We can't find a quality sofa anywhere--help!

Swiss_Chard_FanaticJanuary 14, 2014

Hubby and I have been looking for a quality sofa. What do we mean by that? We mean that the frame will be made of solid wood and/or plywood, NOT chip board or particle board or something like that. We also don't want to see something that is all stapled together; we would like to see the frame built solidly, with actual hardware to hold it together.

Now, what we have seen so far is just chip board or some type of white colored plywood that is unfinished and doesn't look very strong; it looks like pine! Is it pine? If not, what is it? We don't know.

We have been to so many furniture stores it isn't funny. And all we have found is pieces that look great on the outside, but when you look up under them, you find staples and glue and chip board everywhere. We have been to over 10 different furniture stores and found the same thing everywhere, except for one store that sold solid framed sofas, but none of them were comfortable to sit in.

Then, we found out that sofas that are sold as "100% leather" are in fact NOT 100% leather. They are leather ONLY where you sit, but the back and sides are all vinyl.

With this experience, my husband and I have become scared to buy anything and we are frozen in indecision.

We are now wondering if we should build our own couch or have someone build us one, and how much that would cost. Does anyone know?

Ethan Allan in our area closed down, so that's not an option for us.


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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

You find a used, older American-made sofa from a consignment store that has a solidly-built frame, and you have it reupholstered. It is what the pro designers in this area do.

Ethan Allen quality has plummeted.

Want organic? This company looks interesting...(I have no connection, either personal or business or financial to this company)

Here is a link that might be useful: US non toxic furniture

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 1:14PM
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Hey hoovb, thanks for your reply. We have thought about making our own sofa, but now that you mentioned buying an older one for the quality frame and having it re-upholstered, that gave me an idea that we could also just build a frame ourselves and then have it upholstered. But how much would that cost?

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 4:05PM
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Buying an antique sofa with a heavy, solid wood frame and having it re-upholstered is a very good idea.

If you want a hardwood frame sofa with blocks in the corners, eight-way hand tied, etc., you can get it, but be prepared to pay a lot for it, esp. the leather sofas.

And you want legs that are part of the frame, not added to it, screwed in, whatever.

I just bought a Hickory Chair sofa (the Olivier) and I am very happy with the frame. it's very heavy (the sign of real wood), and the back is the most comfortable back I have ever leaned on on a sofa. But it cost me $6,000, and this was after a total disaster with a CR Laine sofa. And neither got the cushion right, although the HC was much better, but I had to add a one-inch piece of firm foam, AND put some harder rubber camping stuff down underneath it to keep it from sinking into the sofa. Finally, my sofa is perfect!

You can find the solid wood and well-built frame. The cushion seems to be an area where the industry is really coming up short, so do A LOT of homework on the cushion ,and demand you get what you want. Cushion is like the tires on a car, no? I cannot fathom why these high-end places can't make a decent, dense, resilient cushion!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 5:29PM
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Not sure of the style you want, but look at Room and Board if you can. Great quality and almost all made in the usa.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 6:59PM
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Most manufacturers are using plywood frames that are stapled together and this includes Hickory Chair's sofa frames. Plywood is much heavier than solid hardwood, so its easy to mistake that a heavier sofa frame is better. Plywood strength is in only one direction so it must be re-enforced by building up more layers. The average Hickory Chair, Century, Henredon, Hickory White, Lee and others in this price point their sofa frame weights upwards of 300 lbs, and still these frames are not nearly as strong as a solid 5/4 or 4/4 hardwood wood frame that is joined with double 7/16" dowels glued and screwed. Frames from Rowe, Ashley, Lazyboy, Best, EA, etc are much weaker plywood or pine wood.
But their are still upholstery manufacturers that are using solid hardwood frames- doweled and glued; ranging from the high end: TRS, Hancock & Moore to mid range price point: Carolina Chair, Huntington House to a low price point of ICustomsofa.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 9:01PM
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Rmanbike, untrue. Hickory Chair makes its furniture using hard woods, NOT plywood. I am not recommending this questioner purchase a Hickory Chair sofa, but you are misleading her, as you have done before, when you say HC makes their sofas from plywood. They do not.

Here is a link showing how their furniture is made, and you can see it is not plywood. You can also see the blocking in the leg corners.

