How NOT To Shop For A Sofa


It first really hit me the morning that the Better Homes and Gardens Do It Yourself Magazine folks were coming.  The Sofa.  The poor sofa was begging for mercy.  We bought this sofa about eight years ago and I still absolutely love it.  It was one of the best purchases we’ve ever made.  I feel like I’ve finally learned how to shop for and what to look for in a sofa.  And I learned it all the hard way, you don’t have to learn the hard way, you can learn from my mistakes.

Remember how this sofa used to look? It’s toile underneath but after an afternoon with the slipcover whisperer and 10 willing sewers we got this….

This picture’s from just a few months ago, there’s no denying that a white sofa is so very photogenic.  Show off.

And this is what I did the morning that the BHGDIY ladies were coming, I had to rope it off so no one would sit on it.  And I’m noticing that after a little over two years of being slipcovered there are some parts that are really showing their wear.  And I blame myself. We are the family in the world that is the most hard on their furniture.  I make no apologies.  We eat on it, drink on it, sleep on it, we don’t let the dog on it but that’s about my only rule.  That sofa serves us, not the other way around.

But two weeks after washing it, the slipcover looks like this again.  I’ve noticed that in the summer when my boys are home, the slipcover is filthy and needs washing every 2-3 weeks, when they are in school I can go 6-8 weeks.  I’ve thought about doing a new slipcover–Kristi even offered to come down and I love that idea because I LOVE white slipcovers and always will.  But I HATE washing them. And people, putting a slipcover on a sectional is about three twenty times more trouble than putting one back on a normal sofa.

And then I got an email from La-Z-Boy telling me about a new sofa they had and asking if I’d like to review it.  And I ignored it for over a month because I didn’t want to think about getting a new sofa. I LIKE my sofa.

This sofa?  This sofa is the anchor of our home. I feel like everything in our house is somehow connected to this sofa, once I put the white slipcovers on it changed how I felt about the room. It made me love the room.  It kind of made me love our house. The sofa is still SO incredibly comfortable.  After eight years it’s held its shape and the cushions are perfect and I still LOVE it.  I didn’t want to start over fresh.

And then I remembered that La-Z-Boy owned the company that made our sofa back when we purchased it.  And I knew I had always told myself if I ever DID look for a new sofa, I would start with La-Z-Boy because I trust them and Clayton Marcus belongs to someone else now and because if THIS sofa didn’t disintegrate or burst into flames or turn into a puff of smoke after being in our house for 8 years, then we’ve got something special.

So I finally emailed La-Z-Boy and they are up to the challenge of working with me and submitting themselves to the torture of answering all of my questions and putting up with my indecisiveness and letting their sofa be tested in the crelest most demanding environments that is our house without sofa rules with three boys and a man.  So we can all watch how this next sofa of ours will hold up.

So here’s my wisdom, laid bare for you, learn from me young sofa shoppers, don’t do what I’ve done….

What I’ve Learned About Shopping For A Sofa–Most of it I Learned the Hard Way


1. It’s better to be patient than to settle…TRUST ME

We’ve had two sofas in our 17 years of marriage the first one was leather and we had it for 9 years.  My husband really wanted leather and I really wanted a new sofa and we had a budget and we wanted our sofa YESTERNOW so instead of saving up a few more months and getting the leather I really wanted, I settled and paid a few hundred dollars less and got an orangy leather that I hated for the next 9 years. Did you read that?  I hated a sofa for 9 years because I didn’t want to spend a few hundred dollars more to get what I truly wanted.  And the orange leather sofa wasn’t cheap, I just didn’t want to wait any longer to get what I really wanted.

the orange sofa #hated

Lesson learned.  If we would have waited a few months until we had a little more money and got the beautiful leather that I actually wanted?  I wouldn’t have had to despise the sofa for nine years giving it dirty looks only to get rid of a sofa that was still in great condition but that I hated.  Funny, instead of seeing that I was wasting money getting something I didn’t really like, at the time I felt like I was saving money in settling.  That works for some things like ordering the fish instead of lobster, but I wouldn’t recommend that method with a sofa especially one that you are paying good money for in the first place.  Sofas are the centerpiece of a room and many times are the most used item in the house (well, maybe besides the toilet) it’s worth it to save a little more to get the better quality and finishes that you like, even if it means waiting an extra few months.

2. Don’t buy the trendy fabric on the sofa, use that for pillows

Yep, I bought a toile sofa. Not only that, it was a sectional. Not only that, it was RED. And yep, five years later, as much as I still loved toile?  The sofa had me in a corner.  There’s only so much you can do with a room with a red toile sofa. I wish I would have gone neutral.  Lucky for me I was able to slipcover it.

Kramer’s hands, how did I not get a photo of his actual face?

3.The Sales Reps/Design Consultants are there to help

I still remember the name of the sales rep/designer that helped us with our current sofa (did I mention it was eight years ago?) Her name is Helen.  This time we went into the La-Z-Boy store and met Joe Kramer (who promptly told us that everyone calls him Kramer so we are going with that).  Kramer’s knowledge of the warranties and fabrics and cushions was incredibly useful in helping us make our decision.  I was shocked at the quality of the warranties–you can purchase a fabric sofa from La-Z-Boy and they offer an optional warranty that covers it for LIFE?  Even if it rips or you spill something on it?  That’s incredible.

Plus without knowing I’m a local blogger or anything they offered to come to my house and measure and do a virtual room board showing the sofa I pick out and how it looks in our room.   They have in house designers that will help you as much or as little as you want–for free.

I initially had a sweet spot for La-Z-Boy because of the torture that our current sofa has endured, now I have a sweet spot for them because of their warranties, the fact that they are American made, they stand by their products and they have a great tag line (I’m a sucker for a great tag line)

“Live life comfortably.”

being patient also? dreaming about a leather sofa…

So basically, eight years ago, if I would have purchased an actual La-Z-Boy sofa in a neutral fabric I wouldn’t be writing this post, because the fabric would be guaranteed FOREVER with the Ultrasheild Lifetime Fabric Warranty.  And La-Z-Boy is an 85 year-old company, I don’t think they are going anywhere.

