By Amy Lockwood published
Looking for the best couch? Whether it's a versatile sectional sofa, a roomy chaise, or a compact two-seater, finding the best sofa for your living space is essential to a successful interior scheme.
After all, as one of the largest pieces of furniture in the living room, the style of sofa you opt for can set the tone for the whole room, so finding one that works with your decor is a key consideration.
Plus, of course, not only is a sofa a visual focal point, but it's also the place we relax, unwind, gather and socialize, so as much as a couch needs to match our aesthetics, it also needs to deliver on a practical front, working with our lifestyles to offer everyday comfort and functionality.
The best couches: a buying guide
Where to begin when embarking on the search for the best couch? A good place to start when furnishing any room is with a mood board. Whether physical magazine rip-outs or digital idea pinning, use it to collate all of the ideas you love into one place and then eliminate anything that doesn't fit the overall scheme.
This can help you to determine the room style you want to achieve and work out which sofa shapes will best suit that look. It will also keep you on track when you hit the stores, anchoring your ideas so you don't become swayed by the uber-contemporary two-seater that doesn't match your rustic country cottage dream. Our living room ideas page is a great place to find some inspiration.
Next, consider lifestyle. Will the sofa be placed in a family room that needs one large corner sofa for multiple members of the household to gather or do you use the space for entertaining, in which case opting for two or more sofas facing each other can make for more comfortable conversation. And of course, if you're looking for multi-functionality, the best couch for you might actually be one of the best sleeper sofas, instead.
Finally, there are the details like upholstery choice, seat construction, leg height and size to pin down. We have plenty of advice on these at the end of this guide.
Once you have a good idea of the sofa that will best suit your home, it's time to go looking for it. And that's where this guide comes in. We've rounded up the best couches on the Homes & Gardens team's radar to help narrow down the search, whether you're looking for formal classicism, relaxed beach-house style, or contemporary minimalism.
The best couches of 2021
1. Arhaus Paxton Sofa
Best couch for a classic interior: a traditional silhouette with English rolled arms
Reasons to buy
The perfect couch for a period property – or for adding character to a contemporary home – the classic Paxton Sofa from Arhaus is designed with a refined silhouette featuring elegant curved lines, English rolled arms with pleat detail, and gently tapered feet.
Available in six ready-to-ship tonal weaves, there are also over 500 custom upholstery options to choose from, making it simple to find the exact shade and texture to match with interior decor.
The couch also comes in a range of widths to ensure the perfect fit, and – a particularly useful feature – a choice of depths, which is brilliantly helpful when furnishing smaller rooms.
As for comfort, the sofa base has a firm yet flexible 'no-sag' support system topped with seat cushions filled with a core of eco-friendly foam and flexible coils, and then wrapped in an outer layer of down, feather and polyfiber. This offers both plenty of sink-factor and enough bounce to combat too much cushion plumping. Backrests aren't forgotten either, with flexible webbing support filled with resilient memory foam cushioning.
For longevity, frames are built from solid hardwood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and there is the option of sustainable fabric too, in the form of the SEAQUAL-Certified upholstery collection which is crafted from repurposed marine plastic.
2. &Tradition Cloud LN2 sofa
Best couch for a contemporary interior: minimalist design that offers maximum comfort
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Paying homage to Denmark’s long-standing design heritage, Danish design house &Tradition aims to bridge old and new by creating furniture and interior objects with timeless appeal. From reissuing design icons to creating future classics in collaboration with acclaimed international designers, its collections honour craftsmanship, creativity and longevity of use.
The Cloud LN2 is just such a carefully considered design, blending the pared-back functionality of Scandinavian design with the exuberant luxury of designer Luca Niichetto's Italian heritage.
A simple linear black metal base is contrasted with sumptuous cloud-like pillows which form the seat, backrest and armrests, whilst a slim curved panel wraps around the sides and rear of the sofa to emphasize the feeling of cocooning comfort.
Available in two sofa widths – plus a lounge chair – the low profile and well-thought-out side and back details make this a great seating option for central placement in a larger room, offering a useful zoning tool to break up an open plan space and create intimate pockets of seating.