In addition, I called Hickory Chair and asked them what kind of wood they use to make their sofas. The answer was, "Depends on which sofa. Some are made with maple, mahogany, etc., etc." When I told her why I was calling, she adamantly said that their furniture is NOT made with plywood.

So, unless they are going to elaborate lengths to publicly show they are using hard woods but then, behind the scenes and in secret using plywood, you are not correct and are passing along misinformation. And if they are doing it in secret, how would you know it, unless you are one of the employees actually making those secret plywood frames?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 9:30AM
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Meant to add this link with pics of Hickory Chair sofa being made:


Here is a link that might be useful: Hickory Chair

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 9:39AM
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Furniture Brands (now Heritage Home Group) when through chapter 11 bankruptcy late 2013. Now they are owned by KPS capital partners. Hickory Chair is one of their divisions.
I will be the first to admit when I make a error as its been a couple of years since I was in their Hickory plant. At that time they were considering going to plywood frames, so I took it that they had. As these other divisions; Broyhill, Lane, Drexel, Henredon have all gone to plywood frames. But I should have said most of Henredon fully upholstered frames are plywood. Their purchased frames or imported frames will be solid hardwood.
Hickory Chair's president Jay Reardon resigned at the time KPS took over. Chris Caraway is the VP of Hickory Chair, as I should have called Chris to confirm this before posting this mis-information on Hickory Chair.
I hope that KPS doesnt try to change Hickory Chairs tradition of building solid hardwood frames. As they (KPS) are now in the process of consolidation of many divisional operations and functions.

I very much apologize to all of GW members and to Hickory Chair for this wrong information. I especially thank you Tibbrix for correcting me on this.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 11:03PM
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You want my solid Thomasville sofas ? I bought them new in 2006. quality is awesome. They are super heavy and we spent over 9k plus tax. I regret it now. I should have bought something less expensive because in 6 years the kids will be gone. we'll be downsizing . why do we need such heavy duty sofas and arm chairs in 100 percent premium leather that has faded a bit in the sun?. Yeah it is nice but something cheap and even half fake leather would have been fine . Quality is not noticed by any of our visitors. In the end it really doesn't matter. My kids will want their own furniture +their own style. You want my pricey fancy furniture ?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:18PM
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Wehn purchasing upholstered furniture what you have to focus on is the type and quality of the construction as some other have indicated. Particulalry a 4/4, 5/4 or 6/4 hardwood frame, Maple, and Ash for example. A well made spring and their are several options and a quality high cushion with an HR foam core and a qulaity fiber or down blend wrap. Then consider the upholstery or leather options. Finally look at the tailoring of the piece.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 12:32PM
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We searched a long time for a sofa . We happened upon a Restoration Hardware outlet about 40 miles away from us where we found a sofa of our dreams! Depending on where you live it's worth looking there. All of there merchandise is initially marked down 25-40 % and every so often they give an additional 30-40% off that price. We ended up paying $1300 for a down filled, hardwood frame, slip covered couch that retails for $2800! If you like their style it's also worth it to look on EBay , as there are brand new sofas by RH and Pottery barn for sale. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 10:43PM
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Not to sound rude but what good really is the top of the line framing on a sofa for the average person? I have never ever had problems with a sofas frame falling apart or collapsing. I have always bought real leather and never had a problem there either except for minor patina over time. To me the hardest part of picking a decent sofa is determining the quality of the seat cushions. I haven't completely figured this out yet. Squashy flattened cushions in areas most often sat on compared to less sat on parts is my biggest beef. The whole thing then just looks bad. But, how to figure the best cushion thing out?

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Sat, Mar 8, 14 at 9:47

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 10:37PM
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We bought a new sofa a year ago from Smith Brothers of Berne, Indiana. A local furniture store carries their brand. They use hardwood frames, etc. Very high density cushions. I love our new couch. The tailoring is also perfect. There are many discussions of Smith Brothers on this forum. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:32AM
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Not to sound rude but what good really is the top of the line framing on a sofa for the average person? I have never ever had problems with a sofas frame falling apart or collapsing.