So this time, while I’m picking out the best sofa for us, I don’t have to do secret calculations in my head about staying away from certain fabrics because I assume that our family will destroy them.  It really puts the fun back into sofa shopping.

they have over 900 fabrics and 100 leathers to choose from, oh my!

Lesson learned, if you can get a timeless fabric or leather from a reputable dealer that stands by their product you will actually save money in the long run.

…to be continued

Have you made a really good or really poor decision with a sofa?  I’d love to commiserate.

*There’s some discussion in the comments about La-Z-Boy being American Made, click here to find out what La-Z-Boy has to say for themselves.

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  1. No sad sofa stories here. My parents taught us to be good quality furniture, the best we could afford, even if that meant saving up. We just bought a new sofa and some other pieces for the great room this past December. We bought from the same furniture store we’d used about 14 years before when we bought a lazy boy sofa, chair and ottoman. I will say that sofa wore GREAT. In fact, we gave it to the son of friends of ours – who are getting married – TOMORROW!! They bought a small house, didn’t have much $$$ left for furniture. Our furniture still looked great but we were tired of it. I really wanted to lighten up. I WILL CAUTION YOU HOWEVER, on the present day Lazy boy. I fully intended to purchase another lazyy boy sofa. However, the furniture store had quit carrying Lazy Boy because they were not happy with how it was hold up anymore. Apparently the manufacturing now takes place in Mexico, not the USA and quality has diminished. I investigated on-line and at a home decorating forum (Garden Web) that I frequent. On the forum, I knew I could ask opinions and real life experience and get honest answers. Those who praised Lazy Boy were like me, had purchased their pieces several years ago. Those who had purchased in recent years were not happy. Just so you know.

    Regarding the fabric protector, I have used that for years. We had a cat when we first purchased our Lazy Boy sofa many years ago. She got sick and puked down the back of the sofa. THE ALMOST NEW SOFA. First they paid to have the area clean, but when that slightly faded the fabric, they came to my house and re-did the back of the sofa. So, the guarantee is a good one.

    We don’t have chlidren and we do now have a very light colored sofa. However, we don’t eat on the sofa and we are pretty much no shoes in the house (we’re just that way and I think things stay cleaner doing that) so we’re not bad about getting “stuff” (spills, etc.) on our furniture.

    Just thought I’d share my research results with you. Best of luck!!


    • that’s so interesting, I’m a little nervous about it, I admit, a new sofa is SCARY! but they are willing to basically let me review it–which means they give me a sofa and then over the years you all get to watch what happens. If it falls apart? I’ll tell you. They seem pretty confident, even knowing how hard we are on furniture, God Bless this new sofa, it doesn’t know what it’s in for. Actually, now that our boys are bigger it’s really in for a lot of SITTING!

      I can’t speak for where every part is made I know Kramer told me SOMETHING was made here in the US–hoping a La-Z-Boy rep will stop by and speak to some of these questions!

      • Betsy M says:

        I don’t know about where it is made but I have to agree with tina. My friends 1.5 yr old Lazy Boy sofa has an arm that is coming loose and their warranty was for 1 year. They are VERY disappointed. Thanks for your pointers on what not to do Nester. We are in the market for a sofa as well.

    • Ruth Baumgartner says:

      I cannot speak about ALL LazyBoy manufacturing. However, they just built a factory near my parents rural home, great for their local economy! And it is in the USA…

    • Hi Tina,

      I am now in the process of looking for a new sofa and chairs for our well used livingroom. I definitely believe that you should buy good quality, comfortable furniture for areas that you use everyday and want to last for years. We paid a fortune for our sofa which is very comfortable still but is 100 percent down and the feathers are always popping out. It is also a style that I would like to change. I think I like more lighter,modern, clean lined look but still comfort is key. I am interested it what sofa you finally ended up choosing since you furniture store no longer carried lazyboy?
      Thanks for any help you can give me.


  2. We bought a living room set at Ashley several years ago. Black tables and dark leather love seat and sofa. It was really cheap, solid wood, real leather, I was thrilled. But now I hate matchy room sets, and I hate that we spent $700 on a sofa (now I don’t even know if I would spend that on a car) because I’ve come to love second-hand things and see the beauty in the used and old. It’s the over-stuffed variety of sofas so it’s hard to slipcover them. So we’re going to paint/heavily distress the coffee table, use the side tables in a different room, and put some plywood under the sofa cushions (because they sink to the earth’s core when you sit down).

  3. We’ve been married a few years and still have a hand me down sofa from my in-laws. We hide the 80s ugly with a slipcover. The frame itself is in pretty good shape, but the cushions were awful when we got married. I tried buying furniture foam myself and cutting it to size last year, which worked ok but not great. Now the cushions are all flat and uncomfortable again. We’re debating whether it’s worth it to spring for better cushions from a professional or if we should start saving the dollas for a new couch altogether. I’m excited to see what couch you get and what you do to dress it up!

  4. Haley Hill says:

    I assume the lifetime warranty is something you have to pay extra for? Looking at their website, it appears there is a limited warranty that generally covers things for only 1 year. It might be a bit more honest/straightforward to clarify that point but maybe it’s just me? I assumed the amazing warranty you were referring to come with the purchase of the sofa.

    • so sorry, I did say “they offer a warranty that covers it for life” and that’s what I meant, it’s optional–and another reader pointed out that “lifetime” could mean something different state to state so I would want to ask that too if you are doing fabric.

      I’ll update the post to be clear, thanks!

