I usually keep the more sporadic of my opinions for Instagram, and I thought I had said most of what I had to say about sofas on there to be honest. However I got a message from a mate the other morning, saying something like "we're about to buy some sofas for the new house, what are your thoughts?"
Oh my word! Like I know I have a lot to say about most things, but I surprise even myself some days with the sheer volume of opinions.
I can just imagine how I came across in my reply. Probably a little like Greta Thunberg at a UN rally for climate change. A little too passionate perhaps.
Whatever the case, their question wasn’t very specific, so they got exactly what they asked for...my thoughts on sofas.
The Basic Principle started because of these random 6am messages. Mates asking my opinion on things like grout colour and coffee table styling, so I figured why not continue to share the love with this.
Welcome to RAPID FIRE #5 : SOFA EDITION.
1) I’ve already mentioned this one in the What Would Christian Do series, but don’t be a Becky.
I know this blog is meant to be all about sofas, but we should start with the idea that a massive sofa is not the be-all and end-all to a room. An over-sized sofa that prevents the inclusion of other furniture such as armchairs or side tables, will do more harm than good.
Unless you're taking an awkward family photo, let's not pretend that guests want to sit side by side on a sofa for any longer than they need do. If you only have one sofa in a room, and no other seating options, you haven't got a comfortable lounge on your hands, you've created a casting room in a dodgy porno.
2) There is a meme floating around, about working hard and making serious money so that you can afford a house so big you don’t have to push your sofas up against the wall.
Although mildly inspirational, I don't really have any issue with the back of a sofa being pushed up against a wall. Apart from the down side of possibly leaving behind a mark in the paint work, this situation is unavoidable in most homes.
HOWEVER. The back of a sofa pushed up against a wall is one thing. Having one arm of a sofa pushed up against a wall is worse than naming your daughter Karen in 2020.
Built in sofas, or L shape sofas, this is not about you. I'm talking about two seater and three seater sofas pushed into the corner of a room. No. Just no.
Leave enough space to squeeze in a side table or something. Even just a little gap of about 35cm or so is better than nothing. This feeds back to point number one. Rather go for a slightly smaller sofa that will allow you to fit more into the room.
3) Although there are undoubtedly more red flags with Kanye West running for president than there are choices in sofa styles, even I'll admit that settling for the right sofa is a task and a half.
That being said, if you are stumped, you cannot go wrong with starting your search with a Howard Sofa.
There are about a million different versions of this sofa, sold by everyone from Swoon to George Smith, so it can be bought with any budget. More so than that, it’s the perfect shape to lend itself to any style interior, and can easily be swung contemporary or traditional.
A Howard with loose back cushions for example, can feel quite relaxed and inviting, whilst a version with a fixed back feels a little smarter. Great for more formal rooms. It’s the ultimate chameleon of sofas, and can be styled in multiple ways to boot.
4) When it comes to creating a well thought out, interesting and balanced room, it is always important to mix various shapes and styles of furniture.
I have used the example of buying things in a set of three before (masculine, feminine and vintage) and when it comes to sofas it is no different.
If you have one sofa on legs with a scrolled arm, make sure the armchair or sofa sitting next to it has more of a box base, with a square arm.
This sort of see-saw balancing act is what interior design is all about. You pick one thing you like, and you balance it out with the next as you move around the room.
5) Not to backtrack on the previous point, but there is nothing wrong with having two of the same style sofas in one room. However if you are only going down that route because you can't be bothered to find a second sofa you like, that's a little sad.
In certain spaces, having two identical sofas parallel (not perpendicular) to each other is a great way to balance out a room.
Note how I also used the word identical.
If you are going to have two of the same shaped sofas, they need to match in every way. Fabric, legs, size etc. Anything other than identical looks like you've either cleared a retailer of their showroom stock, or you've flaked and bought half a suite.
A blue version and a green version of the same sofa isn’t cute. It’s lazy.
6) If you only have one sofa in your house, go for linen rather than velvet or a leather. Keep the velvets and leathers for your armchairs and styling accessories like scatter cushions or foot stools.
Good velvet or good leather isn’t cheap, so if you're buying a three seater velvet sofa for £700, unsurprisingly it's not going to age very well. Rather go for a couple of velvet scatter cushions, so you can still scratch that velvet itch, than hate on your sofa when it starts to thin and fade in six months.
7) It’s what’s inside that counts, and unless you like cruel and unusual forms of punishment, don’t choose anything less than a sofa with feather wrapped foam cushions as a starting point.
Foam only cushions might look clean and sleek, but leave this for an upright armchair. A sofa needs to be comfortable, soft and inviting, especially if you only own one. The feather and foam combo means you tick the comfort box, as well as having sofa cushions that retain their shape.
Obviously there are other options like horse-hair and sprung seats etc, but if you already know that, this blog is not for you.
8) Side lining metal legs for this one, don’t under estimate the importance of your choice in sofa legs. Granted not all sofas have noticeable legs, but as soon as you are asked to choose one as part of your sofa order, it’s game on.
A short little cheese shaped wedge of a leg is a hard no. If in doubt, go with a turned leg of some sort, or at the very least add in a castor wheel.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something about a fat, triangular wedge leg that makes a sofa look cheap. Pop these at the back, and make sure the front legs have a little pizzazz.
Again like a chameleon, a turned leg can be both quite cool and quite traditional. Have them painted or finished in a gloss = cool. Pop a brass castor onto the front legs = pour yourself a whisky old sport.
9) I will probably need to write a whole blog dedicated to this next one, so I will keep it short.
Just because you might like an L shape sofa, doesn’t mean you should have one. I reckon that 99% of all houses I walk into, that have an L shape sofa in their main living room, have fudged it.
Three things to keep in mind:
a) Like a boxer catching his breath in between rounds, so too should an L-shape sofa be sat in a corner. Or at the very least, form the corner of the seating area in an open plan room.
b) An L shape sofa should be able to seat two people upright, and one person with their legs out. Any less and it’s not worth it.
c) Not all sofa styles were meant to be an L shape. When it comes to picking a style, think contemporary before you think traditional. A L shape chesterfield for example is an abomination to good design.
10) Of all pieces of furniture in your home, try a sofa before you buy a sofa. I have made the mistake before, and ended up with the biggest turd of a sofa. Luckily I managed to con a friend into taking it off my hands, which in hindsight he now deeply regrets, but guess what? I have a new comfortable sofa. So it's a win for me.