Style and practicality should sit together comfortably when you're selecting a new sofa. Take a seat as we plump for the best in traditional and contemporary designs. The sofa is the hero of any living
space and often one of the most expensive items of furniture you will buy for your home. This essential piece needs to be quite an accomplished multi-tasker – it should be comfortable, practical and, of course, beautiful. It must complement not only the other features in the room but your lifestyle as well.
First, think about the style you want to achieve; is it a contemporary aesthetic or more traditional? Is the sofa destined for a casual living area or a more formal sitting room? As for size, do you need a two-seater, a three-seater or perhaps an adaptable design? In fabric or leather? Does it need to double up as a sofa bed for occasional overnight guests?
Once you've determined these basic factors, the fun side – the shopping and test-reclining – can finally begin.
The hot seats
The vast selection of sofas on the market today encompasses everything from traditional designs through refined, contemporary models to sleek modular, or sectional, units.
"The square-arm look is still popular," says Fabio Fanuli, Director of Fanuli Furniture in Sydney. "Even clients who have older-style homes often go for a classic style in the dining room but keep the sofas more contemporary."
As far as upholstery goes, textured fabrics in neutral colours are currently sought after. Deep grey tones are popular but prints are gaining favour. And durable leather is still a favourite, especially for sofas in family rooms.
"Our clients are becoming much more adventurous with their selection of sofas," says Jodie Kingman, Senior Designer at Coco Republic. "Deep buttoning and nailing are still popular, and we are now showing more prints, too, in bolder colours and textures. There are lots of retro prints, which look great in new colour combinations."
Removable slipcovers are a great idea for families with young children; if something gets spilled, smudged or smeared, the covers can be removed and the detritus of everyday life washed away.
Whether you opt for fabric or leather, fixed or removable, choose the highest quality covering you can afford. That way your purchase is more likely to wear well and look good for many years, saving money in the long run.
You can often tell whether a sofa is good quality by looking at the finish. Check that the seams are straight and that upholstery fits the frame properly. Look at the cushions, too: do they sit perfectly on the sofa frame? Have a look underneath to check the structure: does the frame seem solid and durable?
There should be enough padding covering the frame so that you don't feel the frame through the upholstery; this way it will retain its shape for years to come. Seating cushions should be supportive and retain their shape when you sit on them.
Measure the available space for your sofa before you go shopping. Be sure to measure all accessways as well, so that getting your new purchase into position won't mean having to remove doors or hauling furniture up the outside of the house because it won't fit up the stairs.
Choose a design that will suit the dimensions of the space. In small rooms, an armless sofa may be a good alternative to a traditional design. An armless model can look extremely elegant and, without the bulk of roll or square arms, will fit into a smaller room without visually overwhelming the space.
For larger rooms, a modular sofa may be a better option. This can seat a number of people in a flexible configuration that can be changed to suit your needs.
Hide 'n' sleek
Fabio Fanuli, Director of Fanuli Furniture, on caring for leather:
Keep leather sofas out of direct sun.
Keep the sofa dust- and dirt-free. Wipe with a soft cloth regularly.
Use quality leather shampoos and conditioners regularly to keep the material clean and nourished.
Just the spot
Renata Bayer-Volf, General Manager of King Furniture, offers advice on how to position your sofa:
Ensure that the sofa will fit the layout and flow of the room.
Select the focal point of the room, perhaps a fireplace or television, and arrange the sofa and other furniture in relation to it.
For modular designs, position the sofa so the open 'L' faces the room entrance and you can walk straight into a seat. Don't block the entrance with the back of the sofa.