@jterrilynn, that made me chuckle, but you bring up a good point. I recall a friend who paid top dollar for living room and bedroom furniture. "Solid oak, heirloom pieces," he used to say. It did look nice and was as sturdy as a rock. Unfortunately, it was in the dark oak, Spanish Mediterranean style which was all the rage in the 70's in rebellion to the minimalist, Danish modern of the 60's. That style did not last long and his wife demanded replacement once it became dated. Oh well. ;-)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 9:22AM
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Dreamingoftheup, EXACTLY! I saw this sofa on Craigslist today, it looks like very nice quality. Ok, maybe it would be worth reupholstering and maybe not. What if one does not happen to have a good reupholster near. What if you do not have a way to get it there. What if you move and do not have room for it or the style doesn't work? This was most likely an 80's piece that someone spent a lot of money on (note the cushions are perfect).

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:37AM
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Hi there,

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Email me on hannah.shelley@nutopia.com or 0207 034 9697.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:17AM
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Manufacturers that build solid hardwood frames will have comparable quality cushioning. Cheaper frames usually = cheaper cushioning.
I have see many of sofa frames "fall apart" and also that the use of plywood frames in the majority of upholstered furniture is more recent trend. If you have a quality built sofa thats older than 8 - 10 years most likely it will be solid hardwood frame with doweled joinery.
High end manufacturers pricing is actually not any difference between a solid hardwood frame and a plywood frame. So why not choose the best frame when your paying for it in the first place.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 9:47PM
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Hi Manbike and other experts, I just bought an Elite full top-grain, aniline plus leather sofa that is made in their California plant. They use tempered steel sinuous springs for both the back and seating suspension.

From their site...

Depending on the design of an individual style, our frames are made of responsibly forested Pacific Northwest alder hardwood or of Forest Stewardship Council (FCS) certified hardwood plywood. The hardwood plywood frames we produce also meet the strict standards of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). We create the frames in our own mill and reinforce our fames to ensure proper tailoring of the selected covering. And, while others may not use corner blocks at all, we use many in each sofa to enhance its strength.

I do not have it yet. Most of the better sofas like HM are out of my price range. I sort of got warn down on my research and took the plunge. I did read a few bad reviews but apparently they have a cheaper side line sold at Macys and a few other stores that is made in China. I'm a bit nervous as I did not try it out in person. Also, if plywood is bad what do they mean by hardwood plywood? Does that mean crap? The choices are so limited around me so I ordered from a dealer I have used in the past. Do you know anything about Elite quality? I have read that not all sinuous springs are bad and that some can be very good.

I should add that I did write the factory and ask if my sofas had any China on it, they wrote back and said no, it is made in the California plant. Now granted in the world of furniture I am not making a huge investment. It is however a big investment to me in my world. I bought a four seat Aero sofa and a three seat Aero sofa, both in the top grain leather for a total of $4800. IâÂÂm just hoping that IâÂÂm getting a good mid to mid high quality and not over paying for a poor quality. Trying to get the best bang for your buck in a mid to mid high range is incredibly hard. Not everyone can spring for a HM. With H&M you know what you are getting. Not so much with other brands these days, even brands that formally had a good reputation.

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Thu, Mar 13, 14 at 10:14

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:15PM
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IMO, decide what you are expecting out of your sofa or chair. Yes, we all want quality, but just because you aren't buying heirloom quality doesn't mean you are buying junk. For most people, paying for heirloom quality doesn't make sense because they will want to buy new when the thing gets ratty and will not want to spend the money on reupholstering. Think about it. Do you really want to live with that sofa or chair for the rest of your life? Do you really believe your children will want your furniture?

I think many people here really don't know what junk furniture is. I recall years ago a furniture display at the Walter Smithe furniture store. They are a long-time, family owned furniture chain in the Chicago area. The display was a comparison cut apart of one of their leather sofas and a bargain brand (which they did not sell). For "springs" the bargain brand had nylon webbing - sort of like a fold-up garden chair.

Late night TV (at least here in the Chicago area) has plenty of ads for "furniture outlets" with "blowout sales" advertising new living room sets for $500 (sofa, chair) and maybe a coffee table and end tables thrown in for good measure. If that's all you can afford, fine, but I don't think anyone believes that stuff is going to last long.

From what I've seen with friends and relatives, the mistake most often made is not buying flimsy furniture but choosing impractical fabrics or leathers for daily-use furniture. The covering gets ratty long before the frame falls apart or even loosens.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 7:18AM
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You make a lot of sense Dream! We have always had leather sofas in our family room and that works well for us. I only once had a tweed type fabric sectional in a semi formal room and find leather fits into our lifestyle so much better. My sisterâÂÂs budget only allowed a pleather sort of sectional. Funny enough that baby is pretty well made and itâÂÂs actually a bit hard to tell at first that it is pleather. They have a lot of company and it has gotten much use over the past years and still looks brand new.

