Monday, December 19, 2011

Lesson Learned: Sofas

Bryn's recent post inspired some introspection on my first big sofa purchase last year.  And while not regretting it one bit, I learned some valuable lessons about furniture.  I now know what I will avoid next time:

Down-wrapped cushions and loose back pillows.

Next time [wait, how many chances do you get at this?  I'm pretty sure buying a new custom sofa every few years isn't in the cards] I want a tight-back sofa; no detached pillows on the back to mess with and no down to refluff.

I love down.  But next time, I'll re-up on the down comforter instead.  The down feather fill in my seat cushions and back pillows is super cloud-like and was just what we wanted when looking for the perfect 'sink into' feel.  But in real everyday life, it's not practical.   Our couch sits in our living room, which also functions as the family room and dining room in our small cottage.  It gets a lot of action.  And I have a husband and a bulldog who love nothing more than to lounge away on said couch.  This makes for serious migraines when primping the area because the cushions flatten and sag.

Our first sofa is still the most expensive piece of furniture I have purchased to-date.  And it was well worth it.  We had the fabric custom ordered which tacked on a few clams, too.   Leather would've been the smartest choice for my household, but I couldn't get past the initial chilly shock when you sit on it.  My second choice would've been a neutral danish linen, but knowing my bulldog and husband, I'm sure it would have stains before it came through the door.  I ended up with a gray herringbone suede that I am crazy about.  It's very durable and heavier than a cotton or linen and I love the pattern in it.  I have never been a fan of anything microfiber, and the suede can be a bit reminiscent of that, but either way, I love it.  And knowing what I know now, I'd take a poly-blend or down-wrap on the cushions and attached or no back cushions at all, because of the frequency which I have to rotate everything around to wear evenly.

And, while we're on the subject…

I like to think sofas come in three distinct categories.

1- inexpensive

2 - moderate

3 - custom

The first category really describes what you can get from any large retailer that specializes in bulk furniture.  Around here we have Room Store, Value City and Ikea.  Despite the low price, these goods seem to hold up reasonably well with normal use.  These are perfect buys for folks just starting out or on a budget, but the quality is generally compromised.  The cushions are typically filled with a poly-foam or stuffing and the frame is not benchmade and is made of soft woods.  The leather options tend to be dominated by bonded leathers versus real hides. Not a bad investment if you only plan on having it for a couple of years and you can certainly find imitations of current styles.  Plan to find a sofa around $500.  This is your economy car class.

#2.  These stores include Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Room & Board and many other well-known names.  The quality is pretty good and you're still going to pay about $1500 for your seat. They have sofas that are available either immediately or by delivery and you can generally choose from 5-10 colorways and fabrics per design on their stock models.  Many of these stores also offer the option to choose your own fabric, for anywhere from $500-1000 more and about a 4 - 8 week lead time.  These sofas are usually benchmade and have solid coil structure and hardwood frames that are often kiln dried for extra durability.  Many people opt for this variety due to quickness from store to home and the variety of customizable options.  The quality is good and will last for about 10 years or so, depending on use.  These are your Hondas and Toyotas of the sofa world.

Lastly, we have the custom category.  The European driving machine of sofas.   These bad boys will run anywhere from $4000 and up.  They are the best quality you can buy and will last a lifetime if you so desire.  When you make an investment like that, go for strong bones and classic style so you can reupholster or recover when the trends change.  High-quality custom craftsmen like Lee Industries and Hickory Chair make phenomenal seats and have the best names in the industry because of their durability, classic design and custom options.  You can pick or provide virtually any fabric you can dream up and have just about any kind of welt, piping, trim or nailhead added or removed.

They all look the same right?  That's why no option is right or wrong.  It's all about where you are in your life and your current phase of decorating.  You buy what suits your home and your family.  If it gets no use and you need a simple white couch, who cares if it's from Ikea.  But if you plan to buy a nice piece of furniture that will last through the trends and as your tastes change, go get your Lee.  Personally, I can barely commit to a career for ten-plus years, much less a couch so I doubt a Lee is in my future.  But if I think about my dream couch, it's probably a navy velvet tight-back with an English roll-arm or the perfect distressed saddle leather Chesterfield.



  1. great tips to know. I have def bought a couch I soon regretted myself. That image at the top is beautiful, though!



  2. Such great info here. I too have made decorating purchases that I was disappointed in as soon as they upsetting!!


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