  5. We loved our first set of couches. They were a dark earthy neutral green and it was easy to decorate with them. The microfiber fabric was super durable and cleaned easily. We bought them from a store that has since closed. Last summer be bought a set of couches from la-Z-boy. I have to tell you that I will never ever purchases a sofa from them again. We have a lot of couch rules and are very easy on our furniture. After only 3-4 months the back cushions looked very lumpy and the middle cushion is now sagging by about 5 inches. They look terrible. Corporate told us that we had to fluff the cushions after every time we sit down in order for them to keep their shape. Who does that?!?! We spent less on our previous couches and they didn’t look this bad after 8 years. La-Z-boy has agreed to replace the back cushion inserts, but I’m certain we will have the same issue as the I believe that the structure is flawed. If they give you a sofa for free, then go for it, otherwise, you’re better off saving more money and going with a better brand like Ethan Allen. I am happy with the fabric though- durable and chocolate brown : )

    • Oh no, that’s awful! I did notice that no one seems to warranty the actual structure of the cushions–the foam part, which surprises me. That’s the part of our current sofa that I’m so happy with, and we are upgrading our cushions for the next sofa. I’ll be reporting back to you what happens–feel free to ask any time–they want me to be honest about the sofa.

      • I have a Clayton Marcus, too. I’m sure it’s more than ten years old; I don’t remember exactly. It’s survived years of homeschool read alouds and the cushions are still great — no sagging at all. I think a lot has to do with the composition of the cushion. All foam doesn’t hold up well, at all. Dacron wrapped foam is a little better. Some combination with down is even better, which is what I think we have.
        Great tips, BTW!

    • Many years ago we bought an Ethan Allen sofa. The fabric did not wear well. Two young working couples with no kids, we were. And the cushions started to deteriorate within a year. EA would not do anything. We had the sofa for a number of years until we put it to the street. The only good thing was the frame. It took almost a half and hour for the garbage truck to eat it up. The rest of the sofa was junk. And their wood furniture isn’t much better. Evidently the glue evaporates with time. I actually had a side table completely fall apart when I moved it to vacuum. We put it back together….but that solidified my stance on EA.
      However, our other Lazy-Boy sofa has worn well…the fabric has been wonderful…and it has survived our cats and their puke and looks like new. We purchased it in ’95 and now the cushions look great but in reality have no support left. It’s also a sleeper…but no one has slept on it for several years, so I don’t know if it is an issue or not. The Lazy-Boy was MUCH cheaper than the Ethan Allen sofa. I used to say you get what you pay for. Pay more get more. But, now, I think it really is buyer beware.
      Sorry this is so long. Just an FYI on EA.

  6. I immediately jumped to this post on my blog reader because we are in the midst of making changes to our living room and just bought a sofa. Truth is, I’m VERY discouraged right now about it all. I’ve known what I wanted for years and am finally doing it. I live in a third world country and there are just not a lot of options here. I could not find what I wanted (basic sofa, clean lines in a neutral color- actually the color of the sofa in the picture above with the man sitting on the sofa- a sand color) so we had one made to order. Cost was $550. As soon as the worker set the new sofa down in my LR- literally he had not even straightened up- when my cat ran over and began sharpening her claws on the corner pulling out threads! The fabric was a textured basket weave easy to catch and pull with her claws. I was horrified and almost began to weep right then and there. All I could think was “I’ve made a horrible mistake and what do I do?” Our plan was to get rid of the matching victorian camel back sofa/loveseat and replace it with two identical modern sofas. We have not ordered the second sofa yet because I’m so upset with the first, at how easy it was for the threads to pull out. Can’t blame anyone but myself for picking it out. It’s pretty, I really like it, but I never once thought of the cat during the months it took me to find something. So now I’m left with what to do about finishing. We can only afford to do one thing a month and so the LR is “eclectic” (trying to be positive here) with a collection of Victorian and Modern in two different color schemes. I can see my dream starting to take shape but discouragement has stalled me out big time.

    • oh that is so hard! Maybe it’s less $$ to declaw the cat (is that awful? i know nothing about cats). when it rains, it pours, right?

      • Just popping in to share (non-judgementally) that declawing should be the very last resort, because it’s an extremely painful procedure. Although it’s called de”clawing” they’re basically removing the first part of the cat’s “fingers” as if you removed the first joint of your finger all the way down to the first knuckle. Also if they are declawed they can never defend themselves if they end up outside, can’t even climb a tree.

        The best thing is to try and keep claws trimmed super short. The Feliway Spray or Plugin has calming pheromones that help decrease scratching. It works really well for us. Also, I have definitely found that the rougher-weave fabrics seem to make the cats want to scratch , vs. smooth, tight weaves like microfiber don’t seem to invite scratching.

        Hope I don’t sound lecture-y, just sharing what I’ve learned as a) a pet owner who loves her cats but also loves having a neat and tidy home, and b) former veterinary hospital manager who saw way too many painful declaw operations.

        • Just wanted to share that I felt the same way about declawing until my vet convinced me to do it. My cat barely seemed to notice a difference and now our furniture, base boards, bodies, etc. are no longer scratched! trimming the claws down only makes them want to sharpen them and scratch more and that pheromone stuff doesn’t have ANY affect. I’m sure the procedure looks painful, but if you sit in on a human having any sort of surgery (elective or otherwise) it would also appear terrifying. That’s what anesthesia and pain meds are for. Oh, and the reason I am coming back to this post now is because I can finally buy a nice couch!

    • Our cat used to love to scratch our sofa! In a last-ditch effort to keep him off, I made him a sisal scratching post (a 1×6 board about 3 feet long, wrapped in sisal rope, screwed into the wall and rubbed with catnip) and he pretty much left the sofa alone after that. Except for the occasional hyper-kitty mood.

    • Sorry that happened to you, but you don’t even want to know what a cat can do to leather. What a mess!