The high linear legs and raised seat base also create the feeling of floating mid-air – much like a cloud – which makes the furniture just as useful an option for a smaller living space, allowing your eye to travel under the sofa to the far wall of the room and maximizing feelings of spaciousness.
3. Case Kelston Sectional
Best sectional sofa: versatile modular design with an ingenious adjustable backrest
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
A sectional sofa is a great option for a larger living room, with modular seat units allowing you to tailor the couch configuration to best suit your seating needs and allowing you to add as many sections as required to create a sofa in proportion with a large scale room.
Investing in a sectional design is also a wise move if you have an open plan layout. The seating will help to zone a larger area, creating a pocket of more intimate seating – especially if you throw in a corner section or two to create an L or U-shaped 'room within a room'.
The Kelston Sectional from Case has everything you need for this purpose, including a low-to-the-floor design that will ground an open-plan scheme – although you will need that large living space as wide armrests and a super chunky build mean this couch certainly isn't compact.
This isn't a sectional you sink into when you sit, but the polyurethane foam seat cushions and back cushions with 50% natural feather and 50% polyester fiber fill ensure there's enough give for comfort.
And the best bit? That has to be the adjustable headrests. The chunky backrest disguises a simple-to-use articulating mechanism that raises and lowers individual headrests for optimum seating comfort. Finally; a sofa that sees a contemporary low profile and comfortable back support combined.
4. Arhaus Baldwin slipcovered air sleeper sofa
Best sleeper sofa: multifunctional sit sleep design
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Sometimes a couch needs to fulfil more than just seating requirements, and if you're furnishing a summer house that's short on guest rooms – or just want to add some extra overflow sleeping space – then a sleeper sofa is the sort of multifunctional furniture you want in your decorating arsenal.
Plus, you can rest assured that today's new generation of sofa beds aren't any compromise on aesthetics. In fact, with its classic rolled arms, comfortable seating, and traditional skirted slipcovers, you'd never know the timeless Baldwin Air sleeper sofa offers hidden bedding lurking in its depths.
The versatile design is available in either a 76" two-seater with a full-sized mattress, or an 89" three-seater with a generous queen-sized mattress that offers plenty of seating and sleeping space for you and your guests.
Made in North Carolina, the Baldwin is manufactured with an awareness of its environmental impact; using wood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and foam cushion core partly derived from sustainable, plant-based materials.
Over seventy upholstery options ensure plenty of fabric and color choices and, even better, twenty of those fabrics are machine-washable so the slipcovers can easily be removed and freshened up. Ideal for a family home or vacation rental, and further extending its sustainable credentials by offering an easy way to replace tired upholstery and ensure the base frame's longevity.
You can find more multifunctional sit sleep options in our guide to the best sleeper sofas.
5. HAY Arbour 3-Seater Eco Sofa
Most eco-friendly sofa: sustainable materials and pared back design
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Denmark’s first Nordic Swan Ecolabel sofa, the Arbour Eco has environmentally-friendly and circular design at its heart.
A collaboration between Daniel Rybakken and Andreas Engesvik for Scandinavian brand Hay, the design began by purposely throwing out the 'rules' of conventional sofa building, and stripping the concept back to its bare essentials. The result is an honest and simple design that allows the individual seating components to shine through in the build.
Rather than go down the traditional route of layers of (often highly unsustainable and chemical-laced) fibres glued one on top of each other to construct the sofa frame and cushioning, Rybakken and Engesvik envisaged the wooden frame and upholstered cushions as independent solutions, with the benefit that all components are repairable or replaceable to prolong the longevity of the sofa as a whole.
And, there is no compromise on comfort, with feather and foam cushions and web suspension providing plenty of slouch-factor.
This approach means the sofa can achieve STANDARD 100 OEKO-TEX® certification – unusual in a sofa build – which ensures textile products emit no harmful chemicals, and that all materials can be sourced sustainably, with the beautiful oak, walnut or beech timber frame options harvested from FSC-certified forests.
