Guide to choosing a new sofa

There's nothing quite like settling in for some calm sofa time. After your bed, your sofa is the piece of furniture you spend most time relaxing on, meaning it's important to get it right when you are looking to buy a new one. We all have our own idea of what makes the ideal sofa, whether it is a classic or contemporary sofa, or whether it has a leather or fabric finish. Take a look at Tesco's buying guide to find the perfect combination of style, comfort and affordability.

Choosing the right sofa

The most important feature to consider when buying a new sofa is the size. If you choose one the same size as your existing sofa, then you know it will fit. But, just a few inches longer or wider can make all the difference, especially when it comes to delivery. You will need to ensure that you have the space to get your new sofa into the right room. This is especially the case if you have a narrow hallway, or an upstairs living room. If you have a particularly awkward route into the living room, then a sofa that requires either partial or full assembly may be the best option.

Choosing the ideal spot for your new sofa is important too. Try marking out the area on the floor with masking tape, to give you an idea of the space it will take up. Although it's nice to be able to seat several people at the same time, very large sofas can dominate a room and make it feel smaller. In this case, a pair of two-seater sofas might be more practical than one four-seater. This option also affords you more flexibility when placing them.

Types of sofas

A gray L-shaped sofa

Whatever your taste or the shape of your room, there is a sofa out there that will make a perfect fit. Sofas come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colours that suit all manner of room styles.

Corner sofas

Corner sofas are either left or right hand facing. They're great for stretching out on, and perfect for creating a cosy corner in a large room. Don't worry too much about getting one through your doorway, as they come in several parts due to their large size.

Modular sofas

Modular sofas make a real style statement. They can be used to define different areas in an open-plan room - simply select the pieces you want to create your own design. You can switch between left-handed and right-handed styles, and buy extra units to add to one side or the other. Armrests are often removable too. This option is perfect for smaller lounges, because you can rearrange as needed.

Recliners

Lots of modern sofas have reclining functionality built in. These recliners are perfect for lying back and relaxing, just make sure you have enough clearance between the sofa and the coffee table so it doesn't go flying when you extend the footrest.

Sofa beds

Sofa beds are ideal for multi-functional rooms. Maybe you have a home office that doubles up as a spare room, or a living room that needs to host occasional guests. Seeking out a good frame is probably the most important aspect to think about. Alongside metal or plastic based sofa beds, there are also hardwood frames that offer the best durability and back support for sleeping.

Futons

Futons are a more basic type of sofa bed. Smaller than average settees, and usually with no armrests, they can squeeze into tighter corners. Plus, if you separate the mattress from the frame, they'll roll up and pack away out of sight within minutes. Because of this, along with their relatively low price tag, they're popular with apartment owners and those with less living space. They also make a good extra bed option for bigger households. Futons come in double and single variations, with either foam or cotton mattresses. Make sure the mattress is at least six inches thick, so you don't feel the base when you lie down.

Chaise end sofa beds

These are great for combining corner style and function. They look much like corner sofas, but the shorter side is usually not sectioned, so it looks more like a period-style chaise longue for more comfortable reclining. Ideal as a cosy single bed, some models also fold out to give you an additional double sleeping area. Some even have neat storage solutions built-in.

Loveseats

Loveseats are sometimes sold as part of sofa sets. Designed to seat two people, these fashionable sofas are perfect for compact living rooms. They work as standalone statement pieces of furniture, or as part of your living room suite.

Upholstery choices

A fabric sofa with pillows

Because your sofa is often a place to settle in for a TV dinner, drinks or general entertaining, leather upholstery is a good hard-wearing solution. Leather is easy to clean without having to remove covers or take a trip to the dry-cleaners, and it looks great. That said, if you want a sofa simply for curling up and watching a film then fabric upholstery, like chenille, cord or soft microfiber, may offer more warmth and comfort.

For furniture used round the clock, such as sofa beds, it could be wise to look for wipe-clean fabrics or leather upholstery, especially if you have a young family.

When it comes to fabric, another thing to consider is whether to go for fixed or loose covers. If you have pets, small children, or a habit of spilling your coffee, loose covers may be the way to go - they can be easily removed and machine washed at up to 40 degrees.

Sofa colours vary, but we find that chocolate brown, black, red, and cream are very popular when it comes to leather. Our fabric upholsteries are stocked in a wide range of different colours and patterns too, so there's something to suit all kinds of tastes. Blue and charcoal fabrics are the best loved, largely because they're neutral enough to blend with different paint and wallpaper schemes.

