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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson

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.

Biggest Design Mistakes_buying generic furniture_roundup_emily henderson_expert advice

It may not be the #1 mistake, but buying cheap generic furniture is up there. Here are some others I have covered: Generic Art  | Rugs That Are Too Small | Painting A Small, Dark Room White | Bad Wood FinishesHow To Hang Curtains | How To Hang Art Correctly | Not Having A Plan | Who Pays For Design Mistakes | My Biggest Design Mistakes -And What You Can Learn From Them | When to Hire vs. DIY

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.

Sofas to avoid_roundup_emily henderson

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.

Best Sofas under $600_budget sofa_modern_midcentury_affordable_roundup_emily henderson

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).

Best Sofas under $1000_budget sofa_modern_midcentury_affordable_roundup_emily henderson_revised1


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).

For all of my design mistakes check out: Generic Art  | Rugs That Are Too Small | Painting A Small, Dark Room White | Bad Wood FinishesHow To Hang Curtains | How To Hang Art Correctly | Not Having A Plan | Who Pays For Design Mistakes | My Biggest Design Mistakes -And What You Can Learn From Them | When to Hire vs. DIY

  1. Thank you thank you thank you for posting about reasonably-priced sofas!!! I’m trying to find a new one that won’t break my budget but isn’t hideous and trying to “look” like something it’s not. This is such a helpful post, thank you again!!! xxEmmy

  2. I can’t even begin to tell you how AMAZING and super helpful this post is! This actually might be my most favorite post you’ve ever done. My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck like a lot of people do and posts like this make me think that even though we may be super broke, I can still have a pretty house and that just makes me giddy with happiness. I hope you do more posts like this! Thanks!

  3. great post. This is something we struggled with as well in our first place and I think a lot of people can relate. We ended up “settling” on some Rooms To Go furniture due to price when we were young and broke. We grew to hate it and instead went out and bought quality furniture we loved ($1000-$2000 range for most pieces – small splurges but worth it) just a few years later. In some ways I felt like we wasted our money on the RTG pieces since we had every intention to replace them. I would have rather craiglisted pieces for a few years or gone with cheaper pieces.

    These days I recommend that, if people are buying ‘temporary’ furniture out of need, with the full intent to buy something they love just a few years later, it is probably wise to stick to that sub $600 category (or craiglist some ‘decent’ furniture) and really save up for a piece you LOVE down the road. If you are buying something purely out of necessity, spend as little money as possible, otherwise you will probably find yourself just spending more to replace it in the near future when you get sick enough of the piece you didn’t love from the start. That’s been my personal lesson learned. And luckily there seem to be more stylish options in the ‘cheap’ range these days than even a few years ago!

    1. Its true. The options are getting better for sure. xx

      1. sorry, my comment came out longer than I expected now that I see it posted haha.

  4. you’re a mind reader! i love this post — i have NEEDED this post for a year. can’t wait for more from this series.

  5. Great post! One question, though: what’s the avoid ok Ikea furniture? While they can be generic, many models are price comparable, sleek lined, modern, Scandinavian design. Do you have a specific aversion to them?

    1. You know what, i totally forgot about Ikea. I love ikea furniture. The only thing is that they don’t ship their furniture so you normally have to live in an ikea town and if you live in an ikea town you have a lot more options. I was trying to stick to sofas that anybody can buy from anywhere, but I should go back in and put in some ikea sofas because i love them and that is what I had in my 20’s, too.

      1. Please add in your Ikea recommendations!

        1. I’ll offer an IKEA sofa recommendation – we are really happy with our IKEA Kivik that was $549. The upholstery holds up really well, it has clean and modern lines, and it’s comfortable to both sit and sleep on. We live an hour from an IKEA and had it delivered for ~$75 or so, which for me was worth it because we don’t have a car. The Kivik also breaks down into pieces which was important for us because the entrance to our apartment is super tiny and has awkward angles. It is pretty much the perfect reasonably priced, smallish apartment sofa and I’d highly recommend it!