6. CB2 KST Sofa
Best affordable couch: a luxe-look velvet sofa with scalloped back detailing
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
A velvet sofa is a great way to bring some grandeur to a room, with the fabric's sumptuous pile and soft sheen adding luxurious lustre to an interior, and the KST sofa from CB2 proves you don't need a grand budget to achieve the look.
The affordable 3-seater couch, designed in collaboration with Los Angeles interior designer Ross Cassidy, retails at well under the $3000 mark.
Admittedly there is a limited upholstery color palette on this lower-priced model, but the light sand or rich forest green cotton and polyester mix velvets are both attractive and versatile shades – plus there are five other twill, boucle and poly/linen blends on offer.
Considering the price point, this couch doesn't scrimp on the design detail either, with the eyecatching scalloped backrest making a welcome decorative addition, and materials are equally well-considered, with a frame crafted from FSC-certified oak and feather and own seat cushioning.
Perfect for furnishing a summer home or for youngsters who've just flown the nest, the luxe-look piece makes for some great entry-level seating.
7. Gubi Stay Sofa
Best curved couch: a contemporary cocoon shaped sofa
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The appeal of the curved sofa shows no signs of waning, and with a silhouette that both cocoons and lends a sense of voluptuous decadence to a room, it's easy to see why curvaceous seating has become less of a trend and more of a design staple.
The cream of the curvaceous crop has to be Gubi's Stay sofa. Designed to emulate "a continuous pencil stroke wrapping a solid texture", its raison d'être is to embrace the sitter and encourage you to stay seated for longer, and its fluid, organic shape has become somewhat of a sculptural icon.
Best upholstered in a sumptuous velvet that catches the light and enhances the elegant curves, this statement piece is perfect for an open-plan room where it can be appreciated from all angles, although the semi-circular form can also work well placed in a corner where it will subvert the usual tendency to push a sofa back against a wall.
8. Arhaus Madrone leather sofa
Best leather couch: classic leather in a contemporary design
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
A refreshing alternative to the traditional 'gentleman's club' style of leather couch, the Madrone leather sofa combines timeless upholstery with a contemporary low-profile frame.
Despite its generous size, the track arms that run in line with the backrest create a simple and minimalist silhouette and the sofa's solid wood legs are inset, making the sofa appear to float above the ground; all great design tricks to eliminate bulk and create a spacious sofa that works well in almost any size of room.
Add to that deep seating accented by subtle piping and aniline-dyed leather with a rich, matte surface and super soft feel, and you have a sofa that will age well in all senses of the word.
There are only two shades of leather on offer – a golden tan and dark grey-brown – but both are exceptionally versatile shades, with the natural details in the leather’s surface, uneven pebbling, and subtle color variations adding unique beauty to each piece.
9. Jonathan Adler BRIGITTE SOFA
Best fluted couch: deep pleats create sculptural form
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Fluting is having a moment in the land of furniture upholstery, and with its ability to work well in classic and modern properties alike, we're fully behind this decorative trend.
A fluted couch offers a contemporary twist on the classic tufted Chesterfield design, and adds detail without feeling overly traditional. But, a successful design is all about the fabric choice, as Suzy McMahon, buying director at British sofa brand Sofology explains: 'a clever upholstery technique that creates a whole host of different looks, fluting particularly eye-catching in rich velvets, allowing the curves of the flutes to beautifully catch the light.'
As an alternative to velvet, we think the Jonathan Adler Brigitte sofa nails this look well, combining two trends in one with its off-white boucle upholstery – although there is also a dreamy Celadon green-blue velvet option for a plush luxe look.
Is a fluted sofa one that will weather the test of time? That remains to be seen, but if you're looking for a playful update to a living space, then this heavily quilted option offers plenty of pizzazz.
You can stay up to date with the latest styles in seating with our guide to the year's top sofa trends.
10. Maker & Son Song Sofa
Best large sofa: spacious seating with comfortable feather and down pillows
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
For the ultimate in laidback sofa surfing, Maker & Son's humungous and comfort-focused Song sofa may be hard to beat.