  7. I learned the hard way too about being impatient and buying a sofa that isn’t what you really want! The sofa itself is OK, but the fabric…bleh. It was the best (neutral) option that Bass had to offer at the time, but really, I hate it. Next time!

    Another thing I learned is that the length of the “lifetime warranty” is usually determined by state law. For me, in Tennessee, I think a sofa’s “lifetime” is 7 years. Bass was very upfront about that. Would be great if the sofa was guaranteed for “my” lifetime, but that wasn’t the case! Just something to check out!

    • good point, I know our salesperson said a lady came in after 25 years and her fabric was discontinued so she got a new sofa? an old tale they tell everyone? Such a good question to ask “how long is lifetime” thank you!

  8. I can’t comment on a Laz-Y-Boy sofa as I’ve never had one, but we had a recliner that lasted for years, with us and then with my son and daughter-in-law. Regarding sofas, I try to always buy the best I can afford and have only had 3 in 45 years of marriage so they have lasted well. My problem has been with style. The last sofa we had for the shortest time because I hated the way it sat. It had big, loose back cushions, big seat cushions and high arms. I always felt like I sunk into it. It was hot to sit on and hard to get up when seated. It also was a dark plaid, which I thought I liked that day in the store and never liked again. I was able to sell it in a couple of years and I was much more particular this time. I knew I wanted firm cushions, low arms, clean lines and a neutral fabric. I have been much happier.

  9. I too have a sectional sofa I absolutely LOVE and I’m guessing from the toile on yours & the fact I was living in the south at the time, that I bought mine around the time you bought yours- except mine has 3 different trendy fabrics on it!! and now I’m trying to figure out how to make a neutral slip cover that will endure a 2 yr old! any chance you’ll be doing a giveaway that will send those friends who helped you sew your slip cover to my house? the dated floral fabric hides baby stains quite well. can’t wait to see your new couch!

  10. Pamela Stevens says:

    I too have purchased many Lazy Boy items, recliners to be exact. My parents were in need of recliners and had also purchased Lazy Boy before. Well, this time Lazy Boy did not live up to their previous standards. The recliners snapped and popped and were very noisy. I contacted Lazy Boy and to make a long story short the company refused to do anything to fix the situation. I agree with Tina, I will not be buying Lazy Boy again.

  11. I gave in on my first set of furniture with the hubs and got a recliner, and wait for it… A reclining sofa! In microfiber. Yuck. Hated it for the whole time we’ve owned it (8 1/2years). The comfort favtor is great but, man, it’s ugly. We still have it in our toy room but the next time we move it’s outta here!

    Our latest purchase, a year and a half ago, is a La-Z-Boy sofa (The Laurel). It’s cute, not to oversized, and comfy. But, it’s red. 85% of the time I love it. But sometimes I see a coastal style room and ache for something lighter. Maybe I need the slipcover whisperer. Oh, and my husband was disappointed that it didn’t come with Brooke Shields draped over the arm.

    And we got the stain treatment. So far so good. Everything cleans up with a damp cloth (it’s NOT microfiber). And my kids are 4 and 1 so it sees a lot of crayon and marker action, milk spills, and cheeto fingerprints.

    Good luck with the new coucheroo!

  12. I vote DYE the slip covers!!

  13. I know exactly what you mean about washing a slipcover! I had a white, fitted slipcovered sofa, and it was SO HARD to get it off and (especially) back on! I worked for Crate and Barrel Furniture for a while, and one of the things they always said was that 7 years was the new “lifetime.” I think about that now, since my Pottery Barn leather sofas are 9 years old and showing SERIOUS wear!

  14. Several tips on slipcovers……. don’t totally dry them after washing. Put back on sofa a little damp. If you have trouble getting cushion covers back on….. thoroughly wrap them in plastic and stick vacuum hose inside and turn on vacuum. With the air out of the cushions, put them in the cushion covers and turn off the vacuum. You will have to pull the plastic off them before closing zipper.

    You could find a slipcover maker and ask them if they would make a pattern for you. If you have a number of pieces of furniture you want slipcovered and you live in Illinois, email me and perhaps we can work something out.

    • I stopped dead in my tracks when I read your idea of a slipcover maker who might make a pattern for a slipcover. What a fantastic idea. Who would of thought that?? I tried to make one for a chair and 8 hours later, dripping with sweat and crying, I call ed it a day. Sure would like to learn how to make them tho.
      Thanks for the idea!! I live in St. Louis.

  15. When we first got married, I somehow let my husband choose the fabric for a sofa. It was kelly green with yellow and royal blue plaid. What the heck was I thinking? I guess it was one of those early marriage moments? Before you decide who plays what roles? In the end (THANK YOU GOD) the upholstery on one side was a bit lopsided which is quite obvious when you have giant green, yellow, and blue plaid. Ashley Furniture took the whole thing back because of the defect and we went somewhere else and bought a neutral sofa that we still have. It’s been with us nearly 12 years now.

    I still kind of can’t believe the sales lady didn’t tell me something like, “Uh, that fabric is for pillows. It’s for pillows on sofas that belong to old women in old farmhouses. Not 23 year old couples in the city.” Maybe she tried to dissuade us but my loyalty to my new husband was too strong. Whatever the problem, I am SO thankful for the upholstery artist who cut and stapled that plaid on lopsided or I’d probably still be stuck with that lovely piece of Americana today.

    • lol- this made me chuckle! My husband and I are still in the newlywed years of our marriage. I have been utterly surprised (and he has been, too) that he has opinions on the design decisions in our home! Can you imagine the audacity? ;)

      • It’s a shock, isn’t it? CLEARLY painted cabinets and a butcher block-topped island is the ideal kitchen remodel. But he wants natural wood and granite?!? Oh boy, this could be harder than I thought…
        Luckily we are nowhere near to actually remodeling the kitchen yet :)

        • I am so glad to see this.we’re getting new sofas this year. Love shabby chic but the prices!!