          1. We, too, recently purchased a kivik sofa (we did the sofa + chaise combo). It’s really comfortable, and so far the seat cushions and backs have held up really well. I will, however, add that the covers we chose (the navy) are not the greatest. I would go with one of the the textured covers, as they look more expensive and seem to stay put on the cushions better. Our house is really old, so the doors are small. The fact that it breaks down is invaluable to us!

          2. We bought a small ikea sofa for our den and replaced the legs with pretty midcentury ones we bought on etsy. Looks great and is super comfy!

          3. I’m going for a kinda refined glam style in my new single lady apartment and I went with the Stockstund which I’m really happy with, the beige is sooooo much prettier in person!

      2. AWESOME POST, and I greatly appreciated the last paragraph. Keepin’ it real. Keepin’ it real.

        Also–hooray! I own two Klippan loveseats (purchased in my 20s and ridiculously affordable and family-friendly, if not the most attractive option available), and I was afraid you would ban me from the blog for even considering an Ikea couch. However, I think I could persuade you to let me stay, since they currently have royal blue slipcovers on them and are close neighbors to a beautiful vintage MCM credenza.

        I can’t wait for the rest of this series!
        In order to avoid the monsters above, I’ve vowed to keep my Ikea specials until we can afford a gorgeous, rich, brown, genuine leather couch…or I inherit the beautiful brown leather couch and loveseat my dad has owned for roughly 30 years.

      3. IKEA now ships certain furniture items. It’s via freight and slow but it’s awesome. Especially if you live in Oklahoma!

      4. Ikea does ship sofas. We just received our Ikea sofa (kivik sofa with chaise, dansbo dark grey, machine washable) a few weeks ago. We replaced two mid-century style sofas that we had bought from Macy’s only two years ago. They looked amazing and were budget friendly, but the upholstery was very poor quality and did not hold up. I am very happy with our Ikea sofa and it saved me enough money to buy the Taylor (in expectation grey) chair from Thrive Furniture. : ) I finally got the look and quality I want in living room furniture for a price that I can swallow.

  6. As a newlywed years ago I was desperate to get rid of my hand-me-down couches. While comfortable, I hated the sight of them (plaid with oak trim). We saved our $$ and bought what I thought was the perfect couch-beige microfiber. I laugh because the exact one is on your list. After 6 years I just sold that couch for $15 and have replaced it with vintage couches. Sooooo much better.

    1. 🙂 So glad you replaced it before you saw this post. xx

  7. where was this post when i was actually buying my sofa!!

    i ended up with a very nice navy blue tufted sleeper from urban but i was still ripping my hair out trying to find something good (and not more than my monthly rent >.>)

    1. Daria – How is your UO sofa working out for you? Is it comfortable, holding up well, etc? I’ve been wanting to buy one myself, but the reviews are spotty.

  8. That last paragraph, YES!

  9. Seriously, a few years ago our house got damaged by a hurricane and I had to go couch shopping. I would walk into stores and hate all of them! I found one on craigslist that I could live with, but why can’t stores offer some couches that are just clean, simple and awesome?!

    1. I don’t know. I think probably because most people don’t care as much about aesthetics? I’m stumped.

      1. EQ3 (a Canadial store that is also available in the states) has amazing modern/modernist couches and sectional, they are all made in Canada and no chemicals). The hardest thing about buying a couch (for me anyway) is to find what ‘s in it. I don’t want the biggest piece of furniture in my house to be laced with fireretardants.

        1. YES! I also love EQ3 for the same reasons. Currently saving up for a couch, but bought a rug there last year after searching everywhere for an affordable(ish) rug that would not stink up our apartment which has no windows that open. I absolutely love my wool rug that did not have any chemical smell and seriously, every day I look at it and think about how much I love it.

  10. This series sounds like it’s going to be amazing. I love that last paragraph!!! So there right now, which is why I wrote this.


  11. LOVE this post, Em! I bought a sofa a couple of years ago, and planned to go with a “safe” color – grey. (Although, I already knew I wanted a chesterfield style with tufting and STUPID SEXY front legs with brass castors, so that definitely was not safe.) But as I was browsing swatch books, I came across this gorgeous peacock-teal faux leather, and let’s just say the rest is history.

