Good Starter Sofa,Couch and Loveseats

weizillaJanuary 5, 2010

I just graduated and moved to a new city for a job. I'm looking to buy some living room furniture, mainly a sofa and loveseat combination.

I'm not sure exactly how much to spend but I'm definitely looking towards more value than quality, maybe around $1500 total? I read about all the high density foam cushions, kiln-dried hardwood frames and 8 way ties or S curve coils but I rather save money now and just get high end stuff once I'm financially stable and settled down into a house.

Any brands that are good in my price range? Or would it be better just to get Ikea stuff since any sets at my range will be the same quality anyways? I'm expecting the set to last 4-5 years, 6 if I really treat it well.

I live in Chicagoland area.

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Also, I was thinking of microfiber as the fabric as it seems to be durable, easy to clean and looks nice.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:25PM
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You are into the most crowded segment of the upholstered furniture industry. There are hundreds of companies that make upholstered furniture that retails at the price range you are looking at.

Don't expect to find 8 way hand tied coils at your budget. But you should be able to get a sofa and love seat with kiln-dried hardwood frames, high-density foam cushions and sinuous coils for $1500.

There are so many companies out there that can fit your requirements that I don't know where to start recommending.

I will warn you, however, of a few things to avoid. Stay away from Ashley Furniture, probably the largest single manufacturer and retailer of upholstered furniture, unless you really want one of their $399 sofas. Their more expensive offerings are still junk underneath.

The other warning I have is to stay away from leather at that price range. Leather offerings at that price come in 2 different categories: first are the sofas that are made with "bycast" leather that is basically little pieces of scrap leather that has been chopped up and glued back together. The mill cost is for bycast is about the same as a medium-low grade of fabric. The second category of leather to stay away from is genuine leather sofas. For a manufacturer to afford to put real leather on a sofa at that price means that they have to cheat on the insides. You will be getting a $399 quality sofa with a nice piece of leather on the outside.
I am not terribly impressed with IKEA's upholstered furniture offerings. I think their case goods are a much better value.

Microfibers can be great. Just remember that there are different grades. See if your salesperson will let you feel a swatch of the fabric. Some microfibers are very thin while others have some weight to them. It can be very difficult to tell the difference when the fabric is made up on a sofa, until you have had it in your home for a year or two and start noticing the thinner fabric wearing out.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 5:46PM
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That's great advice! I looked around at Macy's and Carsons and there does seem to be a ton of stuff at the $1500-$2000 price range (~$900 couch, ~$800 loveseat).

Since there seems to be a lot of junk out there, how do you tell what's good or not? Are labels reliable? At least with wooden furniture, you can feel the wood, look in the drawers and inspect the corners. It seems other than feeling the fabric, everything is covered up so you can't easily compare upholstery furniture.

Even with cushions, it seems hard to tell quality. Good cushions should last a long time but that doesn't seem to correlate with how it feels now. There's always reviews where people say the cushions feel amazing now but a few months/years later, they're saggy. Are there things to look for if I can unzip floor model display cushions?

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 11:43PM
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In general department stores mark up their furniture about 10% more than furniture stores. I would buy from a department store only when they have a particularly good sale going on.

It can be difficult to tell the quality of a cushion just from looking at it. At your price range, you are probably going to have to settle for a basic foam cushion. If you have a knowledgable salesperson, ask if any of their furniture comes with ultracell cushions. That is a brand name foam that is particularly durable and comfortable.

If not, I would suggest unzipping a seat cushion and take a look at what is inside. At a minimum you should have a fairly firm piece of foam at least 6" thick with a polyester fiber wrapping around the cushion.

You should also check out the back pillows. Preferably they should have a zipper. If you look inside and see a white ticking that holds the cushion filling that is usually a good quality back cushion. The lower quality back cushions will just have shredded foam or fiber blown right into the back cushion fabric and then the fabric is sewn up.

