How to buy a sofa online
9 min read
Published 28 May 2020
As a lot of us are spending loads more time at home right now, many of us will have decided to get our homes in order and that now is the time to finally replace that lumpy, old, saggy sofa. Large, expensive items like sofas, beds and mattresses are investment pieces of furniture that we don’t buy very often, so when we do, we understandably want to get it right and not make any mistakes.
I usually advise all my clients to try out these big items in person in the showrooms, to check that they are comfortable and will support the client properly. However, it’s pretty difficult to visit a showroom during lockdown, so what can you do? There are things that you can look for to help you make the right choice when you can’t try out a sofa, so I’ve put together a handy guide for how to choose a one online.
The first question you should ask yourself is ‘how do I actually sit on my sofa?’ Some of us like to sink back into the seat, some of us will curl our legs up under us, and others prefer to stretch out as much as we can. If you like to sink into a sofa, then you’ll need a higher back to support you and keep your neck in a good position. The average height of a sofa back has got generally lower as we embrace the lower slung styles of Mid Century design, with heights usually ranging from 75cm to 90cm from floor to top of back. Anything 90cm or above is considered to have a high back these days. It might sound obvious, but check the height of the sofa’s back on the seller’s website and get your tape measure out. Compare it to your current sofa - do you want it to be higher or about the same as you have now? Remember, a higher back doesn’t have to look like something you’d find in your Granny’s house - look at this one from Sofas and Stuff:
|The Waverley sofa from Sofas and Stuff with a back height of 93cm available in a range of fabrics and colours|
If you are the type that likes to curl up with your legs tucked under you - I know I am - then you’ll need a sofa with a deep seat. Anything too skinny will have your knees hanging over the front and will feel like they could fall off the edge, and you’ll be constantly readjusting yourself. Check the seat depth measurement - a skinny seat depth would be around 55cm, whereas one with room to curl up would be above 60cm.
|This is the Pudding sofa from Loaf, which has a seat depth of 72cm|
One thing to mention here is that Loaf also offer a tall leg height, which is 11cm taller than their standard leg height. I’d opt for this if you are tall (so your knees don’t end up feeling like they are up around your chest) or if you want to make it easier to get out of the sofa, avoiding that feeling that the sofa has swallowed you up.
If you’re more of stretch out as far as you can kind of a guy, then the length or shape of the sofa is the thing to look at. Think about your height and look for a sofa that is at least that length between the arms, or has arms you could rest your head on. A higher arm height or one with a non padded arm would be pretty uncomfortable, and not very good for your neck. A corner or chaise end sofa will give you more leg room when lying down, and is just made for stretching out.
The next thing which affects comfort will be the firmness of the cushions, or the seat filling. These are usually made up of foam, feather, fibre or are a combination of these. Foam on it’s own gives a crisp edged look for a more contemporary style of sofa, and will feel firm and supportive to sit on. It keeps it’s shape well and is supportive but doesn’t give you that ‘sink into’ feeling. It can compact over time, especially on a fixed style cushion where you can’t turn the cushions, so perhaps won’t look as good for very long.
|The Malmo sofa from Dwell - the seat cushions are foam filled for clean lines, whilst the back cushions are fibre filled for comfort|
Feather on it’s own is lovely and soft, and will mould to your shape so that it feels very luxurious. Because it’s so pliable, you will need to turn and plump these cushions fairly often so that they keep their shape and wear evenly. If you’re not a natural cushion plumper, then it would be best to avoid this type of filling. Fibre fillings are man made and so are less expensive to produce than feather or down fillings, but the fibres will flatten so again will need plumping regularly.
|The Limerick sofa from Sofa Workshop has a scatter cushion back, which looks super comfy|
On the style front, you’ve probably seen loads of pics of beautiful sofas online and then tried to look at the fabrics they come in and felt pretty uninspired. It’s really hard to show what a fabric looks like or what the texture is like on a computer screen. It’s great when a retailer shows you a mock up of your chosen sofa in all the different colours available, but these pics are usually computer generated and don’t truly represent what you’ll get. I would ALWAYS order swatches of the fabrics you like the look of, so that you can see what they’re like in the flesh, and more importantly in your home. You need to check how the fabrics will work with the rest of the soft furnishings and items in your room, such as the wall colour. Ordering swatches is usually free, and although it delays you being able to order the sofa of your dreams by around a week or so, it is definitely worth the wait to get it right.