Whether you're looking for smart, dark leather or fun floral fabrics, we've got a huge range of sofa options to choose from, and our handy Swatch Service can help make your decision much easier. We'll send you up to six fabric or leather samples within three working days, so you can see which one suits your room best before you place your order.

Types of leather

Leather sofas are crafted to blend style and quality with durability. High quality models are often made with grain leather on visible and easily worn areas, while split leather (the secondary layer of the leather hide) is used on the sides and backs. Quality leather is hard wearing and easy to maintain, so it's perfect for family life. It has an embossed grain and matt finish that offers a pleasingly consistent look throughout.

Premium leather

Premium leather is a higher grade that's softer to the touch, becoming suppler over time. It also features an embossed grain, but has a more natural look overall. Our 'Cognac' colour premium leather also features an antiqued patina finish.

Luxury leather

Luxury leather offers the most authentic leather look and softest texture, with a unique appearance thanks to the natural characteristics of the grain. The thicker, hard-wearing surface means your sofa will keep its good looks over the years, so it's also a good investment.

Semi-aniline leather

Semi-aniline leather has a two-tone appearance made by a fine pigmented protective coating. It's both durable and practical, retaining its natural markings and softness.

Corrected grain leather

Corrected grain leather is given a buffed and embossed finish during manufacturing. The surface is partially removed, along with any imperfections, before a surface colour and coating is applied, giving a uniform finish.

Split leather

Split leather is the lower split of leather hide. We only use this type of leather on the non-wearing areas, such as backs and sides that cover the frame.

Look for the leather mark - the leather mark reassures you that the hide has been tested by the British Leather Consortium (BLC) and is certified as 'Real Leather'.

Cushion fillings

Whether it's foam, a mix of foam and fibre, or a mix of fibre and feathers, the sofa filling you choose makes a big difference to the support and durability of your cushions, not to mention the look of your new sofa. Most cushions will soften in the first few weeks of use, but this won't affect their lifespan.

Foam sofa cushions

Foam is firm and supportive, and often used for seat cushions. It keeps its shape well and can be moulded into a variety of forms. Pocket-sprung sofas will have sprung seat pads wrapped in a layer of foam.

Fibre sofa cushions

Fibre is a synthetic filling, made up of strands of processed material. It offers light to medium support and is soft enough to shape itself around the body, making it ideal for back cushions and fixed-back sofas.

Feather sofa cushions

Feathers add a slightly more luxurious feel to standard fibre cushion fillings, due to the added softness. They offer more give and moulding, but as they move about inside the cushion and don't recover like foam and fibre, they need plumping up regularly to keep their shape and evenness.

Foam and fibre mix sofa cushions

A foam and fibre mix is used to give the best of both, offering a soft, lived-in look. That means cushions will need more turning and plumping. Seat cushions often have a deep pad of HR foam, with a layer of fibre on top to blend the recovery, resilience and shape of foam, with the soft feel of fibre.

Fibre and feather mix sofa cushions

A fibre and feather mix is used in our higher end seating ranges, along with some back, accessory and seat cushions. They need plumping up regularly to keep their shape and evenness, but fibre and feather blends are more resilient and durable than pure fibre-filled seat cushions. However, they may not be a good option for allergy or asthma sufferers who react to feathers.

Sofa care

There are a few simple steps you can take to help keep your sofa comfy and looking its best for longer:

Don't sit on the arms and keep sharp objects away from it.

If your sofa cushions are reversible, it's good to rotate and flip them regularly. Plump fibre and feather cushions should be flipped every week.

If possible, place your sofa away from strong direct sunlight, so the fabric doesn't fade.

Use a vacuum cleaner or soft brush to stop dirt from building up. Mop up any spills immediately with a clean dry cloth.

Try and utilise all the seating so the covers and fillings wear evenly. It's a good idea to follow the cleaning instructions provided.

How to clean your sofa

Fabric - use a mild detergent and avoid washing powders or liquids that contain optical brighteners. Most covers can also be dry cleaned.

Wash all parts of the loose cover set at the same time, to prevent colour differences.

Fixed covers should be steam cleaned regularly. If you don't fancy doing it yourself, there are companies who can come out and do it for you.

Leather - wipe clean with a damp cloth, or use a specialist leather maintenance wax.

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