Sofa buying tips when you have a mobility problem

Aaah. The Sofa…the couch, the settee, whatever you call it it’s probably the second most important piece of furniture in our home after the bed.  It’s a large, expensive purchase and it has to be right in many ways as we tend to keep our sofas for years and it’s a costly mistake if you get it wrong.

What colour, what shape, what size, what fabric, what fillings, what colour legs… the list goes on.

Colour is a big thing for me, as even though I love some of the brighter colour sofas I always worry about wanting to change my colour scheme and I don’t want to be tied into a scheme governed by the colour of the sofa.  Having said that, I could be swayed by this sofa which from Heals which is a completely fabulous colour:


heals-orange-mg001828(Photo Credit – Heals –

As fabulous as this is, personally I prefer a neutral sofa with the knowledge that any changes to colour scheme can be made in the walls, cushions, rugs, etc. It’s easier to update a sofa to feel like new by throwing some new cushions on it.  Maybe a crazy colour blanket over the arms.

The shape and size of your sofa of course needs to be dictated by the room you have.  Our last house was a Victorian Semi with small bay fronted living room, so we had a two seater sofa, now we have a more rectangular room and space for a corner sofa against the two long flat walls.  In an ideal world I’d love a sofa in the middle of a lovely large room with a console table behind it, but sadly we have a smaller living room than the glossy photographs in the magazines!

It’s important not to fill the room with sofa, there should be space for end tables, lamps, coffee tables and so on.  The sofa needs to be proportionate to the room.  Too small, it looks lost.  Too large and all you see is the furniture and not the room.  I knew someone who had to climb over the end of their chaise end of the sofa to reach the kitchen.  Hardly practical!

But there’s something perhaps that most people don’t think about, which is if you have a disability you’ll need to think about some additional features of a sofa: is the seat high enough, firm enough, deep or shallow enough?  How about the height of the arms and legs?  Perhaps leather is too slippery if you don’t have core strength to get up without support?

The fabulous Dillon sofa by Sofa Workshop is my all-time favourite, we tried it when we had the old house but no way it would fit in the small living room, so we waited until we moved to the bungalow and had our eyes on the corner unit.  However sadly for us, the Dillon won’t work because the seat (beautifully comfy and squishy and all round delicious) is too low and too deep for my husband.  As I said in an earlier post – he has MS and struggles with mobility and balance.  When you can’t move your leg, or even bend it, you need a sofa with a level of firmness to help support you in getting up.  Sofa Workshop can customise your sofa to have a firmer cushion, but the height and depth of the seat (the essence of it’s very design) means that he can’t get out of the seat without help.  Cue lots of sobbing from me about the lack of Dillon in my life…

green-sofa-workshop(Photo Credit – Sofa Workshop –

If the cushion is too low and too deep, and you can’t move your leg and don’t have the strength to pull your body off the sofa it becomes a real issue, so it’s a real consideration when buying a sofa.

Another consideration for us is the height of the legs.  Sometimes the lack of balance means the husband falls rather ungainly onto the sofa (hilarious to watch by the way!) and I get very nervous about a high legged sofa breaking, so one with small low feet is perfect for us.

Recliner sofas are also a no-no as he doesn’t have the leg strength to push the footrest down sufficiently so it doesn’t ping back up again.

The other thing we have to consider is the height of the arms – something like this from the French Connection collection at DFS is gorgeous, but completely hopeless for our particular needs.  If you can’t get to your feet without holding onto something, you need a fairly high, strong sofa arm to steady yourself and as pretty as this Quartz sofa is, it’s not suitable for our needs.

french-connection-dfs-quartz_lj_quartz_grey_view1(Photo Credit – DFS –

Sofas with nice high arms include of course the classic Chesterfield shape like this beauty from


made-dot-com-branagh_sofa_brown_lightbox_1(Photo credit – –

or this more modern style from Ikea (talking of colour how fabulous is this emerald Stockholm Sofa?!)


ikea-stockholm-three-seat-sofa-sandbacka-green__0185128_pe336924_s4(Photo Credit – IKEA –

There are support things you can purchase from mobility / disability websites that are handles that fit under the foot of the sofa and that you can use as a grab rail to pull yourself up.  These however, are frankly ugly and would ruin the asthetic of the room.

Another option if you prefer something with lower arms is the Calia side table from John Lewis  which could be used as a method of getting a stable point to lean on to get up.  Of course check the construction of such an item to ensure it’s strong enough and stable enough..


john-lewis-calia-side-table-233119241alt1(Photo Credit – John Lewis –

In the end, the sofa we went for was the Geneva Corner Sofa from M&S (no longer available on their website).  Not only half price in the sale (win!) but it was pretty much bang on from the size, colour and cushion firmness perspective.  Where it does lose a brownie point is the arms.  They are perhaps a little low for my husband’s needs although he manages reasonably well at the moment with the extra height of the bolster cushion.  I think we’ll investigate the side table as another option to help him in the future.

This is the sofa in our living room at the moment. We have a collection of red cushions at the moment to match the rug.  The rug (from IKEA) is an overhang from a more traditional feel in Victorian House but will be going soon, along with the red and the grey wall…

The living room is going to be redecorated shortly once I’ve completed my moodboard and we’ll probably be going with blues and teals and a more modern feel in the room – so the grey sofa fits within that scheme no problems and there’ll be a new rug and a raft of new cushions in much brighter colours. (hurrah, love cushion shopping!)

Having the disability means we have to be conscious of other things that perhaps you wouldn’t normally think about.  Next on the list, now the sofa has been chosen – the new dining table and chairs.  That’s going to be early new year (wait for the sales!) but again we have a list of things we need to worry about, all to do with his balance.  I’ll be writing a post about that shortly once we’ve made a decision.  Good job these things are only bought every few years, it’s all a traumatic (but fun) experience!



11 thoughts on “Sofa buying tips when you have a mobility problem

  1. I have come across your blog after the folks at RGK wheelchairs shared your piece about the Tiga FX. I am also an MS’er (PPMS same as your hubby) and have been using RGK chairs for almost 10 years now, before having to switch to a power chair earlier this year. It’s interesting to see a slightly different slant on home design and adaptability – personally I’m all for whatever makes life easier regardless of how it looks but my partner (also an MS’er, RRMS) is quite vain and doesn’t like things to look clinical or institutional.

    1. Hi Dan thanks for your comments. I think for me (and your partner as you mention) trying to find something nice and unobtrusive that also functions well is a real trick and really the point of my blog as you will see. It also helps him to make the home feel “normal” and not make it all about his disability. As he progresses further it may be more difficult to find that balance as there seems to be so few products out there that look cool! But I will keep trying to find the nicest stuff I can for as long as I can! Thanks Vicki

  2. I’m struggling to find a sofa that will work for me too! I have me/cfs so for me it needs to be long enough for me to lie on it for a rest full out (i’m a short arse though, not much over 5 feet) but also is off the ground enough for me to use my Overbed table (one on wheels that can be used with a wheelchair and has a flat bit and also can be angled for reading magazines without holding them) so it goes underneath, with arms that this overbed table can go over the top at the right height, but not so low arms that they aren’t useful to me AS sofa arms to lean on.

    I am totally and utterly with you that why on earth is all disabled stuff ugly and they assume we don’t care about how it looks! So pleased I found your blog and pinterest. 🙂 you’ve given me some things to think about.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, it makes me realise why I write these posts. A sofa is a real tricky thing. There are some lovely ones around with tall legs that will allow your table to go under. Have a look at, they have some that look great. I don’t have one so can’t comment on quality but some of the styles are great. Also take a look at M&S, they have a few nice ones in too 🙂

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