Whilst we’re on the subject of fabric, you also need to consider how easy it will be to keep your sofa looking good. A white linen sofa is perfect for you if you never let anyone sit on it, but for the rest of us, we need to be a bit more realistic. If you have children or pets (and I’m not sure which is messier) then you’ll want to consider the type of fabric your sofa is covered in. Many people like leather as an option because it is wipeable, but leather can be harder to care for than fabric. It’s best to keep leather dry, so use a damp cloth to clean, and mop up spills immediately. Leather will need to be treated up to four times a year with a specialist leather cleaner, followed by a leather protection cream. If that sounds like too much like hard work, then I would avoid leather. There are lots of sofa manufacturers who now offer fabrics like Aquaclean or ‘clever’ fabrics, including velvets. These fabrics have been developed to be stain and spill resistant, with most spills and marks cleaned off using just water. So that on trend velvet sofa you’ve got your eye on can suddenly become an option, even with the dog and kids to consider.
|This is the Margot sofa from Love Your Home in Studio Rich Stain Resistant Velvet|
One final but important point on fabric choice. We’ve all seen that machine in Ikea where there’s a chair in a box being continuously hit by a robot arm, well it’s showing you how the fabric will stand up to being sat on time and time again over the years. Fabrics used for upholstery are actually tested in a similar way so that they can be graded for durability. The grades given are called the Martindale or rub test numbers, and the higher the number the better. I personally wouldn’t buy a sofa with anything under a 30,000 rub count, just to make sure it will last. Thankfully there are lots of fabrics with rub counts of up to 100,000 available, meaning they will be more hardwearing and last longer. The retailer’s website should give you these numbers, or sometimes they are on the labels of the fabric swatches themselves.
After thinking about the durability of your fabric, you need to think about the durability of the sofa itself. Most sofa frames are made of wood, and as you might expect, hardwoods are more sturdy than softwoods. Maple, beech, birch, oak and pine are considered the best for sofa frames, but they are more expensive than other types such as plywood or engineered woods. Some good quality plywoods can be as strong as hardwoods, so it’s worth checking with the retailer how the sofa has been constructed. A really good quality frame can last for years and years, and be re-stuffed and re-upholstered if needed. How the frame is held together is also important - glued, screwed and dowelled together frames last longer than those which are just glued. The retailer will usually have a frame guarantee displayed on their website which is a good indication of the quality of the frame. If you do decide to opt for a hardwood frame, then you might also want to check if it’s sustainably sourced.
Some more general things to consider when buying a sofa (and not just online) -
Spend as much as you can afford as a good quality sofa will be comfortable and last for years, so it’s a great investment.
If you are unsure of anything or the website doesn’t have all the info you need, then you can always phone the store for advice - a store with helpful and knowledgeable staff is a good indicator of the kind of service you can expect if something goes wrong.
I would always check the returns policy of the retailer - some will happily take back a sofa if you made a mistake or aren’t happy (although this often doesn’t apply to bespoke or made to order sofas).
And finally, check your newly chosen sofa will fit in your space with the other furniture in the room and also allow enough room to move comfortably around it. You also need to make sure it will get through the front door and the doorway(s) to the room you want it to be in, especially if it has to go up any stairs. Most websites will give the diagonal access dimensions needed for each sofa, meaning the space you need to tilt a sofa to get it through a doorway.
Now, after doing all that work, I think you might need to go and have a lie down on your new sofa.
Welcome to my design blog, where you'll see posts about anything from the projects we are working on, to the latest fabric and wallpaper collections, and 'how to' guides for all things interiors related. I love colour and pattern, architecture and old buildings, and I especially love the moment when you see something so beautiful it makes you take a sharp intake of breath.