    My teal tufted faux-leather sofa is the most amazing thing EVERRRR. It was a bold design decision (partly inspired by your former blue velvet sofa) and totally the right one. I think we all need to get over being safe with design. Buy what you love. Invest in good stuff (when you can – sometimes Ikea IS an investment).

    Also – I work for Lamps Plus and have styled/shot/sat in all 3 of their sofas you’ve featured. I can vouch for the fact that they’re pretty great for such a reasonable price point!

    1. Hi Lesley 🙂
      I got home last night and the post was already edited. I sat down to feed charlie and go through my catalogues and I saw those sofas from Lamps Plus and I texted Brady immediately to add them. I was surprised and impressed. that english roll arm is VERY good. So good to know that they are comfortable, too. xx

      1. Since I am currently in the market for a new sofa, I loved this post…it’s so easy to get sucked in to the idea that one needs to spend $$$$ for a good quality piece… I was wondering if the English roll arm in your comment above was referring to one of the Lamps Plus sofas pictured, as I did not see one by that name. Thanks so much for this very useful post!

  12. I think those awful sofas usually fall under the “contemporary” category, right?

    1. Yup. I’m trying to refrain from using that word as as curse word because there are so many people who identify themselves with contemporary. Plus in my book its one of the styles that you can actually be (although I show a good version of it). But yes, you are correct. 🙂

  13. Ok, I’ve figured it out: apparently I read your blog so often that you are now able to read my mind. How did you know I was couch shopping and broke?! Your timing – like your taste – is impeccable. Thanks for the great read! Feel free to offer similar advice regarding budget-friendly and not-so-hideous rugs, dining tables, lighting, furniture arrangements in awkwardly long living rooms, or any of the other design challenges weighing on my mind at the moment (…but you already knew about those, didn’t you? You’re psychic, I’m convinced.)

    1. WILL DO. Thank you very much. xx

      1. I second the request for reasonably priced (maybe under or near $1,000) rugs – vintage or new. Almost every woman I know struggles to find good, quality rugs that are not prohibitively expensive. So we buy cheaper rugs of poor quality and lackluster design which need to be replaced every few years (and which disappoint us every day when we enter a certain room in our otherwise lovely homes). We all know the rug makes the room. I’d love to buy vintage rugs but have no idea where to start. I’m just a regular girl with a job, a husband and a baby who’s trying to make my life and my home as awesome as possible. Please save us, Emily!

        I also really love this post and this series! You are changing lives, E. Henderson.

        1. Have you looked at RugsUSA.com? They have a huge selection of rugs and it seems like they’re often having really great sales (like 70-75% off and $99 5x8s)… We got our Safavieh 10×14 rug (this is HUGE!) there for under ~$550 (!)on sale and we LOVES IT.

          1. V – I have looked at RugsUSA but tend to get a little overwhelmed. But your endorsement will prompt me to look again more carefully – thank you! Is the quality of your Safavieh rug really good?

        2. If you just want something simple of an appropriate size, check out the remnant options at Lowe’s (in-store only). For $80, I just got a neutral (ivory with darker flecks) 8×11 rug. I’m a design novice, and it’s nothing fancy, but it is super soft and looks great in the room. The options are hit-or-miss, but you might get lucky like I did.

    2. a post on rugs would be grand (esp natural fiber ones, like jute like the chenille heathered jute from PB, seagrass, etc), lighting, furniture arrangements (esp with a dreaded corner fireplace in a great room). Another real struggle is opting for side tables in living room space that don’t eat up precious real estate and don’t cause a traffic problem. In theory I like the idea of living small (less square footage) but in reality it’s a challenge to always be de-cluttering and finding items that work, are comfortable and stylish and inviting.

  14. I love it when you post something that completely validates what I’ve been doing in my own home. Overtime we’ve purchased two sets of cheap inexpensive furniture (which look eerily close to what you’re showing) and both times they didn’t work for us (both design and comfort) – so never again! Just last month I finally found our forever sofa for $150. It is an english roll arm Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman. It is super high end I think and probably costs thousands originally. (Have you heard of this brand? Not a lot of info online.) We’ll have to reupholster it someday and replace the tapered legs with some turned ones (it is has a skirt right now) but I think it was a great deal and it has changed my feelings about our living room immensely!!!

