Sofa Buying Guide | Furniture Guide Directory | AHF UK

Sometimes it seems like modern man (and woman) spend half their lives sat on the sofa, usually in front of the TV, curled up with a good book, or entertaining guests. That’s why buying a new sofa can be a big decision and one you’ll definitely want to get right.

A common mistake is to sit on a sofa in a showroom for 5 minutes and decide it’s the best one for you because you find it comfy. Whilst comfort is obviously key, the materials and processes that are used in the manufacturing of a good sofa should also contribute to your decision. For example, if you are blessed with children or pets then the durability of your sofa will surely be a primary factor!

Let’s take a look at the different materials and features associated with many sofas and chairs. Understanding the positives and negatives of each type of sofa, and deciding which options suit your lifestyle will help to narrow down your decision, leaving you to worry about more important things, like colour!

Fabric & Leather Upholstery

Gone are the days when your only choice on the market was fabric or leather. With modern technologies, factories are coming up with new ways to replicate the look and feel of high quality upholstery but with lower costs and easier maintenance. This results in a wide range of different materials at different price points, and a durability/quality ratio to suite any living environment.

Here are some of the most popular terms used in the sofa industry and what they actually mean to you when buying your new sofa.

Semi-Aniline Leather

Manufactured from the finest hides, Semi-Aniline Leather is extremely luxurious and one of the highest quality leathers available on the market.

The surface is very soft and is classed as a natural form of leather; with only the most severe marks and imperfections removed, and being dyed but containing no pigmented surface coatings. As a result the unique characteristics of the hide such as grain and colour gradient remain visible, often leaving a slight 'mottled' effect.

A light surface coating is often applied to enhance the appearance and offer more protection against spillages and stains.

Corrected Grain Leather

The surface of the leather is fully pigmented to remove any imperfections, then a consistent leather grain is embossed onto the surface to create a Corrected Grain. This means that cheaper hides with greater imperfections can be used, since the markings will simply be removed during the manufacturing process.

The grain and colour is much more consistent than Aniline Leather which is sometimes preferred, and is easy to clean as well as hard-wearing and durable. At AHF all our leather sofas are dyed through and unlike painted leather the dye will not peel off.

Bonded Leather

Manufactured using leather fibres bonded with latex, Bonded Leather is very durable and more environmentally friendly than leather production.

However unlike Aniline and Corrected Grain, Bonded Leather is not 100% leather although can still be a desirable alternative due to a much lower cost while still having a soft leather look and feel.

PU Leather/Bi-Cast Leather

A material made with a split leather backing covered with a layer of polyurethane that is applied to the surface then embossed, resulting in an artificially consistent texture that can be created in virtually any colour, style and pattern.

Unlike genuine leather PU/Bi-Cast Leather requires very little maintenance and can be cleaned with just a damp cloth, and generally boasts a considerably lower cost.

Leather/Leather Match

Leather/Leather Match sofas are upholstered using real leather on the areas that you touch (seats, back cushions and arms) with the side and back panels made of a man-made leather-look material which matches the leather.

One of the benefits of Leather/Leather Match suites is the freedom to place them near radiators without concern, as the leather-look material is not affected by heat to the extreme that Aniline and other leathers are known for. By using leather match components the cost is greatly reduced but the sofa retains the soft feel of the genuine leather on the areas commonly seen and sat upon.

Micro-Fibre Fabric

Micro-Fibre is a synthetic material that incorporates tiny polyester fibres into a tightly woven fabric which looks and feels extremely soft, sometimes giving the illusion of a leather or suede-like material.

A perfect sofa material for people with pets as the fabric is so tightly woven and therefore scratch-resistant, it is also a lot easier to clean than other fabrics as only a soft cloth with soap and water is needed to remove the majority of stains.

Springs & Fillings

Comfort is a key factor when buying a new suite, so understanding what's going on inside a sofa is just as important as the way it looks on the outside. The two main components that affect the comfort level of your sofa is the springs and the filling, which work together to create the heart of any comfy sofa.

Let's take a look at the most popular spring systems and filling options used by upholstery manufacturers today, and how they vary in comfort and durability.

Coil Springs

One long piece of wire coiled into spring with a border rod of wire that helps the sofa to retain its shape. Coil Springs are common in many sofas today and are fitted to the seat base to give excellent support by ensuring even distribution of weight.

These springs are great value for money and are also lighter than other options making them easier to lift.

Serpentine/Zig-Zag Springs

A spring system made from steel wire that is shaped into a continuous ‘S’ shape, and a step up from the traditional Coil Spring.

The main benefit of these springs is that they provide reinforcement to the frame along with greater support when using the sofa. The ‘S’ shape allows for a more even distribution of weight if more than one person is using the sofa.

Pocket Springs

Pocket Springs are individually housed in their own fabric pockets which allows them to work independently. They are often used in the backs of sofas or contained within foam seats to offer additional comfort, and help to maintain the shape of the cushions. Pocket springs only react to the pressure and weight which is applied directly to each one giving you great support.

Double Spring System

Uses a set of both Pocket Springs and Serpentine Springs, amplifying the level of comfort and support whilst giving you the benefits of both spring systems. Greater support is offered to the frame while the Pocket Springs react independently to any weight and movement changes.

High Density Foam

Being firm and highly resistant, High Density Foam is a great choice for seat cushions as it provides fantastic back and neck support. The foam is good at keeping its shape, and can sometimes house Pocket Springs or a layer of fibre for added comfort.

Foam & Fibre Filling

A combination of foam and fibre gives a softer look and feel to a sofa than soley using foam. It still has the benefits added support for the back and neck but has a softer feel. More maintenance is required than High Density Foam since the cushions need to be turned occasionally to maintain their shape and comfort.

Recliner Actions

Many sofas and chairs are available as a manual recliner with a lever mechanism, or a power recliner with an electric motor to ease you into the perfect lounge position at the touch of a button. Recliner seats are often supplied as separate units with removable backs for ease of delivery. Power recliners use a single motor as standard but some offer a double motor or even a hand-held remote for even more control.

Single motor: When the chair reclines, the backrest and footplate move together and are unable to move independently.

Double motor: One motor controls the footrest and another controls the backrest. This gives flexibility with the reclining position to suit you

At AHF we have a wide range of sofas and chairs ideal for any home, with a variety of price points to suit your budget. If you find the same like-for-like product at a lower price anywhere else then we'll aim to beat it, even on luxury recliners from big brand names like La-Z-Boy. Have a look through our online catalogue, or visit us in store today.