Up until recently I never had this much trouble trying to find decently made furniture in the mid to mid high range. There used to be furniture stores that you could count on for a certain quality. DonâÂÂt even get me started on wood finishes and the crap that you can barely touch without messing it up (at a mid to mid-high price). So much stuff is made in China but sitting in a beautiful show room looking all grand. ItâÂÂs a tricky thing these daysâ¦even with tools. You used to be able to count on certain brands for that too.
I am now about to move into our downsize house which requires a slightly different style of furniture, more of a transitional with a very very small nod to MCM. So, these sofas I have half down on are more stream-line. I really love the looks of them, just hope IâÂÂm not throwing good money away.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 8:58AM
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Just to clarify, when I said From what I've seen with friends and relatives, the mistake most often made is not buying flimsy furniture but choosing impractical fabrics or leathers for daily-use furniture. , I meant impractical fabrics and impractical leathers. I did not mean all leather is impractical.

Here's an example of a boo-boo I made. When I bought my Bradington Young wing back recliner, I picked a leather which had a great color for the room but was the type that gets a patina as it wears. "Patina" is just a fancy name for stains, and stained it did become, especially where the head and hands rested.

Since the chair itself was really comfortable and that brand is, I suppose, mid to high-mid quality, I had it reupholstered and asked the upholsterer to recommend various leathers that would not have that problem. It's been about 6 years since and it still looks great even though it is used every day.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 10:58AM
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You know what's funny is that all these years I had no idea what "different" leather was. My first leather sofa was 27 years ago. I have no idea the brand either it was a cream colored floor sample at Burdines. It lasted over twelve years with two boys and two dogs but finally had to go due to too much patina. Then I made the mistake of getting a natural soft calf colored one that was too hard to keep nice it only looked good for about nine years. Next was a warm cream leather that was a floor sample from Baers furniture. It still looks good after five years but the style of arm is not suitable for my new house so it's going on Craigs list. Now I'm buying a top grain aniline "plus". I have no idea what the "plus" means.

EDITED to add ...Plus just means SEMI-ANILINE! That's for me from what I have read.

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Fri, Mar 14, 14 at 23:13

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 11:41AM
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How about the $1700 sectionals at Macy's? (northern CA) Not the high end ones, but the mid range. The saleswoman told me they were made in U. S. However, then she said they would only last 10 years. $1700 is a lot of money from my viewpoint. We have no pets anymore, the kids are gone, and when the grandkids come they aren't allowed to jump on the furniture. How much do we have to spend??
Pottery Barn sectionals are not all that great; cushions get mushy and they run at least $2500.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 8:11PM
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Italiangirl, I could be wrong but in my resent searches (when I was looking for a sectional) it seems you have to pay at least a thousand more for a mid to a tic over a mid-range price. However, I was looking at leather sectionals. The better quality is well over four grand and up. Again I could be wrong but I think $1700 is not a mid- range but on the low end. Still, if it is on sale (a real sale) and you like it, itâÂÂs not a big investment if you get a few years out of it.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 10:20PM
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$1700 for a sectional is on the lower end athough I realize it is a lot of money to spend. Are you looking for leather or fabric. A high end leather set can run $7000 an up which I realize is out of the price range of most people. Ask about contruction, cushions and the warranty. Look at the tailoring and then make your decision.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 7:04AM
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I forgot to update this thread and let everyone know that we did finally find a high quality sofa and chair and a half. We spent a long time looking on Craigslist, in furniture stores, consignment stores, etc but finally found our perfect deal on Craigslist.

It was a very large, cushy, beautiful fabric sofa and matching chair and a half. The frames were reinforced with steel rods. The sellers said they bought the set 14 years ago at Haverty's for $2,500 and that the company who made the sofa is now out of business. They were only asking $300 for the set. We took it and it looks beautiful in our home and is extremely comfortable.

They were only letting go of the set because they needed a large sectional for their large livingroom and they were sad to part with it. We got lucky.

Several other good deals got away from us on CL because we were just moments too late before we finally lucked out with this set and caught it the instant it got posted.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 12:12PM
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