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Know How: Tips on buying a new sofa – how to tell if a sofa is good quality?

Buying a new sofa is one of the biggest purchases and commitments we make for our homes. There are plenty of high-street retailers who offer sofas for what appears to be a bargain price, but the likelihood is these are made from cheap materials and will only last a few years, if that. Knowing how to tell the difference between a poorly-made and good quality sofa could save you lots of wasted time and money. Here’s a simple checklist of things to look for when purchasing a new sofa.

Cartwright striped sofa

Hardwood frames

Quite simply a hardwood frame is the best option money can buy. Even though you can’t see it, the frame is the skeleton of your sofa, and a cheap, chipboard frame will buckle, bow and potentially crack, leaving you with a saggy, unsupportive sofa. Investing in a solid hardwood frame, like Beech or Birch is worth every penny. We offer a lifetime guarantee on all our hardwood frames, making it a sound investment for the future, as well as a stylish piece of furniture that you love right now.

Coil or steel springs

Arlo & Jacob sofas have coil or steel springs. Not only does this make the seat much more comfortable and supportive, but coil springs distribute the weight evenly across the frame, preventing dips and sagging to your favourite spot. Another important feature is what’s called ‘fish-mouth’ springs, which provide a soft bounce to the base, protecting the backs of your legs and knees.

Cushion fillings

It’s important to understand that every sofa will have a specific kind of cushion filling and as a knowledgeable manufacturer, we can tell you why your sofa has that particular fill. For the most part, slouchy style sofas can take feather or fibre cushions since they lend themselves to more relaxed shapes; but a more structured sofa often requires foam in the cushions to help retain its shape and stay looking smart. Some sofas come with a mixture of both, and at Arlo & Jacob, we even put different fills in the seats and back cushions to ensure a perfect place to sit. A happy medium is often fibre or feather-wrapped foam, which gives you all the comfort of the soft fill, with the bonus of foam to retain the shape. Our feather-wrapped foam cushions come with a four-year guarantee for added peace of mind.


Sturdy legs are paramount to having a sofa that won’t buckle under years of activity. Legs should be screwed into place, and should once again be made from solid wood. All our legs are made from solid Beech wood before being stained to your desired colour. Dependent on the style you choose, the legs may be turned, block, swept or castor. Be sure that your legs are screwed in straight and all facing the right way before you put any weight on your sofa since curved legs can crack if they’re turned the wrong way when someone sits down. Our sofas also come with fixing screws to stop the legs from swivelling when you move your sofa.


Checking the seams and upholstery of your new sofa is very important to do as soon as it gets delivered. If you notice any splits, tears or buckled stitching, it’s important to let us know right away. Stitches should be neat and straight along all seams, and zips should open and close freely on sofas that allow you to remove the covers for cleaning. An additional safety measure you can take to protect your fabric is to opt for Staingard; a further layer of treatment that shields against spills and stains.

Pattern matching

At Arlo & Jacob we pride ourselves on our upholstery and ‘pattern matching’. If you opt for a striped or patterned sofa, the stripes and patterns should match up perfectly along all edges and where the cushions meet the base and back of the sofa. A sign of a poorly made sofa can often be seen when the patterned fabric fails to match up. In addition, we also boast full-upholstery, which means your chosen fabric covers the entirety of your sofa, even the undersides of the cushions and the top of the base. Many low-priced manufacturers will use a lining to cut down on their costs, but this will cheapen the look of your sofa and mean that the cushions won’t be reversible.

Another important factor is to pick the right type of fabric for your style of sofa. Each fabric has its own properties, which all contribute towards its charm. However, certain fabrics will work far better on some types of sofas compared to others. Removeable cover sofas, like our Harriet, slouchy sofas, and any relaxed style works exceptionally well with lightweight linen and cotton but would look ridiculous in heavy wool or leather. Likewise, bold mid-century shapes, like our Elton or Aragon, look fantastic in strong, durable fabrics (with minimal give) that can be stretched over the frame. Another tip to remember is that patterned fabrics look great on fixed-back sofas, but look less spectacular on soft and scatter-back sofas as the pattern gets squashed and wrinkled.

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