          Trying loving painted kitchens and being married to a custom cabinetmaker who cooks. Sigh. I’ll never get MY dream kitchen.

  16. Anonymous says:

    When we first bought our very first living room set, I wanted purple couches so bad. I hemmed and hawed between a more neutral khaki color and this deep royal purple. I gave in and about two months after I bought them I hated hated hated them. The color went with nothing! The next time I bought a safe we had my grandmothers vintage sofa recovered Ina neutral fabric and I still love it and it’s so well made. It’s worth buying a good couch, and buying cheap chairs and accessories.

  17. oooooooooohhhhhh what I’d do for new couches! I agree with you 100%, to the moon & back…DO. NOT. GET. A. SOFA. THAT. IS. COVERED. IN. TRENDY. FABRIC. (sorry for the caps but I’m making a declarative sentence). :) The blue, green & cream plaid that was lovely & fashionable in the late 90’s is now an eyesore and I don’t have the money for slip covers. Gah!!!!! And I agree with you 100%…don’t buy cheap. Our couches are basically taking up room in the front room. The love seat simply cannot be sat in because you sink so low into it. The couch is only slightly better. As I said, they’re just taking up space. And making me cringe each time I walk through the front room.

    Great post! Have fun picking out your new sofa!

  18. Great article. I very much agree with you about only buying what you love. Seven years ago when the red couch trend was happening, I totally fell in love with the idea. Like in LOVE. Every time someone talked furniture I would tell them that I was going to buy a red couch and they would tell me I was going to get tired of red. I should go neutral because neutral is easy to decorate around. I didn’t listen to them. I spent three months getting my husband used to the idea. (He hates surprises.) Then I earned some money that was outside the family budget. We went couch shopping. We did it all wrong. Went to one store. Tried to fit buying a couch into a couple of hours. Zero research was done. And I only had $600 in my budget.

    So I bought a red couch. It was a little too big for the room. It’s very bright red. It’s been in my home seven years.

    And I ADORE it. I love my red couch. Mine’s solid red though. I just recently redecorated around that red couch and I have a lovely red and turquoise room for it to live in. Buy what you love because if you love it you’ll never get tired of it. My $600 couch isn’t going to last much longer and I’ll be couch shopping in a year or so. I’ll be replacing it with another red couch.

  19. I don’t think I need to write anything here other than AMEN. So, Amen. ;}

  20. BEST information ever!…I believe a great mattress & a great sofa are the most important & most used you said except maybe the loo…. pieces you will ever have inside your home! So save up and by the best!…& neutral!…GREAT article…!

  21. p.s. love your living room!

  22. OK, I have to share this with you- because you will understand the happiness and glee at the deals I got on craig’s list yesterday! I have been looking for a couch FOREVER on craig’s list. I am so picky and cheap- that is a hard combo- but again, I know you can relate :) I saw a listing just 6 min after they posted it: a brown leather couch, love seat, ottoman and chair for $250!!!! I called immediately and he had already said someone could come next day- we came next day earlier and with cash and walked away with the single best deal ever! They are GORGEOUS!!!!! I am so happy and totally know that is it worth it to wait, save your cash, and know what you want.

  23. We have a La-Z-Boy sofa & chair, bought when they had a special series designed by Todd Oldham (about 8 years ago, too). It’s very mid-century retro with pointed metal legs and a VERY specific “retro” ’50s pattern in dark blue. Do I still like it? Somewhat. It has held up very well in terms of quality, though. It’s seen here in this post, just to be obnoxious:

    Our main sitting area is in that family room; a sectional bought at Plummer’s. It’s neutral and big and was so cheap for the size…but now all the foam inserts are so misshapen after less than 5 yrs. Not to mention the filth, but I can PROBABLY do something about that! :-)

  24. I think we’ve all heard to buy the best quality one can afford. In a sofa that means quality construction which, in turn, means: kiln-dried frame and 8-way hand-tied construction. Does the Lazy Boy meet that criteria? If so, it is a quality sofa. Simple as that.
    Also, I recommend getting a natural fabric it is untreated by “anti-stain” chemicals. Go with cotton, linen, cotton/linen blend, leather, or even wool. If Lazy Boy offers reupholstery in the warranty, that is another reason to forgo the chemicals. If/when the fabric wears too much, just get it reupholstered.

  25. We had our first sofa for 30+ years (Norwalk brand). Still have it in the basement – most comfortable sofa EVER! But I was sick of the plaid fabric. So after looking for approx. 2 years, we just purchased Lazyboy in Spring of 2011 and love love love it. We got a neutral color, much like a light burlap. I love white but not practical for my house. I love that I can change pillow covers and throws for the season and have a completely different look. Be aware that the sofa will appear darker once it arrives at your house than the sample looks under the lighting of the store. That was a shocker!

  26. We have had great luck with our Rowe sofas. Both we purchased locally 6yrs ago and both are slipcover. We have 3 young kids and a dog. So they get lots of wear. The structure and cushions have held up great. So much so that I am giving one of them to my parents who just renovated their house and built a sunroom and need some extra seating. They will need to recover the sofa, but for them a loose slipcover will work just fine. The fitted slipcovers are expensive, but its worth buying good quality structures so we can save for slipcovers every 5-8 years.

  27. In my lifetime I’ve had two wonderful sofas (the last a comfy leather one from Room and Board) that didn’t fit up the stairs of two different apartments/condos. I don’t think there is a worse feeling then on a hectic moving day your very expensive sofa won’t go up the 3 flights of stairs. (Neither did the matching leather chair or my queen bed box springs). UGH! I was at a place where I couldn’t afford to replace the expensive sofa with an equally plush, expensive yet small one. So I ended up with a $30 sofa from Ikea from off of Craigs List. One would think used cheap sofa = not so good. However its worked out OK and seemed to have been barely used. I’ve now had it for almost 6 years. I had to switch where I sit every day to the other end of the couch because it was getting a butt divot ala’ Homer Simpson. I’ve enjoyed getting different colored slipcovers for the sofa. I’ve gone from black to natural to brown and will be dying it to a navy blue in the coming weeks (or whatever color navy blue over a brown slipcover makes). I’m saving my pennies for a new couch and have already measured my tiny stairwell. I want a neutral but nothing beige, tan or brown. I love cream and white but I think I’m too messy for that. Maybe navy? I think black is to bachelor pad looking, maybe. It will be fun shopping.