    The only thing I can say is that sometimes trial and error is the best way to get the sofa that you want – especially if you’re searching used/vintage furniture stores/craigslist etc.

  15. I’m looking for a new sofa right now so this post was in perfect timing!

  16. Wondering if you can vouch for any of the over 600 range sofas. Have you used any of them by chance?

    1. Not really. A friend of mine has that cb2 one, but its not really a TV watching sofa. its in her office and it looks great. Another friend has #1 (I believe we used it in the Curbly makeover) and we all really liked it, too.

      1. I’m sort of in the market for a sofa so I actually looked up the Curbly living room makeover post, and looks like this is the one linked there: http://www.roomandboard.com/catalog/living/sofas/anson-sofas

        A bit spendier, sadly, but beautiful!

    2. I have the one from Cost Plus World Market (mushroom velvet Kendall, #5) but in the off-white linen-looking fabric. It’s pretty cheap and smallish and gets dirty easily. I kind of wish I’d spent more for something more sizable and practical but it’s ok. I’m happy to see it here on the approved list! It’s in a living room that doesn’t get used much. I wouldn’t want it for a family room, to be honest. It’s very low profile and petite.

  17. I’m wondering about your thoughts on Ikea sofas as well. We’ve got the Karlstad and love its clean lines and simple shape. Very modern, and yet it fits well into any decor by not being an overpowering focal point. Pretty comfortable too – I think we paid about $500 for it. Before that, we had one of the puffy “contemporary” couches that you’re warning against (complete with plaid throw pillows!) that my husband inherited from a family member. It was hard to replace something that we got for free with something we had to pay for, but in the end it was money well spent.

    1. Yes yes yes! I had that sofa for like 10 years. I was just choosing placed that could ship to anywhere, but i should have included more ikea. I might edit the boards to have a couple ikea in there.

  18. Should be “sofas” not “sofa’s” If it’s just plural, no apostrophe. An apostrophe means it’s possessive.

    1. thanks you GP-I was looking to add my two cents to the grammar issue, but you’ve covered it.

      I don’t know why, but commas and apostrophes take more abuse in blogland/internet…

      1. oops-make that THANK not thanks LOL

        1. and see? when you are writing fast even super fast/easy grammar mistakes are hard to avoid. 🙂

      2. ha. I woke up and saw it and screamed and immediately text Brady (they had the photoshop file so I couldn’t edit), but of course they don’t wake up til 7:30 so I was like staring at my phone waiting. Meanwhile my normal editor (my sister started doing it a few weeks ago) was in there fixing those. So all good now. 🙂

        1. What? Normal people without kits wake up at 7:30?!!! Before I had kids I would never get up so early!! LOL

  19. Emily – this is the most worthwhile blog post I’ve ready anywhere in awhile. Thank you! Can’t wait to see more from this new series 🙂

    1. Thank you!

  20. LOL! I am so glad my sofa is not pictured in the no category. Admittedly it is not the best made thing (Macy’s…) but she is pretty light blue velvety and subtle tufts in the back. Probably when I have a house vs my small apartment I will have her in a guest space or something vs the living room buuuut I do love her for now. I am suddenly thinking maybe switching out her legs though…hmmm

    1. You must mean the “Chloe”! I have the same one in cream and think this about the legs all the time! They have mid century ones on etsy for $48. I’m going to have to try it, just hope they fit!

  21. I consider you the authority on couches because, c’mon, that blue couch you had was simply amazing and your new one, somehow, is even better. And before I found your blog, I never knew couches like those existed. I used to just buy them at a sale from carson’s/macy’s furniture galleries– I just didn’t know.

    Now, after 2 years of saving.. and selling my old couch –my dream vintage couch (similar to your old blue one) is currently at the upholsterer’s shop and will be done in a week. I’m so happy for this post and countless others because you really do teach/educate in your posts and I’ve learned so much over the years.

