In the average sofa’s 11-year lifetime, it will be used for an estimated 6,500 hours of TV-watching and approximately 2,700 hours of reading, according to a semi-scientific 2017 survey of 2,000 UK sofa owners by retailer Furniture Village. As the centerpiece of the living room and the furniture that sees the most day-to-day use, the comfort and durability of a sofa is very important indeed. I’ve spent two months researching the best sofas to buy because, as a big ticket item, it’s a decision you want to get right first time, and there are lots of factors to consider.
Even the best online homeware or interior shops can’t let you try before you buy, which is why bricks-and-mortar sofa stores continue to thrive. But there are upsides to internet shopping for a sofa – more fabric options, wider choice, and the fact that you can shop from the comfort of your (current) sofa. So where to begin?
How to choose the right sofa for you
Start by choosing the type of sofa that will best fit your needs. There are five key types: two-seater, three-seater, corner, and modular sofas, plus sofa beds (and you can read my recent tried-and-tested guide to the best sofa beds here). The first two are self explanatory – they can sit two or three people. Corner sofas have an L-shaped design which is useful for families who need to squish extra people into a small space.
Modular sofas, which can be rearranged to suit your space, are rapidly rising in popularity according to the Telegraph’s design and interiors editor Jessica Doyle. “Barker & Stonehouse have seen an 83% increase of sales in modular sofas over the past two years,” she says. “People are using them to create multifunctional living spaces and divide open-plan rooms.” Doyle also recommends the Australian sofa brand King’s modular designs (kingliving.co.uk).
“Rounded shapes are a huge trend,” says Doyle. “Curved backs and crescent-shaped sofas soften a room and are good for conversation.” This is echoed by Charlotte Thomason, a sofa buyer at John Lewis which is launching a new curved cream bouclé sofa as a result of rising interest.MADE.com is another good port of call for affordable trend-led sofas.They have several curved and crescent-shaped options.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, then it’s worth investing in a sofa that will last. “People are investing in a well-designed sofa that they’ll keep for years,” says Doyle, “rather than a five-year stopgap sofa that will end up in landfill.”
For an investment piece, Doyle recommends Lorfords, whose traditionally upholstered sofas are handmade in their Cotswolds studio. “You can choose the style, the exact dimensions, and the fabric you want. They’re expensive but built to last a lifetime.”
Durable, stain-resistant fabrics may be the best choice if your sofa is likely to get a lot of wear and tear from kids, pets or drink spillages. The common sofa fabrics that need less TLC are linen, leather or polyester. “Leather has always been a popular choice for those with families and pets; it’s easy to clean and really durable so will stand the test of time,” says Thomason. “Bouclé and more textured weaves are also growing in popularity with our customers.”
If you have more freedom, you could opt for velvet, wool or cotton, all of which need a little bit more care. “Velvet is still really popular, particularly in strong colours, and patterned fabrics are also on the up, especially stripes and florals,” says Doyle. “They’re more practical as they help to hide marks.”
How I tested the best sofas
Quite simply, a sit test – it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. I visited showrooms and quizzed experts, taking into account the design, comfort, range of fabric options, quality and filling of each sofa.
At a glance – the best sofas for 2022
The best sofas for 2022
1. John Lewis & Partners Refine Large 3 Seater Sofa
From £1,449, John Lewis
Most versatile sofa
We liked: the vast range of upholstery options
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.