s on offer, though, you can also order the Barbican in other fabrics, in dozens of shades.
Key features – Size options: 4 sizes, plus chair, corner sofa and sofa bed; Fabric options: 32 if Aquaclean, 123 in total; Delivery time: Within 12 weeks; Warranty: 15-year frame guarantee
5. John Lewis & Partners Oliver Corner Sofa: Best corner sofa
Price: From £1,729 | Buy now from John Lewis
A corner sofa can be a great way of maximising space, and this modular sofa from John Lewis is especially versatile because it can be arranged and rearranged according to the layout of your room.
The Oliver Corner Sofa is made up of two medium armless units, a corner unit, and two arms that slot together to form a whole. The frame is solidly constructed from hardwood birch (with a choice of two leg finishes), and the cushions are filled with a combination of foam and fibre. Much like the John Lewis sofas we’ve featured above, it comes in a range of fabrics and colours (including Aquaclean fabrics), some of which will cost more than others.
If this particular corner sofa doesn’t take your fancy, you might be interested to hear that there’s plenty of other options on our best corner sofa roundup.
Key details – Size options: 4 units; Fabrics available: 123 options; Delivery time: Within 11 weeks; Warranty: 15-year frame guarantee
6. Furniture Village New England Newport: The best Chesterfield sofa
Price: £2,335 | Buy now from Furniture Village
The iconic scrolling arms and deep buttoned back make this a timeless piece. And while the classic Chesterfield often doesn’t work as a two-seater, this has been scaled down perfectly (as well as also being available as a three or rather magnificent four-seater). The supportive back, sprung seat and feather wrapped fibre seating all make for the kind of sofa that will help you relax at the end of a hard day’s work, especially if you bung a cushion or two at the back. No wonder it’s been a bestseller since it was launched by the retailer.
Key features – Size options: 3 sizes; Fabric options: 4, various leather grade options; Delivery time: Within 28 days; Warranty: 10 years
7. Habitat Hendricks 3 seater velvet sofa: A wonderful statement sofa
Price: £932 | Buy now from Argos
Designed by Habitat’s senior designer Matthew Long, this sofa collection is handmade in Italy and has become one of the store’s bestselling ranges. We like the low back, long seat and wide arms (great for laptops/coffee/newspapers). It has an uber cool 1970s feel about it when upholstered in one of the available velvet fabrics, though there’s a whole range of other fabrics and colours to choose from.
You won’t be disappointed with the comfort level either – it’s one of those sofas that you feel you can settle in for many hours at a time.
Key features – Size options: 5 combinations; Fabric options: 4; Delivery time: Next day delivery available; Warranty: 12 months
8. Heal’s Oslo Sofa: Best minimalist sofa
Price: from £2,199 | Buy now from Heal’s
Oozing contemporary Scandi charm, this sofa is as stylish as it gets for a minimalist, modern look. Granted, on first look it may not appear the kind of sofa you’ll be yearning to sink into once you return from work, but it’s surprisingly comfy, with a deep, well-cushioned seat and a high supportive back. We also like the curved arms, which are satisfying to lay your head on. Made in Norway, this couch boasts clean lines and has lovely tall, elegant steel legs. It’s available in a range of colours – our favourite is the light pink sofa with rose legs – and also comes in a smaller version and as a chair.
Key features – Size options: 3; Fabric options: 6; Delivery: within 6-8 weeks; Warranty: 6 years
9. Loaf Pudding Sofa: Best sofa for comfort
Price: From £1,545 | Buy now from Loaf
This traditional-style sofa from fast-growing direct to consumer brand Loaf (you may have seen their charmingly quirky adverts in your newspaper supplements) puts comfort at the front and centre of its design. Comprising two large seat cushions hemmed in by low padded arms, this sofa has enough depth for you to burrow into and snuggle up on.
It comes in four sizes, from small (150cm) to extra large (240cm), so is suitable for solo households and sprawling clans alike. One of the big benefits of Loaf is that its sofas are eminently customisable: you can choose between an eye-watering 134 fabrics for your Pudding sofa (but be wary that prices may vary).
Key features – Size options: 6; Fabric options: 134; Delivery: 2 weeks; Warranty: 10 years
10. John Lewis Lozenge five-seater: Best round edge sofa
Price: £1,999 | Buy now from John Lewis
Many sofas are angular, with harsh lines that don’t lend themselves to the kind of cloud-esque environment you want to cultivate when you’re relaxing. Enter the Lozenge 5-seater from John Lewis, with its soft, undulating lines and stylish boucle-style upholstery. This large, cream sofa is the perfect option for a spacious, sophisticated home with its cloud-like aesthetic, punctuated with freestanding dark metal legs.
With space for five people, this is a fantastic option if you like to host luxurious movie nights – just forego the hot chocolate!
Key features – Size options: 1; Fabric options: 120; Delivery: 1 week; Warranty: 15 years
11. IKEA Klippan: Best sofa for students and graduates
Price: From £229 | Buy now from IKEA
Nobody’s flush with cash when they’re a student or a recent graduate, and outside the domain of personal electronics or cars, a sofa is one of the biggest purchases you end up making in that stage of life. Whether you’re kitting out a sparsely populated university home or an unfurnished city flat, IKEA’s budget-friendly offerings are a lifesaver. The Klippan is a staple in university homes, but don’t let its ubiquity put you off: available in six stylish colours including a charcoal tone, a washed denim hue and a mid-century khaki, this sub-£300 sofa can be dressed up with smart, colourful cushions or dressed down with throws. Compact, aesthetically pared back and affordable – it’s no wonder IKEA is entering its fifth decade of Klippan sales.
Key features – Size options: 1; Fabric options: 6; Delivery: 2-3 days; Warranty: 10 years