    1. Thank you. And congrats. i’d love to see a photo ..

      1. I just sent you a message on facebook with a photo I received from the upholsterer.

  22. People think I’m crazy for wanting to buy a sofa from West Elm because of the price but now I feel vindicated. Thank you for that! I don’t think you need to compromise style for comfort or vise versa and I do think it’s definitely worth it to spend a little bit more on something you’ll love forever rather than spend a little less I something you’ll just hate. At least my husband gets it and he hates shopping 😉

  23. Love this post! We’ve spent the last two years with a free sectional couch with the weirdest shape and I could not be more excited about some of the cheaper couches you shared.

  24. My favorite are places like Bob Mills and Mathis Brothers that use those hideous sofas on their commercials!!! Really…out of hundreds of sofas to choose from the sofa with the frickin pillow arms is what makes the commercial cut!!!! I honestly rant for a good 20 minutes to my husband when I see those commercials!! Great post!

    1. I know. Living spaces, too. I thought that every single sofa of their’s must have been disgusting but when I went on their site they actually have a lot of decent ones. Its just like they want to highlight the generic/comfortable …

      1. I used to think that about Living Spaces too, but then I went there and got the Sophie sofa! And I might be like one of those clients with a sectional that has to be worked with, though I’m not sure if it falls under generic. It definitely wasn’t cheap, but is comfortable! Working with what you got means buying one less thing in the list of a million other things you want to get or have done to the house!

  25. Oh man, I wish I had the balls to share this on my facebook feed right now to educate the masses!!! I have seen some new sofa purchases lately and just didn’t have the heart to tell them they are not good. I wish you would have written this a month ago and I would have shared it, hahaha!!!

    1. I was JUST thinking, “How can I post this and not have people hate me?” Maybe I’ll just go for it. Maybe someone will appreciate it?

  26. How about sectionals? Our living room is set up so we have a large fireplace on one wall with two built ins on each side, it’s a great feature but limits our choices as one of those built ins houses our TV. I feel as if we have to have a sectional in order to make the room work (and we have an Eames Lounge chair in place). Right now we own Crate & Barrel’s Lounge sectional which is ok but so deep guests always teeter on the edge and are never comfortable. Thanks!

    1. Yes, I was wondering this too. I will admit that I like our sectional although it would definitely fall in the “bad” category. So is there such a thing as a good sectional?

      1. My two cents–Room and Board has some fabulous (in my opinion) sectionals! My parents have the Jasper and it’s beautiful, super comfortable and well made. I am reallly impressed with their pieces, both in design and quality.

      2. I think so! We have a C-shaped MCM sectional that we got for free, had reupholstered (all in with fabric/work, was close to $1000), and it is the most awesomely comfortable couch around. And lovely lines to boot. 🙂 I don’t know if we will ever be able to let it go, we love it so much even after 5 years!

        The Fig House – I think – had some interesting sectionals that were also C-shaped, and maybe even L-shaped? Maybe check out those posts just to see the pretty velvet sofas again.

  27. The IKEA leather Karlstad (quasi-tufted) has been my favorite recently. Sub out those ugly IKEA stock legs for tapered mid-century wooden ones and viola – nice couch that doesn’t scream 20’s and yet still works with our budget.

  28. Great post and a sigh of relief that my own sofa doesn’t fall into those awful ones you mentioned! I’ve copied the link to my sister who has one of the ugliest sofas I have ever seen with an even uglier armchair to match…who is about to redo her entire lounge …she’s going to thank me loads!

  29. I was surprised about option #8 in the $600-1000 range. I thought the big cushions, rolled arms, and skirt would make it a “no” for you. Why do you think that one is ok? Great post. I really had no idea there were so many affordable options out there.