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Colourful, wonderful boucle fabric
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|The trend for super soft Boucle fabric is still going strong, but up until now we've mostly seen it in creams and whites. One of my favourite fabric suppliers, Linwood, has produced a new colourful collection of 48 shades. It's a durable and soft fabric, and works particularly well on sofas and cushions.|
28 Apr 2022
|This month, we were pleased as punch to receive the Best Homes & Interiors award from the prestigious Cardiff Life Awards. Cardiff Life Magazine are well-known champions of our city, and the annual awards celebrate the best of Cardiff talent, so we are over the moon to be named 2022 winners!|
Morris & Co. X Ben Pentreath
28 Mar 2022
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28 Feb 2022
|One of my favourite design houses, Woodchip & Magnolia, have gone all out for the all over pattern trend and produced wallpapers and fabrics in the same prints, which I love. You can see the whole stunning collection here.|
New fabric collection from Prestigious Textiles
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New reeded glass pendants from Mullan Lighitng
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|Lighting designers and manufacturers Mullan Lighting have a new range of reeded glass pendant lights available. These Mid Century inspired lights come in three shapes and four finishes, but the Nahla (the one pictured above) is my favourite. You can see the range here.|
Little Greene and Bert & May join forces
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Little Greene has announced a collaboration with tile brand Bert & May. The collection sees eight gorgeous Little Greene shades translated onto tiles, giving you even more opportunity to add colour, texture, and a mix of materials to every area of your home. I love this bathroom combination above, with the perfectly matched tiles and paint offset with touches of terracotta, mustard and oak. You can see the full collection here.
Dulux colour of the year - Bright Skies
29 Sep 2021
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A new home collection from Paloma Faith
28 Aug 2021
|British singer songwriter Paloma Faith has recently launched her first collection for the home. It includes wallpapers, fabrics, cushions and bedding, and she describes the look as 'faded grandeur and retro maximalism'. The prints are everything I love - dramatic, colourful and fun, and you can see more of the collection here.|
It's all about soft yellows
28 Jul 2021
|I was watching an Instagram live post from The Little Greene Paint Company last week, and they were discussing a comeback for yellow. Now, as you know, I don't think you have to follow the trends but yellow hasn't been fashionable for a long time, so this sunny, uplifting shade is often overlooked. A warm yellow like Little Green's Carys (above) is perfect for cheering us all up, and you can buy it here.|
The cushion that gives back
28 Jun 2021
|Introducing the cushion that gives back, from homewares company Oka. They have produced this cushion in partnership with The Trussell Trust who support two thirds of the UK's food banks, and 100% of the proceeds from sales of this lovely green velvet cushion will be donated by Oka to The Trussell Trust. It comes in a range of other colours too, and you can buy the cushion here.|
A beautiful new tile collection inspired by the National Trust
28 May 2021
|Just launched, Ca Pietra a new tile collection in collaboration with the National Trust. Every tile has been inspired by one of the historic properties, gardens or coastlines looked after by the Trust, and a minimum of £10,000 from sales of the tiles will be given to the National Trust to help them continue their important work. You can see the collection here.|
Yummy new switch & socket colours
28 Apr 2021
|Did you ever think that your light switches were good enough to eat? I'm guessing the answer is no, until now. You can now buy switches and sockets in these gorgeous colours from the new Dowsing & Reynolds Cafe Culture collection. They come in luscious shades like Cinnamon, Caramel Latte and Whipped Cream, so you can tone, coordinate or contrast with your wall colours and make every part of your interior scheme look delicious. You can buy the gorgeousness from here.|
A sustainable fabric choice
29 Mar 2021
|A beautiful new sustainable fabric range from Clarke and Clarke has just been launched. It's made entirely from recycled materials so you can refresh your home with a clear conscience. You can have a look at the fabric here. Get in touch with me if you'd like to buy any of this fabric.|
Sought & Styled - Preloved items given new life
28 Feb 2021
|This month I want to highlight a business run by a very talented lady I met a few years ago (remember when we could meet people?) Not only is she a creative interior designer, she also runs an online shop where she reuses and repurposes anything from soft furnishings to larger furniture items. Everything sold is bespoke and unique, and is effortlessly waste conscious because it's being used again. You can visit her shop here.|
Do kitchen worktops bore you?
