Q.Dear Andrew, we have family visiting for Christmas and need to buy a sofa. Do we still have time and what should we consider?

A.If you want to take delivery for Christmas you need to start looking now because your choice will already be limited by long lead-times for some furniture. However, a number of high-street interior stores will still allow you to find a smart sofa.

The first thing to consider is the look of your home – do you like contemporary living or is a more traditional look your style? Traditional doesn’t have to mean old fashioned; there are still many retailers in this market. Mixing a traditional sofa with a contemporary chair for an eclectic look would suit a traditional home. Contemporary sofas generally have lower backs with smaller arms, and have raised metal or wooden legs.

Remember to choose a sofa appropriate for the size of the room; don’t fall in love with a large L-shaped sofa if it will dominate the room. If you have a large room furniture doesn’t need to be pushed up against the walls so try to pull the sofa away from the wall to create a feeling of space. Modular sofas can be a good option for many homes because they can be split and moved around so you can easily refresh your look

You should always test out the comfort of any sofa you want to buy. Ideally you should sit in the sofa for a good period of time to check the comfort factor and don’t rush your decision. In terms of cushions, foam is the cheaper option and gives a firmer seat but you will sink more into feather or down cushions, which require more maintenance.

The choice of fabrics can often be overwhelming so ask for some advice from the sofa manufacturer. If you have children you will need a serviceable fabric – you can protect it with Scotchguard but this won’t cover every eventuality. A darker fabric may make more sense or you can use throws to keep a lighter fabric clean. You will need to decide if you want a loose or fixed cover to your sofa. The loose cover can easily be washed but provides a less formal, sometimes messy look. A fixed cover will give a smart more formal look and is more suited to contemporary furniture but cannot be removed for cleaning. Remember also that a sofa generally lasts five to 10 years so bear this in mind – a plain fabric can easily be dressed up with changeable colourful cushions so this may be a safer choice than a highly decorative patterned fabric.

Finally, and most importantly, do check access to the room – it’s no use buying the gorgeous sofa of your dreams if it won’t go through the front door or up the stairs to your apartment.

Q.Dear Andrew, we are refreshing our living room and need to replace some very old curtains, how do I update the look?

A.The window treatments in a room are a very important element of any decorating scheme but are often overlooked. The traditional choice of curtains is still appropriate for many rooms but there are a multitude of other options available as well as changes in curtain styles. Swags and tails of the 1980s have given way to a cleaner contemporary style with the choice of heading now adding interest – the eyelet heading is a good choice for a contemporary interior when combined with a stylish curtain pole.

One smart look for curtains is to combine a plain coloured fabric with a lush darker toned one – maybe a velvet – to provide a border at the bottom of the curtain.

Roman blinds are a good all-round choice for most rooms and will form soft pleats when raised and hang flat against the window when lowered. Roman blinds can be combined with curtains or used on their own. Since the fabric needed is generally less than for curtains, a luxury look can be achieved for less cost.

American-style shutters have become more fashionable over the past few years and will suit most, but not all, rooms. They should be used as an alternative to curtains, I have never seen them combined successfully with curtains. This style is available off the shelf in a variety of colours or can even be matched to the shade of your walls. They still allow light into a room but provide a high level of privacy. These shutters are a good choice for bathrooms.

Roller blinds tend to be more functional in design so it is best if they are used to supplement your choice of curtains or a roman blind, or used in a more practical room such as the utility room. Whatever you choose make sure they will serve your purpose: consider how often you will actually be closing them, is privacy an issue, and for bedrooms is a blackout solution needed?

Andrew Dunning is head designer at APD Interiors, an interior design consultancy, www.apdinteriors.com. Follow his design tips on Twitter: @andrewdunning