Available in three spacious size options, from the generous 88" width to the yacht-sized 158", this is a couch built for oversized lounging – although there is also a loveseat option suitable for a smaller space.
We think a sofa built for relaxing looks best in a relaxed fabric, and there are over twenty linens on offer for a gently rumpled look. Add to that a selection of cottons, velvets, and corduroys, plus three blue and white denim options that make great hardwearing options for a fun-focused beach house.
Even better, all of the covers are loose fit, making it simple to update the look or replace well-loved couch upholstery in a far more sustainable way than replacing the entire couch.
But, as much as looks, this sofa is about comfort. As well as being bed-sized, the seat and back cushions also contain two ‘duvets’ – designed to be as comfortable as premium bedding – which are filled with a mixture of ethically sourced feathers and down. Between these ‘duvets’ sits a natural latex core which helps the cushions to keep their shape and makes for less plumping over time; the perfect place to kick back and relax.
Buying advice: how to choose the best couch
One size definitely doesn't fit all when it comes to sofa shopping, and finding the best couch for any particular living space generally comes down to some proper planning and forethought before you hit the store – whether that be online or bricks and mortar.
After all, a couch is an investment piece, and although it can be easy to be swayed by sumptuous cushions, luxe fabrics and dream silhouettes, however deeply you may fall in love with that uber-comfortable chaise sofa in the store, if it doesn't fit the proportions of a room, or the design doesn't suit its user's lifestyle, a sofa can easily become an expensive source of regret rather than a dream investment.
How to choose the right size sofa for a room
It may sound obvious, but the size of both the destination room and the sofa itself are two of the most important aspects to consider when deciding on a couch.
If you're working with a small living room then you need a design that doesn't overwhelm the space, and although in a large room you may think the sofa-world is your oyster, you still need to bear in mind proportions; a large room requires a sofa with enough impact that it doesn't become lost within a scheme.
One useful approach – especially if your sofa will be pushed back against a wall – is to utilize the two-thirds rule. This means opting for a sofa width that is no more than two-thirds the width of the wall behind it. If you have enough space to play with that you can opt for sofa half the width of the wall behind then this will increase the feelings of spaciousness further, and allow room for useful side tables and/or floor lamps at either end. Read our full guide to sofa scaling secrets to find the right seat to room ratio for you.
If you have an open plan layout then a chaise or a corner sofa can be a useful zoning tool. In this case, it's important not to go too small or the seating will appear lost.
Modular sofas, that allow you to extend beyond the remit of the usual three-seater width, can be a good choice for open plan interiors, with the benefit that individual sections can be combined to create U or L-shaped seating configuration. Grouping seating on or around a large rug will help to ground the relaxation area and create a more intimate 'zone' within a larger space.
How to measure up for a couch
We all know the rule to measure twice, and cut once. But beyond just measuring, being able to envisage the floor space that a sofa will take up can be particularly helpful in getting a room layout right.
Use masking tape on the floor and wall to mark out the sofa's dimensions – newspaper can also be useful to give a more 'solid' feel – and remember to include height and depth in your marking out.
Height is a particularly important dimension to consider if a sofa will be placed under a window ledge or below a dado rail, whilst depth will allow you to check how far the sofa will protrude into the room. You'll want to ensure there is plenty of room to walk around the couch comfortably, and that once a coffee table or side tables are added things don't feel too cramped.
And, whilst we're on the subject, don't forget access measurements. Your chosen sofa might fit perfectly within its destination room, but it's likely it will have to travel through the rest of the house – via potentially narrow doorways, right-angled halls, or up twisting flights of stairs – to get there.
All retailers should be able to give you access dimensions. If they're not clearly listed on a website, make sure to ask.
If your access is tricky, don't think that means you have to plump for the smallest two-seater you can find. A modular sofa is a great option for adding spacious seating to difficult rooms, and if you're furnishing the third floor or above, the new generation of sofa-in-a-box that arrive flat-packed have come a long way in terms of style. Manufacturers often also offer features like removable legs and arms that can help with maneuvering into tricky spaces.
