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When asked to describe a living room, it's a safe bet that a sofa will be the first thing most people mention. Once you've settled on the ideal sofa shape and size, you can start playing with colour, layout and the best part - accessories.

‘As a sofa should be a purchase you will love for years to come, consider shapes, colours and patterns carefully to ensure you opt for a style that will work not only with your current scheme, but also transfer to a new look.

If in doubt, opt for a neutral design where you can add patterns, colours and textures as and when trends change,' says Suzy McMahon, Buying Director at Sofology (opens in new tab). If you are aiming to create a peaceful space for reading and chatting this will filter into the choice and placement of your sofas. 'You may be planning a serene sitting room, in which case two occasional sofas facing each other would work nicely,’ explains Charlie Marshall, Loaf (opens in new tab) Founder.

‘Slim arms and smaller proportions feel less imposing and, as every inch counts, look out for straight backs that can sit flush against the wall. Elegant, tapered legs which raise the base from the floor help to create an illusion of space,’ says Gisela Lancaster, Buying Manager, Sofology (opens in new tab).

If you love to entertain it is a good idea to opt for a versatile sofa that can be moved around to help create the perfect party atmosphere.

If you have friends over you can reposition the sections to create a more intimate configuration, which facilitates interaction and conversation,' says Gisela Lancaster at Sofology.

The abundance of cushions and soft recycled velvet effortlessly fuses a balance of comfort, practicality and stylish design,’ says Elizabeth Sladen, Head of Buying (Indoor Furniture) at MADE.com (opens in new tab). If you've invested in a Georgian or Victorian home and gone to pains to preserve the period features, don't throw this all out when it comes to choosing the sofa.

Once considered unsightly, the best sofa beds are both comfortable and stylish, slipping seamlessly into a living room. If you regularly enjoy updating your living room consider keeping your sofa and other large furnishings within a neutral palette, and leave the colour and texture to the other accessories.

This might not sound like a groundbreaking tip, but there is an art in creating a well-balanced colourful living room, with a white sofa at its heart.

A good rule of thumb is the more times an accent colour is repeated in the rest of the room, the fewer cushions you need to tie it into the scheme. ‘As upholstery pieces are the bigger items in a space, they tend to require a little more thought in terms of colour and fabric pairings,’ says Patricia Gibbons on the Design Team at Sofa.com (opens in new tab). ‘If you’re searching for something that will instantly refresh the feel of a room, switch up your cushions, choosing hues that reflect the season.

‘From a style perspective, remember that a sofa is often the centrepiece of the room, says Suzy McMahon, Buying Director at Sofology (opens in new tab). ‘It’s tempting to pick a neutral style or colour on the basis that you may redecorate, however when investing in a new piece, it's worth opting for a design and fabric that you’ll love for many years to come to increase its longevity.’

Create balance with a coffee table or storage footstool and an armchair or love seat to one side, which adds weight.

Bring in a large rug as an anchor point, choosing a colourful pattern that co-ordinates with sofa scatter cushions.

‘In a flexible space, there are some pieces of furniture that will work harder than others, so it‘s important to shop wisely and choose something that you love,’ says Jason Billings-Cray of John Lewis & Partners (opens in new tab). ‘Use a corner sofa to section off a zone, choosing a mid-dark colour that will withstand its close proximity to the kitchen.’

‘Choose an adaptable palette for an open-plan space, saving colour and pattern for a separate room where you can go a little more crazy as you aren’t there the whole time.’ In a traditional setting, opt for a mid-toned grey, with a classic sofa shape and plush velvet upholstery for an elegant look.

Team mid-toned grey with bright accent colours, such as jewel-toned cushions, plush throws, rugs and accessories These larger scale pieces feel more statement and create an anchor to design around without overpowering a large living room. Neutral living rooms are relaxing and easy on the eye, but without any contrast colour or texture they can feel flat and lifeless if you’re not careful. Introducing a coloured panel behind a sofa will break up a plain wall and create a contrast backdrop for a seating area.

Try adding a false half wall or a panelled area behind a sofa that can be painted in a complementary tone. Running a narrow ledge along the top edge will give a display area that can be prettied up with colourful artwork, ceramics and ornaments.

The empty area of wall space above a sofa is a prime spot for a piece of art work.

Companies such as Etsy or Notonthehighstreet.com have a range of ready-made quotations ready to go up onto a wall, or you could have a bespoke piece made to order.

Sectional modular sofas are a fab idea for family living spaces as seating is easy to re-arrange or add to as and when your needs change. Shades of soft grey teamed with mellow mustard, feel cosy and warm and is a fun choice for a family den or snug.

‘To maximise space without compromising comfort, consider a corner sofa or chaise,’ says Suzy McMahon, Buying Director at Sofology. Selecting a style with hidden storage can also help to make the most of a small room, negating the need for additional bulky furniture in the area.’

Selecting the perfect sofa is a very personal choice and will balance many factors including practicality, comfort, style and budget,' says Suzy McMahon, Buying Director at Sofology. 'The initial practical considerations are fairly straightforward; think about the space you have in your room, how many you would like to seat and the level of support you prefer.' 'Make sure you measure your room accurately and, if you have an existing sofa, use that as a benchmark to understand any differing dimensions of a new model. A good tip, in an empty room, is to lay down newspapers to help you visualise the footprint the sofa will use' advises Suzy.

Delivery is a key stage in the process so make sure hallways and doors are wide enough to accommodate your sofa.' A general rule is to position the sofa facing the room's main focal point, such as a fireplace, window or even the TV. If you have a coffee table positioned between the two, leave a little breathing space around to give the room a better sense of flow and so not to impede traffic.

living room with grey sofa and fire place
living room with grey sofa and fire place
Yellow sofa in a white room
Yellow sofa in a white room
Grey corner sofa in living room with wall art
Grey corner sofa in living room with wall art
Teal corner sofa in cottage living room
Teal corner sofa in cottage living room
Grey sofa in white living room with house plants
Grey sofa in white living room with house plants
Dark sofa in dark living room with side table
Dark sofa in dark living room with side table
Snug Small Biggie Snuggler Single Sofa Bed in grey
Snug Small Biggie Snuggler Single Sofa Bed in grey
White sofa in large living room with coloured accessories
White sofa in large living room with coloured accessories
living room with white sofa and carpet floor
living room with white sofa and carpet floor
White living room with wood flooring and a emerald green velvet sofa
White living room with wood flooring and a emerald green velvet sofa
living room with white sofa and wall photos
living room with white sofa and wall photos
White living room with white sofa and chairs
White living room with white sofa and chairs
living area with blue sofa and carpet floor
living area with blue sofa and carpet floor
green wall living room with grey sofa
green wall living room with grey sofa
blue themed living room with sofa and shelf
blue themed living room with sofa and shelf
living room with grey sofa and carpet floor
living room with grey sofa and carpet floor
living room with pink sofa and wall quote
living room with pink sofa and wall quote
living room with sofa and carpet
living room with sofa and carpet

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