  28. 15 years ago when I was a single working girl, I bought an Ethan Allen sofa. On the advice of my mom and aunt who are furniture geniuses, I got a classic style couch in a neutral color and splurged on the good down cushions. At the time I was afraid I paid too much, but the couch frame is still solid and the cushions are stiill thick and cushy. I did make one mistake and it was a biggie–I chose a less expensive, cotton fabric that could not be professonally cleaned. I have morphed from a single woman to the wife of a guy who eats on the couch and two boys who play hard, and the fabric is faded, dirty and frayed. I am saving to have it re-covered and this time I will chose a durable fabric in a neutral color that can be professionally cleaned when it needs it. I have finally decided to give in and buy a Rooms to Go reclining leather couch with cupholders and a remote holder for the media room–that way the nice couch will get less man and boy action downstairs.

  29. I will be in the market for a sofa in 1-2 years and have heard “buy the best you can afford” too. What I really want to know is, what is going to last in decent condition for 7-10 years of young family activity, and how much will it set me back? That way I can know better how much to put aside for it! GardenWeb is a bit tricky to search through but I may check there for sofa advice.

  30. OK. So, I really needed to read this today. When me and my husband got married 17 years ago we didn’t have a pot to pee in. The only furniture we had for 8 months was a waterbed. Even our clothes lived in dog food boxes! We got tired of this and decided to charge some furniture. We could either spend $900 on a leather sofa or go to Value City Furniture and get a sofa, loveseat, 2 end tables and 2 lamps for the same amount of cash. We were stupid – in that we bought the cheap, crappy furniture AND we charged it. Anyway, we traded that for an ugly, but well made couch from some neighbors and used it for years. Then seven years ago we upgraded. My hubby had to have comfortable and I had to have neutral. We found a Berkline sofa where the entire thing reclined. It was SUPER comfy and it was an oyster colored microfiber that was supposed to clean like a champ and be indestructible. A year later we were moving from FL to IN and the people that bought our house wanted to buy our furniture, too. So bought the exact same sofa again. But, if you’re the #1 hardest family on furniture – then my family is #2. And, I’ll give you first place simply because you have 3 boys to my 1. You’re welcome. :-) Six years later it is looking like crud. It won’t clean up and the frame is literally falling apart. My husband has reattached the springs twice and the wood frame busted off 2 days ago. ARG! We don’t have the fundage to replace it at this moment. I did mention to my hubby a couple nights ago that maybe we should look at La-Z-Boy for our next one. I was wondering if it would be better quality? Although, Berkline was very reputable as far as I knew.

    Since you’re working with La-Z-Boy – were they knowledgeable with the type of frame and how the springs were attached? I could find anyone to give me answers about that last time we sofa shopped.

    In the same boat,

    P.S. My wingback chairs look like scuz bottom, too. Maybe it’s a 17 year anniversary gift from the nasty furniture fairies? :-)

  31. This is so great! My inlaws just up and offered to buy us a sofa and love seat. I guess our $15 yard sale find and the free one with sloppy slipcovers were too ugly for them. I have no idea how to buy a sofa, so this is EXACTLY what I need. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Have you made a decision yet???

  32. When my husband and I moved in together eight years ago, we replaced his bachelor-pad Ikea sofa (which actually was quite nice) with the Pottery Barn Greenwich sofa in a neutral beige twill. ( Eight years and two kids later, I still think it looks very good. The seat cushions are looking slightly deflated, but that’s only with a critical eye (and the cushions could be reworked if we wanted to invest in that). I still really like the style of the sofa, particularly that it has a tight upholstered back. I often find that loose couch back cushions start to look punched-down and sloppy over time. When we chose a sectional sofa for our basement, we went with another tight-back style and I think they always look neat.

  33. the misfit says:

    I must express my gratitude because you have made me grateful for my sofa, which I was beginning to take for granted. When I was first married, we had a sectional that my husband inherited from some former bachelor roommates, who didn’t want it (that should tell you something). And it was the only seating we had! It was relatively comfortable, but it was an unattractive shade of tan, it had those horizontally-segmented back cushions that I loathe, and it was VINYL. And showing its age – starting to rip. I loathed it, but I was grateful we had a sofa. The first time we moved, we gave it to some guys just starting school and furnishing a rental house. (It was ideal for a much-abused bachelor pad.) I didn’t have time to plan ahead for the move a lot, so I started shopping for a sofa afterward. I view as the great modern hunt, and I am truly an expert (more now than then; else that time I would have started looking in advance). But you don’t hunt like a lion. You hunt like a spider. The good things will come to you if you bide your time and look at EVERY SINGLE OPTION. I decided my budget was $100-200. I was tempted to break that for the pretty leather Ektorp, but I read such mixed reviews, I stood my ground. For six months we watched movies on our tiny TV (no cable) on a pile of comforters on the floor. (We destroyed the loft in all of them and had to throw them out. But I replaced them all with down I bought in thrift stores, so it’s OK :).) I looked at every couch on craigslist – every single one. I had a few criteria. It needed classic lines. I preferred leather but wasn’t sure. I wanted a timeless color, no print – but no tan! It had to have cushions deep enough for us to snuggle while watching movies (I actually measured seats). And of course my price was key. And then one day, when my husband had called me a cheapskate 700 million times and despaired of us ever owning another sofa, I found a red-brown leather sectional on craigslist for $150. It had very deep cushions. Half of it was a sleeper. It was and is the most comfortable sofa I have ever sat on. The sellers said it cost them $3000, and I believe them. The husband clearly did not want to see it go. (The wife had a mean face on.) The support beam in the back on one side was broken; she said I could replace it. Probably not, but it has always been against a wall. It also had exactly four cat-scratch holes on one side. I could have patched them, but they have not grown 1/16″ since I bought it. The leather already had clear signs of being broken in when I got it – not saggy, but with character. I have had it for four years – the prior owners had it for many more. The leather looks exactly the same; broken in, but not sagging. I always sit in the same spot, and there’s not even a dent. It is more comfortable than my bed. It has taken untold abuse and looks no different. I am now tired of a sectional and want to get some camelback sofas with Queen Anne legs in jewel-toned velvet, because they would be so much more gorgeous and give me more options for furniture configuration. But my husband and all visitors are scandalized that I would retire the best sofa in the whole wide world. It isn’t as pretty a color as I’d ideally like, but it still looks good with everything. It isn’t as antique-styled as I would like, but it’s still a timeless traditional shape. It isn’t as elegant as I would like, but elegant sofas are not comfy and this is amazing. And it could sleep up to three people if it had to, and there are few things more important to me than opening my home to the people I love.