    1. Ha. Its not my first choice, but say your taste is super traditional (which I love) and you want a classic roll armed sofa, then there is a way to style this guy to look classic and pretty. I personally would opt for number 7 (but until i found #7, #8 was the only good traditional style sofa I could find). But there is nothing about it that is too offensive, classic traditional shape, decent cream fabric – its just whether its your style or not. I didn’t want to just include modern/midcentury styles. xx

      1. Great! Thanks! I’m not very traditional and I’m not very modern/mid-century either. Transitional maybe? I do like clean lines in a sofa. I’m trying to figure it out. 🙂

        1. Ooo and tufting I like tufting 🙂

  30. FINALLY. Someone to validate my feelings on sofas. This is a great post.

    What are your feelings on sectionals? My husband and I have ongoing arguments about sofas that look nice versus sofas that are comfortable and to him, comfortable means a sectional.

    1. I love sectionals, honestly. And in our TV room that was the only way for either of us to go – its just so comfortable. There are good ones – i can try to do a post about it, actually.

      1. Yes! I would love to see a post like this about sectionals. We just purchased one from a local home store The majority of the options were AWFUL, but I did find one that I actually liked and was comfortable. I just need to switch out the legs. In a perfect world we would have saved our pennies for an investment piece, but with a 3 and 1.5 year old that just wasn’t an option. I’m curious to see what else is out there.

      2. I would LOVE a post about sectionals! I was just scrolling through the comments to see if anyone mentioned them. Sectionals that are comfortable AND cute are like rare unicorns.

        Absolutely in love with this new blog series, Emily. You’re amazing, and I cannot wait to buy your book.

      3. Yes, do a sectionals post!

      4. a post on sectionals–excellent idea! check out the Radley at Macy’s and see how that measures up, can be customized. just curious. we have a sectional in the great room as it amazing to stretch out on and the guys in my family are all 6’5″ and above.

        1. I’m glad to see a good review of this…I’ve been looking around for sectionals and this has been my top choice for our budget. How have you liked the fabric?

    2. YES Emily please a sectional post!

  31. 1. This is a great series!! i would love to see more like it.
    2. Thank you for being down to earth and normal and understanding not everyone can buy the “investment furniture” all the time. Sometimes a shorter lifespan is the only way.
    3. The designer boots analogy is SPOT. ON.
    4. Love the new headshot 🙂

    1. Thank you 🙂

  32. Hi Emily! Another IKEA Karlstad owner and lover here. We were able to order ours online and have it shipped to us. In fact, we ordered the sofa and the loveseat and the total shipping for both was $129, which was a damn good deal. I’m not familiar enough with IKEA’s shipping policies to be able to claim they ship all over the country for that price, but I don’t think many people realize you can order online and if you’re getting enough stuff it’s not that expensive.

    1. INTERESTING. Maybe they don’t ship to us because we have on in LA? I’ll look into it, because thats awesome.

      1. One more thing, I used to live in Alaska and I once had an IKEA couch sent up to me from Seattle on a boat. It was more than $129, and I had to use a middle-man delivery service at some point, but worth it to not have to shop local (no offense to the shop-local movement, which I generally support. just not when it comes to big Alaskan furniture stores.) I think IKEA is more of an option than people realize. But they’re not very transparent about how and where they do it. I’ve also found their policies are different store by store. For example, I live in Madison, WI but when I have things shipped to me I can’t order them from the Chicago-area stores. I have to order them from the Pittsburgh store for some reason. Weird, but once you crack the code it’s awesome.

  33. This is one of my favorite posts of yours! Great information and I would love to see more like this! Keep up the good work.

  34. Great post. SO looking forward to the series. You have such a great heart, Emily, I know, but don’t hold back. You must tell us what is awful. It’s tough love. We can take it. 🙂

  35. This post is precisely why we all love you so much. 🙂

  36. emily,
    i just realized my couch has those awful legs, (i’ve actually kind of known it deep down for a while, but this post has made me realize that my instinct was righta ll along!)

    do you know of a resource you can recommend that sells replacement legs? thanks!

  37. I’m afraid I have one of those winged monstrosities–it was incredibly comfortable, was around $1,200 and was made of a fabric that my cats couldn’t destroy. Also, I hadn’t yet discovered design blogs with all the wonderful sources for furniture. I look at that sofa every day and wonder how I’m going to keep living with it for a while, especially since I love modern design. Oh well….thanks for such an informative post. Loved the teal sofa.

