I get this question all the time in interviews: What is the #1 mistake that people make when designing (or shopping for) their home? After doing so many makeovers over the last 5 years of real people, I’ve found some consistent solid mistakes to avoid. So, I started writing a post about it and that post was like 15 pages long. I figured that obviously this could be a series.
I’m not sure there is a #1 mistake, but buying cheap generic furniture is up there. So often I come into a house and the people have good taste, but they already had a sofa that we had to work with, and that sofa was bad. They didn’t want to replace it because it wasn’t that old and they didn’t mind it. I’ve had to break the news to them over and over, that with this sofa they will never get the room they want. Sure, we have worked with said sofa, and done the best we could, but trust me that a big bad sofa in your room is a bummer (and I’ve never even really blogged about those projects).
But just saying ‘don’t buy cheap generic furniture’ is kinda a dick thing to say. I’m not saying buy expensive sofas (at all) nor am I suggesting to buy super stylized sofas. No one loves a simple sofa more than me because they are so easy to style. But there are some sofas that transcend bad in a way that is hard to come back from; bad fabric, bad shape, weird curved legs or winged arms, multiple fabrics and just what I like to all ‘try-hard’ details. Those are the details that are screaming at you, saying ‘HEY!!! I’M FANCY! LOOK AT ALL MY TUFTS AND NAILHEADS AND CONTRASTING SEAMS, AND SHINY FABRIC, ETC’. Its like putting a hideous, yellow, 80’s bad prom dress on your screaming pet hyena. You are already embarrassed that you have a hyena as a pet, so you don’t really need to attract more attention to it, right?
Here are sofa shapes/styles that you should avoid. If you need more examples simply google image search ‘couch’. It ain’t pretty out there.
Some of the things on that list could be fine, by the way. I really like this winged sofa, this winged sofa and I don’t mind this vintage two-toned sofa, so if your sofa fits into any of those categories and now you are crying, know that I’m speaking in generalities and it still depends on the sofa (and if you actually own one of these, I’m sorry!!). Also some of those could be fine if the fabric was different, or if the legs were updated (see me backtracking?? I feel bad already).
I started to think about why people buy generic/bad sofas and I think its two different reasons: cost and availability. These are sofas that are generally inexpensive, and don’t have a long lead time – you can get them in under a week, not the usual 8- 10 weeks that even Pottery Barn and Room and Board have. They tend to be from those ‘furniture liquidation’ or ‘Dave’s Furniture’ stores that are in every town. You can actually go in and sit on them, make the decision together, get it within a week, etc. I get it. I can’t really solve that last problem – those stores just need to start carrying better furniture.
But, until stores across America start selling better furniture, I wanted to present to you some other super inexpensive options that you can buy online and have shipped to you. These sofas are all under $600. That, my friends, is crazy.
1. Target Grey Convertable Sofa | 2. Roscoe Grey Sofa | 3. Zuo White Sofa | 4. Everett Sofa Grey | 5. UO Grey Convertable Sofa |6. Brown Leather Sofa | 7. Navy Convertable Sofa | 8. Grey Tufted Sofa | 9. Retro Chestnut Sofa | 10. Bradley Grey Linen | 11. Tufted White Sofa | 12. Light Blue Sofa | 13. Sienna Futon Grey | 14. Black Leather Couch
You can’t argue with those prices.
Have I personally sat on them? Can I vouch for their quality, comfort and the conditions of where/how they were produced? NO. But are they such better options than your average $500 sofa? YES. Plus, they are all available for purchase online with no lead time (besides delivery, obviously).
For those of you who can spend a bit more ($600 – $1000) I’d like to introduce you to some SURPRISINGLY good inexpensive sofas. Some are from fine retailers that you know (Cb2, West Elm, Target, Urban Outfitters, etc) and some are from surprising retailers that happen to have pretty good inexpensive sofas (Lamps Plus, for instance).
1.Grey and Wood Tufted Sofa | 2. Grey Haze Sofa| 3. Cherie Teal Sofa | 4. Larson Grey Sofa | 5. Tufted Tan Velvet Sofa | 6. Pink Rue Sofa | 7. Albion Sofa | 8. Rachel Slipcover Cream | 9. Grey Wool Tufted | 10. Tufted Highback Blue | 11. Black Leather Sofa | 12. Grey Sofa Bed | 13. Tufted Grey Chesterfield | 14. Midcentury Modern Grey and Wood |
Of course my best recommendation for buying inexpensive but better quality furniture is to go the used/vintage route (Craigslist, KrrbLA, flea market) plus it’s better for the earth. A $399 sofa does provoke the question ‘How is that possible???‘ and I’m really scared of the answer.
But you know what always irritates me is when rich pretentious fashion editors advise us that we should simply save and ‘invest’ in that perfect $600 blazer or $1200 pair of boots that will last for 6 generations, Its like obviously, that is a good idea, if you have that kinda cash lying around in your walk-in LisaVanderpump closet. I remember being so broke in my 20’s that every time I read that in a magazine I would scream, YOU ARE RICH AND YOU PROBABLY GOT THOSE BEAUTIFUL ‘INVESTMENT’ CHLOE BOOTS FOR FREE!!!!! For us normal people when its Friday afternoon and you have fun plans to go out that night and you have $450 in your bank account, a trip to Forever 21 to buy a fun top whose hem will probably rip out within weeks, just makes you so happy. Same with your home – when you don’t have an extra $2 -$4k to drop on that awesome sofa, sometimes just having a new, simple, inexpensive one will make you so much happier when you walk through that door. Then when you get rich you can buy this one (for me).