    Thank you, Nester, for I had forgotten how I love my sofa. You don’t have to spend thousands (because someone else might do it for you!), but you do have to be willing to spend enough to put yourself in the bracket of quality items (even if used), and for important pieces (car, house, sofa, dining table) you should always, always, always wait until the Right Thing comes along. It will come.

  34. No sofa stories–ours have all been free or near to it so far–but here’s a commiserating story from a family that’s harder on furniture than yours! I do family child care (i.e. 6 kids under 5 in the house all day) and have two cats. I took inspiration from you and slipcovered a chair in our family room–a huge project for me–and before I could get to the second chair, not even a month later, it had a huge gaping hole in it from the cats’ clawing at it all the time. I can’t have anything nice even for a month. Sigh.

  35. You are so right about choosing a neutral fabric for the sofa. A lovely decorator patterned fabric is limiting for sure. I love your white slipcover…but it wouldn’t work for me. Do you think that a creamy yellowy fabric would be considered a neutral? I pinned one and I’m thinking it would work nicely through the seasons. Yes?

  36. When my husband and I were in college, we bought a sofa based one three things: 1) It was convertible (sort of) to a bed. 2) The company delivered and would pack it up to our 3rd floor apartment (no elevator) and 3) it was the very cheapest sofa that fit the first two conditions. We paid $280 for it brand new. It was probably the least attractive, least comfortable couch in a long and sad history of miserable couches. But it did serve as a second bed, and we didn’t have to pack it up the the apartment. It was disastrously poor quality and it felt and looked exactly like a bench seat out of a 1980’s car.

  37. Jill V. says:

    We’ve had our Lazy-Boy sofa for almost 10 years. It has survived five military moves (from Maryland, to New York, to Virginia, to Illinois, to North Carolina), three kids that treat it like they are billy goats, and a dog who thinks we bought it for him! The sofa has held up beautifully. I won’t hesitate to buy from them again. I’m looking forward to seeing what you decide on and how it holds up to your family.

  38. We have a beautiful 12 year old sofa from flexsteel. Neutral. Just starting to wear despite 2 kids, 2 cats & a dog. Am just beginning to think about trying to replace the innards of the seat cushions. Love the reminder to “let the sofa serve you.”

  39. after our first crappy broyhill couch from JCP, which sagged hopelessly after 6 years (even with a tight back), we bought a plaid (yes plaid with a lot of warm red, some green and yellow, small patter) couch. Floor model from a good furniture store $1200 5 years ago. Kiln dried, 8 way hand tied springs etc. I still love it. It is made by King Hickory Furniture. It has a high back, high seat (not good for shorties) with one solid cushion you can flip, slightly curved back so it looks great from behind in the center of our room, tight back with 4 large down filled cushions. It is an apartment size couch so it isn’t a huge plaid monster.The rest of the room is
    more toned down. It has survived 4 kids eleven and under, a new kitten, a house fire last year, that left us homeless for 9 months. Eventually I may recover it, but while the kids are little this couch hides EVERYTHING. No regrets… Good as the day I bought it. I think construction and fabric type should be most important, then the lines, then the pattern.

  40. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I am couch shopping. I had a couch that I happy with, on a comfort level. I have however sent said couch (a pottery barn “charlotte”) to live in my kid’s college apartment. Then I bought a Miles Talbot couch, but it just didn’t have the depth I’m looking for. Help, folks! I want a deep sofa, one with some length too, at least 93″. And comfortable cushions. Any ideas?? Anyone out there tried a Lee Industries sofa? Much thanks!

  41. I, too, have made furniture mistakes based on trends or trying to be frugal, and also ended up feeling like a waste-er-roo because of my impatience. Our current sofa is about 6 years old, and while I love the fabric, which has worn like iron, the springs/support and cushions had really started to take their toll on our backs. My husband was ready to throw the whole thing out, but I figured spending a little money and time to make it last a little longer might be worth a try.
    The first thing I did was buy poly fiberfill and re-stuff the loose-cushion backs, which helped (my husband likes to ‘slouch’ on them and they were completely broken down). But our backs still hurt.
    So the next thing I tried was simply putting a piece of plywood under the cushions. My sofa, too, is slipcovered, so it went under that. We cut it to fit between the arms but over the front and back rails, to make sure it had good support, sliding it under the sofa back. I covered it by stapling a chenille-type fabric to keep the hard, sharp edges of the plywood from cutting into the factory muslin covering the bare-bones sofa. I doubled strips of fabric and stapled those to all the edges for extra protection.
    That, of course, made for a pretty hard sitting surface to park ourselves on to watch a 2 hour movie, so I then bought 2 inch high-density foam, cut it the same size as the cushions with a bread knife, and slid the pieces right into the slipcovers on top of the existing foam.
    What a difference! It’s like having a new sofa, with the best support ever! The large bag of polyfil was about $8, the plywood we already had, the fabric I to cover the plywood I also already had, and I used a 50% of coupon for the foam, so it was about $40. Less than $50 bucks total. Ka-ching!
    Inspired by the Nester, I’m hoping this fall to make another slipcover. It’ll be like getting a whole new sofa just for the cost of materials! Sooo glad I can sew…I can’t wait! : )
    My new (and extremely liberating) decorating mantra is “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”
    Thank you, Nester. Be blessed…