27 Jan 2021
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A Fresh Take - Cardiff Life feature
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|This month's issue of Cardiff Life Magazine is out today, and features an interiors special, because one thing this past year has made us do is take a new look at our homes and how we'd like to live in them. To see what I and other local interiors experts have to say on the subject, including a round up of the trends for 2021, have a flick through the digital mag here.|
An enchanting inaugural wallpaper collection from Tom Baker
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|This opulent and atmospheric wallpaper from Tom Baker immerses you in a world of tropical flora, fauna and exotic animals. With soft cool tones and hints of pink floral detailing, this is the perfect wallpaper to add a relaxing and exciting edge to your home. Find this enchanting collection here.|
A new shady collaboration between Matthew Williamson and Pooky
20 Oct 2020
|The humble lampshade is often overlooked, but with the new collaboration between Pooky and Matthew Williamson they won't be for much longer! Matthew Williamson has applied his talent to design a new range of Pooky lampshades. Whatever your taste, colour scheme or budget you will find the perfect lampshade for your home in this new collection which is now available. This spectacular new collection can be found here.|
Felt covered curtain poles
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Please vote for my blog
11 Aug 2020
|I'm really thrilled to have been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog Award this year! If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to vote for me, I'm nominated in the Best Interior Designer Blog category, and you can vote for me here.|
Upcoming interiors trends from Love Rugs
10 Jul 2020
|Love Rugs, the people who know about all things rugs have just published a feature on the upcoming interiors trends for 2020. They asked six of the UK's top interior designers (including me!) to tell them what the upcoming trends are, and in particular the changes we will be making to their homes. The article can be read here, and if you'd like to have a look at the huge range of rugs they offer, click here.|
A new fabric collection from Linwood Fabrics
15 Jun 2020
|I love Linwood fabrics - they have a fab way of mixing colour and pattern into something really special, producing fabrics and wallpapers that make me want to coo. This new collection, available at the end of June, is just as gorgeous. It's called Kami, with the pattern inspired by a 19th Century document. The collection is a range of printed velvets, so perfect for upholstery and accessories like cushions.|
An easy way to update your kitchen
16 Apr 2020
|If you are looking to update your existing Ikea kitchen rather than replace it, Stockholm based company Superfront are here to help. They sell a range of fronts, handles, legs and tops to fit not just the Faktum kitchen range but also the Besta, Metod and Pax ranges - so you can customise anything from your sideboard to your wardrobe. These super cute round handles are part of their new birch collection, and the whole range can be found here|
Move over boring taps - colour is the new black
13 Mar 2020
|Colour has been taking over our kitchens and bathrooms for a while now (yay!), and has slowly been creeping into sanitaryware and fittings. These perfectly coloured mint green and pastel pink taps from the new Miami Colour Pop Collection from amazing homeware brand Dowsing & Reynolds are spot on and would look gorgeous in any kitchen or bathroom to add a shot of colour without overwhelming with sugary sweetness. You can learn more about this new collection here.|
Who knew a door stop could look this good?
19 Feb 2020
|Door stops are one of those little annoying things that we all need, but are not the prettiest to look at. Now London based Buster & Punch have turned their attention to the problem and transformed the humble door stop into something cool and covetable. They might cost more than your average one from a DIY store, but as you're going to see it every day, why not look at something beautiful? here.|
Wallpaper made of cork?
29 Oct 2019
|Sustainability and concern for our environment are key in the interiors world right now (as they should be). So when I saw that Monkey Puzzle Tree (a brand I admire for their sense of style and creativity) had produced this wallpaper made of cork, I was blown away. Cork is great for so many reasons - it can be harvested every nine years without harming the tree, is grown without the need for pesticides or fertilisers, has excellent sound and heat insulation properties, and is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. This wallpaper has an A+ rating for emissions so it creates a healthy environment wherever it is hung. Add to this that the design was produced in collaboration with the talented Drew Millward who lives in my home county of West Yorkshire, and that it's called 'Hit The North', I was bound to fall in love with it. You can buy the wallpaper here.|
I'm in Cardiff Life magazine - again!