A couple of brands you might look for:

Mitchell Gold - They may be a bit above your price range but make an excellent product.

Flexsteel - You have to be careful with Flexsteel these days as they import some of their product from China now. When looking at a Flexsteel sofa, turn it over and look at the bottom. If there is no dustcover and you can see the blue steel spring, you are looking at an American-made product with a hyperbolic spring that is possibly the most durable ever made. American made Flexsteel products put a lot of quality inside their products where you can't see it. Their tailoring isn't always the best, but its still a good product. Stay away from imported Flexsteel products (they will have dust covers on the bottom.)

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 12:43PM
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thanks, laura11106

very good "inside" knowledge for sofa selection

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 1:13PM
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Thanks again for the info laura11106! It'll definitely come in handy when I take a look at everything in stores.

I found some other links on this site with more general upholstery info for anyone else following this thread:

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 1:25AM
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Update on my search:

I went to Toms-Price, Macy's, Carson Pirie Scott (just like Macy's), and Dania. Toms-price carries high end stuff (Stickley and such) and all of it was above my price range. It was pretty funny when I asked about their price range for sofa and love seat and the woman responded with "$1500". I asked "total?" and she just looked at me and said "no. each".

Macy's had Bauhaus, which seems to have bad reviews on this site and Jonathan Louis, both at my $1500 price range. Carson's also carries Bauhaus and Broyhill, which seems to be somewhat more acceptable by this forum. They also carried HM Richards. The sales person said Bauhaus and HM Richards are about the same quality, with Broyhill a little better than both of them. Dania had stuff that was more modern looking but I think about the same quality.

From what I saw, the furniture looked more or less the same. Some back cushions just had loose filling whereas others had theirs in this thin white wrapping. I didn't see a big deal as it's probably easy enough to buy pillow case protectors and get the same benefit.

For bottom cushions, it seems all of them had a piece of yellow foam with a few layers of white fiberlike material on the top and bottom. Looked all the same to me.

In terms of frames, it's quite hard to tell the difference since everything is wrapped. The only difference I could tell was some couches flexed more than others when I lifted a corner.

Onto Crate & Barrel, Room & Board, Ethan Allen and Pottery Barn next! Also, I'm going to look for Rowe and Smith Brothers furniture but they seem to be harder to find a dealer for.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 11:09PM
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Yes, take a look at Room and Board.

You'll never get the best construction at your price point but at least their sofas are made in the States.

Here is a link that might be useful: Room and Board

    Bookmark   January 12, 2010 at 10:25AM
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You can find incredible deals on Craigslist especially if you live in a major city. The trick is to look every day at every sofa and loveseat listed. The majority of the furniture is junk and hard to look at, but in the course of a month, I promise you that you will come across several incredible deals on quality, like new furniture at inexpensive prices.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 4:06AM
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I second the Craigslist idea... If you have the time and patience. I bought a little used Mitchell Gold sofa, that cost over 2K new, for about 400 bucks and the seller threw in delivery (I had no way to get it without renting a truck) It was just one of a few great deals I've found there over the years. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 11:13PM
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You have to know what quality construction is by doing your homework, then look for that information in the product. If the sales person can't show you literature claiming "kiln-dried hardwood frame" or "double-doweled and glued," or "high-density foam," then you can be sure the product isn't made with those quality construction features.

I just really believe in quality upholstery though. If you pay 1500 for 5 years of use, that's 300 a year and then throw away. If you pay 3000, choose fabric wisely, and take decent care of it, you could easily get 20+ years of use and then recover if you want. That's half the cost of the cheap starter set. I know of a good sofa (foam cushions) in excellent shape, still comfortable and good looking after 30 years. I know of an excellent sofa (spring and down cushions) still almost perfect after 50 years. The only problem is a couple buttons of the tufting have come off. I have seen high-quality upholstered furniture still looking and feeling great after 80 years.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 1:07PM
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