  38. Emily, what an excellent post! I recently found an old sofa on CL. A little bit girly and a little bit Frenchy and then found a chair at an auction. Both so damn comfortable(down cushions) and not over-sized and stupid. At the upholsterer to begin life again in a pink velvet from Greenhouse Fabrics.

  39. This post is great because I’ve been obsessively trying to find affordable midcentury modern sofas and it’s way harder to find so many options than you’d think! Thanks for taking the guesswork out of it! I noticed there were no IKEA sofas, though, but then I did see your comment about wanting to source sofas that you can buy online (what the heck IKEA, why no online shopping?!)
    Anyway, I had a lightbulb moment the other day when I realized I could customize an Ikea Karlstad by putting new legs and getting buttons tufted to make it look full-MCM for half the price of sofas from Crate or west elm or wherever else! After a quick search on Pinterest and seeing other people do the same, I’m so pumped to do this project!! Totally bookmarking this post for next time we need another couch, though 🙂

    maria anne

  40. my biggest issue is what is in the stores available to us — is the ugly stuff. I can’t tell you how many times we walked in furniture stores about 7 years ago and tried to find a more modern sofa for us but was still comfortable. we ended up spending about $5000 on a sofa and a chair and a half.. it’s got our modern lines and we got to pick the fabric. I LOVE them still. however, I think when we move to a house, i want a sofa with a chaise more room for people to spread out on. I just wish all the furniture that i see now a days was available to us when we were actually shopping. trust me the couch and chair are staying with us FOREVER.

    1. Erin, I fell the same about sofas in stores !! We recently redid (=destroyed and rebuilt) our living and dining room area. Since the sofa we had belonged to my parents, my husband and I thought we’d get one of our own. We had an enormous budget, up to 5000€ if necessary (I’m French,, that’s probably around 5500$). We live in a major French city, and I visited every single store I could find.

      It was monstrosity land. Seriously. Hideous after ugly sofas, beige and taupe in ugly fabrics. My husband isn’t as sensitive to aesthetics as I am, but even he said no, not possible. We ended up at Ikea, getting the Stockholm in natural leather (and later on, pretty pegs). It was less that 1500€ and it’s the most beautiful and comfortable sofa I’ve seen in the last 10 months.

      I also wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to Emily ! You gave me the courage to go the velvet route for our chairs in front of the Stockholm. I loved your blue velvet sofa, and I thought I’d get some too. My chairs are a deep, beautiful dark peacock blue velvet, and everyone who comes here comment on how unusual and yet beautiful they are. Thank you so much for the inspiration, the motivation, and the happiness I slowly learn to infuse in my home !

  41. A simply glorious post–especially the part at the end about unrealistic advice of saving up to afford the heirloom quality couch. I am consistently amazed at how real you are in your posts, in addition to how helpful and beautiful your design advice is. Thank you!

  42. This is a great series. Please consider adding a post on affordable good looking sectionals. I know it is a major challenge. We have 4 young kids and want to all snuggle together on weekly movie night, but most couches don’t fit our family comfortably. Like most families, I want style and my 6’5″ husband wants comfort. It seems most stylish options are made for shorter people. Please help! 🙂

    1. I second this!

    2. Haley, as a nearly 6′ tall person, with a 6’2″ husband, I have found that as long as the couch/sofa has a deep seat (~44″), it’s pretty cozy for us tall people!! Not sure if that’s helpful but I wanted to share our recent revelation on that topic.

  43. Ooh! I would be happy to be blindfolded and pick any one of the above, but I’d love a roundup for us poor overseas Ikea slaves!

    I have to say my favorite couch is like the ideal guy in the sense that I have a “type”: it’s cognac colored leather beaten and battered up over the years.

    I was lucky enough to salvage a Roche Bobois one that ws being thrown away (the nerve!) and I drag it with me move after move.

    You guys in the US are really lucky to have so many great places to shop though…

    1. Since you shop at Roche Bobois, do you live in France ? I’ve had some success shopping at Maisons du monde. I find their selection reasonably cheap and stylish. It’s not the best quality ever, but it seems honest for the price asked. I also like that they realized most of us don’t have huge rooms for huge sofas. Most of theirs are on the small side.

