Buy a new sofa this winter

If you're thinking of buying a new sofa this winter it can be tricky to know where to start. These days there are furniture sales before and after the festive season, only adding to the confusion.
Dog lying on sofa

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Buying a sofa is an expensive purchase, so it's worth getting it right. Here are a few things to consider:

- Bold colours and bright patterns can add a real 'wow' factor but they also date quickly. It's better to go for a neutral sofa and add colour with accent cushions, which won't cost so much to replace when you want to redecorate.

- If you have children or pets you'll want to choose something durable. Fabrics with the pattern woven in, rather than printed on, tend to wear better, as do fabrics that are tightly woven. Remember, it's not the thickness of the actual yarn, but the number of threads per square inch that determines durability.

- Leather is long-lasting and easy to keep clean but can feel cold in the winter and sticky in the summer. A good option might be a leather-heavy fabric mix, or leather accessorised with throws.

- If you can afford it, buying a secondary cover can be a good idea. This allows you to keep a cover for special occasions (once the kids are in bed!) and gives you something to use if one is in the wash.

Measuring up
Before you go shopping, make sure you've measured up properly. Measure the doorways and hallways (including the front door) as well as the space where the sofa will sit in the room so you know you can get it in the house. Take the tape measure with you to the store, and consider taking a digital camera, so you can take photos of the sofas to look through at home before deciding which one to buy.

Buying your sofa

When the sales staff come hunting for their next commission, be sure that you have any questions ready. Ask about cushion or pillow filling, the durability of the upholstery, how easy it is to wash and remove covers, if you can buy replacement covers easily, and any extra costs, such as cover for spillages, which can soon add up. And don't be afraid to give the sofa a test drive - is the back high enough to give you proper support, do you slide down uncomfortably, can your feet touch the floor?

Buying a bargain sofa
It can be tempting to buy a new sofa before Christmas so that family and friends can sit in comfort during the holiday season but beware of delivery costs and times - some take up to four weeks to deliver. Bear in mind, that the best deals may not be available until January. Large chains such as DFS and Furniture Village often have half price or similar deals but once Christmas is over, you may find the pre-Crimbo prices drop even further.

And don't forget to compare prices online. If you find a lovely sofa in a store, try searching for the brand name to see if anyone sells it online. You could save as much as £500 getting the very same sofa delivered from a warehouse outlet compared to that trendy local shop.

And, for a real bargain, check out sites like ebay and freecycle. You could find a decent secondhand sofa that just needs a new cover or a good clean for a fraction of the retail price.