Getting the sofa style right
Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but there are a few useful tips you can bear in mind to make sure you choose the best style of sofa for a particular interior.
Firstly, consider the sofa legs. Easy to overlook whilst you are browsing through swoon-worthy swatches of upholstery, the legs of a sofa can have a big impact on its overall appearance.
Generally speaking, large-scale, low-to-the-ground sofas that have no visible legs to speak of are best for large or open-plan rooms where a bulkier design will have a grounding effect, helping to anchor the seating scheme within the larger space.
Smaller rooms will benefit from a leggy design where the sofa base is lifted clear of the floor. Allowing the eye to travel under the sofa – potentially to the furthest wall of the room – will create a feeling of spaciousness and stop what is potentially the largest piece of furniture in the room from dominating too much.
Tall sofa legs can also be a particularly useful trick to employ if you're struggling with skirting board depth. In a small living space where every inch counts, the skirting depth can push a sofa without legs further from the wall and deeper into the room. A sofa on raised legs (depending on how they're positioned) could clear the skirting and enable the sofa back to sit flush with the wall. (You can find more ideas for space-savvy decorating on our small living room ideas page and get further top tips in our in-depth look at how to buy the right couch for a small living room).
Secondly, think about the upholstery. Unless you're buying a ready-made model, you will usually find a huge selection of fabrics on offer, and each can subtly alter the way a sofa looks and even feels – fabrics with more drape potentially creating a softer, more squishy sofa seat, whereas thicker less flexible materials creating more resistance and a firmer feel.
Velvets will add a smart, luxe feel, slubby linens can create a relaxed vibe, and hardwearing and more stain-resistant cotton mixes can be a practical addition to a busy family home. Sofas that offer loose covers can also be a great solution, allowing the flexibility to update upholstery as and when needed, and ensuring your sofa has the ultimate longevity.
You'll find more seating styling tips in our guide to how to mix and match pillows on a sofa.
How to find the most comfortable sofa
Sofa sitters tend to fall into two main camps; those that prefer to sit upright with their feet planted on the floor, and those who prefer to sprawl, curl up or recline. Finding the most comfortable sofa will depend on which of the two seating styles you are most inclined towards and then finding a sofa that suits your sitting style.
Those who prefer to sit upright will likely find a sofa with a shallower seat depth the most comfortable. This allows you to sit up straighter whilst your feet remain on the floor, rather than a deeper seat which will tip you back into a more reclined posture.
Finding a supportive backrest is also more important for upright sitters. Look for models where the sofa frame has a high backrest, rather than just relying on a high back cushion for support, and you might prefer a higher armrest.
If you prefer to curl up or lay down as soon as the opportunity presents itself then you're likely to be able to opt for a lower profile design with a more generous seat depth. You might want to consider arm height too, and opt for a lower arm that can double as a headrest when sprawled out.
Sofa cushion construction can also affect comfort levels and will be a consideration for vegan shoppers. A pure foam cushion generally offers a fairly firm sitting experience but has the benefit of springing back into shape after being sat on. Whereas feather cushions can provide a more plumptious seat, but tend to settle over time so can require regular plumping.
To combine the best of both worlds, many sofa manufacturers now offer foam cushion cores that are wrapped in a layer of soft feathers – providing comfort and retaining the sofa shape.
A background in art and design informs Amy’s love of colour, texture, and form, with a degree in Printed Textiles for Interiors at Winchester School of Art opening a gateway into the world of interior design and grounding her knowledge of the importance of decor, furnishings, and furniture in curating a well-considered space.
Amy’s own style is considered, contemporary and timeless, with a strong interest in contemporary craft and homewares that champion collaboration between traditional makers and innovative technologies. A belief that design - and all other aspects of our lives - must exist in balance with the natural world fuels her interest in exploring sustainable, circular, and regenerative design processes and underpins her passion for natural materials and responsible craftsmanship.
When she’s not writing about interior design or sourcing the latest homewares for Homes & Gardens’ readers, Amy is most often found deliberating over the perfect shade of white paint, digging through antique markets to unearth buried treasures, or printmaking in her home studio.
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