17 Sep 2019
Now that the summer is officially over and our thoughts turn to cosying up our homes for winter, I'm here to help. If you're in need of some inspiration, you can read all about the interiors trends for Autumn and how to work them into your home in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. Hear what I and other interiors experts have to say on pages 18-22. You can read the digital version of the magazine here.
I've been nominated for an Amara Interiors blog award!
6 Sep 2019
|Exciting news! My little blog (Design Insider) has been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog award! I'm so chuffed to be included at all, and not expecting to win, but if you enjoy reading my blog posts then please vote for me. I'm nominated for the Best Interior Designer blog category. Voting is open until the 11th of September and you can vote for me here.|
My kitchen project featured on the Artifact Lighting blog!
1 Aug 2019
When I designed the contemporary copper kitchen, I wanted to use some copper elements to add warmth and also to tone in with the pink walls and pale grey units. I found these pendant lights from a company called Artifact Lighting, and they are perfect because they add to the 'warm glow' I wanted to acheive. They also have a vintage look which contrasts nicely with the sleek look of the kitchen units. When the kitchen was finished I sent some pictures to Artifact Lighting, and they liked the kitchen so much they featured it on the blog page of their website.
You can read the blog page here
House of Hackney's first outdoor fabric
26 Jun 2019
One of my favourite interiors brands, House of Hackney, who are known for their daring and quirky prints, have just released a new fabric which is suitable for our door use. They took one of their designs, Palmeral, and reimagined it in a fresh colour palette of off white and green. This colour fast and water resistant fabric can be used for anything from outdoor cushions to furnishing yachts (if you are lucky enough to have one!)
My thoughts on the colour Living Coral in Cardiff Life Magazine
31 May 2019
|Hear what I and my fellow designers have got to say about Pantone's colour of the year, Living Coral, and how to use it, in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. The article is on pages 84-86, and you can read it here. Do you think you could use it in your home?|
Sustainability in furniture design
7 May 2019
|Sustainability is something that is becoming more and more important in interior design - not just where we buy items from and how far they've travelled to get to us, but also the materials that they are made from. Kartell, one of Italy's best known design brands, have just released the world's first piece of furniture made from a bioplastic called Bio-On. It's a fully sustainable version of one of their best selling items - the Componibili modular unit, and it comes in four delicious pastel shades. They may be 100% sustainable, but they are also super cute and bang on trend with this seasons colours. You can buy them here|
The latest trend in shutters
24 Feb 2019
Forget painted shutters - the new style direction for window shutters is bare wood. These full height shutters made from sustainably sourced ash are the newest product from California Shutters, and are set to be big this year.
My new favourite tile!
7 Feb 2019
I was searching for some tiles for a client's splashback recently and came across these beauties from Topps Tiles. There's long been a trend for patterned tiles, with lots of geometric shapes and bold colours going on, but I've begun to see more and more tiles with a pattern in the surface of the tile itself. These ones are a lovely example, and the deep blue colour is just stunning. To get a closer look at them, follow the link below.
Pantone announce their colour of the year 2019
11 Dec 2018
Leading colour experts Pantone have annouced the shade which they think will be the colour of the year for next year - Coral pink. It might look very bright and scary, but it's actually quite easy to use. I wouldn't suggest painting a whole room in it, as that might be a bit overwhelming, but I would use it in small doses, such as on cushions or in artwork, to liven up a shceme. Pantone say that the colour is meant to 'embrace us with warmth and nourishment and provide comfort and bouyancy in our continually shifting envirnoment', which basically means it's a happy, uplifting colour, and might just cheer us all up!
My work featured on Homify
8 Oct 2018
My work has been featured in an article on Homify - one of the leading online ideas platforms for all things interiors. My project is in an article on how to avoid common mistakes when designing a bedroom. The article mentions how important it is to block out light for a good nights sleep - something I addressed by adding blackout lining to the curtains and adding an extra layer of window dressing with the wooden Venetian blinds. To see the article, please use the link below.