Before choosing a sofa, be aware of your finances, and check your budget before you buy. If you have a strict budget some designs could be out of your price range, for example, leather sofas are generally more expensive than fabric sofas. Be realistic as to what you can afford. Buying second hand may be an option you could consider if money is tight.
There is something to be said for "you get what you pay for", and as a sofa often has major use I would say pay as much as you can afford for a quality sofa.
Think about the style of the room you are buying the sofa for and your own personal design preference. Are you going for a modern sofa with clean lines, a retro style from the 50's or 60's or a traditional Chesterfield sofa with quilted leather and a button back?
Consider the height of the back of the sofa, the depth of cushion and how comfortable it is to sit on. You really need to be testing out a sofa to see if it is the right one for you.
You may also want to consider a corner sofa or a sofa bed that can be useful when people come to stay.
Think about the size of the room and the size of the sofa that is appropriate for the room. If you have a small room you don't want the sofa to take all the space, however, if you have a large family you may need a big sofa. Perhaps two smaller sofas or a small sofa and chair would be a better use of space, only you can decide.
If you have a large room then your lounge can take a big sofa, such as a corner sofa and a small sofa may get lost in the area. You also need to take into consideration the length of the sofa for comfort if you like taking the odd afternoon nap.
Are you going to choose a leather or a fabric sofa? Leather sofas are easy to wipe clean, useful if you have kids or pets, but can be cold to sit on whilst fabric sofas are warmer but may get dirty easily. An alternative could be a fabric sofa with stain guard protection. Leather sofas are generally more hardwearing than fabric sofas too, the material on a fabric sofa can wear and fray over time.
You also need to consider a plain or patterned material. A sofa in a plain colour or tone is less likely to date, and the most popular colour is black or brown as these tones go with most decor and are dark so marks don't show as well.
Add a splash of colour with cushions and throws to add interest if you get bored with the design. A throw can make a leather sofa warmer too.
As mentioned before if you have kids, pets or a large family it can all impact on the style, size and material of your sofa. Again if you are on your own or a couple you will have different needs. If you have visitors on a regular basis you may want to consider a sofa bed.
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I hope this guide has been useful in how to choose a sofa. What designs and materials do you like?