Shopping for a sofa? Here is what you need to know.

The sofa: It’s a biggie. It’s an investment. You use it every day. Here are some guidelines that may help you with “the search”. I see the sofa market in three categories.

ONE: Low range – under $3000.
Crate and Barrel
West Elm
Room and Board
Ethan Allen
There’s a lot to admire at these stores in terms of the styles offered and keeping up with design trends. If you are on a rock bottom budget, you can do fine. However, in terms of construction, this price range is limited. The innards of the sofa are just not made to last. The inserts for the cushions break down after a year of two, or even sooner with lots of use. They are usually made of foam which does not hold the shape and breaks apart after time. Additionally, the fabric options are extremely limited and the palette of each store is “set”. The marketing of the fabric is designed so that, whatever you choose, you cannot make a mistake. Everything goes with everything else, and if you have a different color scheme in mind, you are out of luck.

TWO: Mid range – $3000-$6000
Ethan Allen
Edward Ferrell
Room and Board
Mitchell Gold
ABC Home
Dennis Miller
Bo Concepts
Design Within Reach
With sofas, you will get more if you spend more. The inside construction is better. You can usually select what the cushion inserts are made of: foam, down wrapped foam, or 100% down; depending on what feels good to you. It’s nice to have this option and they price these accordingly. Also many companies in this price range will give you customizable options in terms of legs, skirts, cushion shapes and arms. If you have an eye, you can “build” your own sofa. Or, just select what you like on the showroom floor, and make a few modifications. The sales reps tend to be more knowledgeable about construction and can guide you through this process. The fabric selection is better, and most of these stores will let you use COM: Customer’s Own Material. This will cost more, of course, but the end result gets you exactly what you want.

THREE: High range – $6,000-$12,000 +
Holly Hunt
BB Italia
Edward Ferrell
Ligne Roset
Bright Group
Dennis Miller
Avery Boardman
Custom Upholsterer
This level is like buying a Benz. If the structure is well made, and the style is classic, the sofa will last for years and you can change the feel by simply reupholstering with new fabrics, over and over. It is the piece of furniture that you will use each and every day. You want to be able to live on it (I certainly do!). The investment is well worth it, if you have the money. Browse through some of these stores, and you will see the design integrity that they offer. You will be bringing in your own fabric. Typically an average sized sofa requires 20-30 yards of fabric, depending on the repeat of the pattern (a solid is usually 20 – 24 yards). You could spend an average of $40-$80 a yard at this level. When using a custom upholsterer, you will most likely use a designer to design the sofa and have it made for you. These sofas will last 20-30 years.
It’s kind of like buying a car….some of us can afford a Benz, others a Kia.

3 thoughts on “Shopping for a sofa? Here is what you need to know.

  1. Katherine

    We totally need a new sofa, not to mention a dining table and chairs. I think I may end up in North Carolina again doing a custom build on the sofa. The last time was 13 years ago. They told us which sofas were 10 year models or 20 year models! With the ten year model we chose, we got to pick our fabric and it has held up pretty well al things considered. Now I’m ready for a 20 year model and think I’d like leather for easier cleanup. It was way cheaper down there than typical mid-range in NYC.


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