  42. I love your new sofa! Would you mind telling us the name/style of the couch? I looked online and couldn’t find the style. We also have a white slipcovered couch and as much as I love it we’re looking to upgrade to leather too!

  43. This sofa and loveseat were easy to ambsesle. With a little planning it was a one person job. The end product is reasonably attractive but leaves something to be desired. The basic problem is that the back cushion is too fat leaving too little depth between the front of the couch and the back cushion. So you tend to feel like you are perching on it rather than sitting. If you try to lie down it feels like you are about fall off. It might be possible to beat the back cushions into submission or modify them so they are thinner which I think would fix the problem. Construction seems solid. The accept pillows are so ugly and mismatched it is kinda funny.

  44. I adore our sofa, its a grey color and I agree with you. I wanted a neutral like you wouldn’t believe! After living four six years with a hand me down floral print wedding present, that albeit had great bone’s was so ugly. However our now just barely a year old sofa is falling apart! We bought it from a place many recommended. We researched online and did our homework. But days after calling the company we got no response. finally a month after first having the issue, (the sofa broke the day before our son’s 4th birthday party at our house, so I was very aware of the exact date.) We had our answer, it was not covered.

    They would be willing to send a technician out to look at it for a fee, and fix it for a much larger fee to be determined after the first visit. After talking about it with my husband I emailed the customer service agent back asking about an additional 5 year warranty we purchased. He informed me that it was only good five days after the incident. We set about to fix the sofa ourselfs at this point.. insert 2X4, a few nails and staples.. good as new… Tonight my four year old leaned his back against the arm rest. WE heard a pop type sound and the sofa arm fell off. >.<

  45. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I drug my husband to the Lazyboy store today because of this blog post. When I asked about the lifetime guarantee, the salesman said there was a lifetime guarantee on the frame and mechanisms, but NOT on the fabric. It is possible that he did not know an upgraded warranty was available, but that seems weird. Anyway, we were very disappointed because that would have made the difference to us (with our six boys still at home).

  46. Nor'easter says:

    Just a note of caution…I purchased a Lazy Boy sectional six years ago and it was complete garbage. I was in school and working at the time and just didn’t take the time to do my research, so shame on me…but the cushions looked like bags of trash from day one and the taupe chenille fabric seemed to have a magnetic attraction capable of pulling in dirt from miles around. It was also remarkably uncomfortable compared to the floor model at the store.

    Gave it away four years later. Never again.

    Now I’m in the market again…live in a remote area with very few places to shop and am scared to buy anything I haven’t personally sat on. I am also too much of a Yankee cheapskate to go with Pottery Barn as I have read bad reviews AND I’m fairly certain you pay a 20% premium just to buy their name.

    In short…once again I’m in sofa hell.

  47. Thanks for these pointers! We are currently living in Uganda and will be moving back to Canada in June. We sold all our big pieces of furniture (except our bed) before leaving so we’re in the market for – everything!
    Will be looking into La-Z-Boy Canada to see what they offer but we’re definitely looking for something better than our last sofa which broke only weeks after purchasing it from some sketchy warehouse. :)

  48. Argh. Sofas. Yes. I like you have made the mistakes. First time we bought Cotton and cheap. I loved them but the did NOT hold up well and we used them until the fabric got all stretched and holes worn through. THEN I bought a wonderful quality Michael Thomas sofa and loveseat in a mix. Yes – part of the sofa is army green microfiber and the other is a patterned fabric. Thank goodness they are somewhat neutral (but what was I thinking?!). But they are wearing in spots and sadly since we have moved we actually could use two full size sofas. I have been prepping hubby for a couple years for this impending purchase! My next sofa will be NEUTRAL! I hate that I can’t change pillows with the seasons or easily change the look of my room. Thanks for the reminder that I need to choose wiser. My mother is still using the couches I grew up with (my Mom is 70-something and I am 46!) they have been recovered twice. But SAME couches – Ethan Allen . That is crazy!

  49. Very interesting cross section, from no kids/no food/no shoes = no fun, to people who really LIVE on their furniture. I was born on the east coast, but my folks moved to S. Calif when I was 10.

    We have living rooms, for sterile decor. And family rooms that were for hanging out, talking to mom while she cooked and playing games around a round oak table in club chairs on rollers. What I’ve absorbed from all of this? Find a blend that works for your household. Architectural digest vs Living life and having way too much fun to worry how it looks to others. There is no right or wrong. Its whatever you want it to be. For example, how often do you use your “dining room?” (See round oak table above) Which I still own, and I much prefer sitting in those recling club chairs on wheels, in front of a fire place, than the sterile dining room. Two houses ago, I realized it had been 2 houses since I used the dining room……….now its an office. Be bold. Redefine the space usage so it suits you.

  50. Sofas! Sofas! We have had many…I just bought another last night after having my husband sell our 2 days before Christmas? Who does that? I think fabric and cushions end up being more important than construction…I have never “broken” a couch. I feel like you purchase a piece of furniture and hope for the best…I wash my skip covers but rarely and a sectional…argh! I wouldn’t do that often!

    Now to keep the dogs off the new purchase!

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