Sitting pretty - in search of the perfect sofa

Posted 31 May 2016 by Richenda Oldham

If you're in search of the perfect sofa, WhatHouse? has a practical checklist to ensure you get the best value for your money...

Sofa, couch, divan or settee? Whatever your name is for it, a sofa is still a major investment, which - if chosen wisely - should last you around ten to 15 years - although probably less if you own a dog!

The style that you pick will largely be determined by the interior design of your home. If you live in a traditional, period property then a scatter back or cushion back design with classic scroll arms and turned wooden legs would work well, whereas a modern loft style apartment will suit a smart fixed back sofa with square arms or even no arms.

Quality is of paramount importance and there are a number of checks that you can undertake to ensure that a sofa is going to provide you with many years of faithful service.


A well made sofa will have a sturdy frame and will feel solid and heavy. Always test the frame for its strength by sitting on the sofa, then pick it up and give it a bit of a shake. This will show if anything is loose. If it does feel wobbly, then avoid. Another test is to lift one front corner about six inches off the ground, if the other front leg has risen as well, then the frame is good and strong, if however, the other leg is still touching the ground, then the frame is weak.


Fillings in a sofa do make a difference, as they affect the levels of support and the amount of wear that they can cope with. If you have a large family and a busy lifestyle, then foam or foam with fibre will offer firm support and will look more tailored.Over time the foam will lose a little volume, but all you need to do is turn the cushions occasionally. The denser the foam the longer it will last. Foam with a fibre wrap is found in better quality furniture and has a softer appearance. Feather filled upholstery has a more relaxed appearance and provides good levels of support, but it hard work as the cushions have to be turned (weekly) and plumped up daily.


The most expensive type of suspension is the traditional eight-way hand tied spring, where the coiled springs are hand tied to protect the springs against the fabric. Many sofas have serpentine springs, which are s-shaped and offer a slightly firm seat than coil springs, which are a series of linked, coiled springs, similar to those used in mattresses. Pocket springs are individually contained in a fabric pocket and are generally better and longer lasting than plain coils. Sofas that have webbing suspensions are often flimsy and provide less support than springs.


The amount of wear your sofa is going to receive will influence your choice of upholstery. Fabric covered sofas offer a wide choice of colours and finish, whereas leather or faux leather is tough and easy to look after, but is only available in a limited range of colours.


1. A contemporary version of the classic Chesterfield sofa, Bagsie leather sofa, £2,595,

2. This smart deep buttoned, fixed back sofa has high sides for extra support, Miasto sofa £599.99,

3. A good example of a restored and reupholstered Victorian sofa with an elegant serpentine back, £2,400,

4. Sumptuous cushion back sofa with stylish low arms that accentuate the deep cushioned seats, Ridley sofa £2,385,

5. Loose covers are ideal for family sofas as they can be removed and cleaned, Egerton sofa, £945,


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