      If you find something good in Europe, please share !

  44. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS POST! I am currently working on purchasing a couch (straight from the manufacture {Flexsteel} thanks to my mother who works there) and I get so mad knowing they have some really great styles but NONE of their showrooms have those in-stock for people to see/sit on! Before I decided to just spend the money on the Flexsteel piece I was heavily considering Ikea but since it would cost just as much due to shipping I just opted to save more and spend it where I really wanted to spend it….but this post couldn’t have been better timing!!! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for pointing out the good sofas! I also have to admit I have some hand-me-down overstuffed furniture in my house that is in the bad category….but it is just too comfy to get rid of and since it is in the not entertaining part of the house I can live with it.

  45. we bought our first furniture the generic route and hated our lives. But I took my time after we built and picked out the perfect chunky leathery sofa for our home and I love it and always wills. Now, the basement is being finished and we are on the hunt for another sofa but this time has to also be MANCAVE and family friendly. Ugh. it never ends!

  46. For anyone that’s on a REAL tight budget. I bought a used EKTORP IKEA sofa from Craigslist for 40 dollars and then just bought a new white cover for $50. It’s like a whole new couch and you don’t have to wonder about any “mysterious” stains. I can switch out the color anytime by buying a new cover at IKEA, but I love my white couch!

  47. Love this post!! I’m so very excited to see the entire series. It just so happens we are in dire need of a new sofa so this is perfect.

  48. How timely! I have been considering replacing our terrible bonded leather sofa from a discount furniture place, and have been searching the past week online. I just wanted to point out that the World Market sofa (#5) in the second set is actually on sale right now for $524, so it’s under the $600 price point! It also comes in multiple colors like midnight blue, teal, and charcoal (have to watch the site closely though because the other colors sell out quikcly).

  49. great post! love the inexpensive sofa options. thank you!

  50. thanks once again for making good design accessible to normal people, Emily. I personally am on a journey to explore what the trade offs are between price and quality and how to address the conundrum in my choices as a middle-class consumer. you ask the question, ‘how in the world is a couch 400 bucks?’ and the truth is, there is probably some social justice that is being exploited to make that item a reality (cue soapbox assembly and associated eye rolls). but seriously, not to be a downer or a preacher, because I BUY THE CHEAP THINGS a lot but being an ethical AND stylish consumer do not have to be mutually exclusive. anyway thanks for pointing us toward vintage, high-quality items where we have a better chance of not exploiting someone or something, for getting us to think about our purchases, and for being real about it all.

  51. I bought a simple, stylish sofa (similar to the Everett sofa you linked) at Pier1 like 10 years ago for a steal. It could use new cushions and maybe some new fabric but I love that thing.

  52. I don’t know if this is something you’ve already commented above, but what are your feelings about sectional sofas? Not even one of those huge ones, but one that can fit 3 across and maybe has a chaise lounge attached to it?

  53. Good series idea (and good timing for me)! Couches are so hard because you want it all. Or at least I want it all. I want it to be stylish and comfortable, and fit both me and my tall BFG husband in a cuddle for TV night, but I’m usually making a compromise somewhere due to budget restrictions. And if I sacrifice ultimate comfort again my husband will not be pleased and my mother may threaten never to come babysit our first little one on the way! I like some of those options in the $800 range though, thank you. Lamps Plus, who knew? Otherwise, I will continue stalking Craigslist.

  54. I’d love to hear your recommendations for comfortable/stylish sectionals. I don’t have a huge budget for a section, and I’ve been cruising Craigslist for a nice one (which is doubly hard because most sectionals on Craigslist are pretty awful), but I’d be interested in learning your perspective on them. Thanks for the post!


  55. Emily, do you have any tips for finding reasonably-priced vintage pieces in the NYC metro area? I’ve been to Brooklyn Flea a few times, but it seems that the prices there are usually way overpriced 🙁 we have a car and could drive a few hours in any direction if you know of an awesome flea market or store in the tri-state area. I’ve resorted to having my mom in middle-of-nowhere ohio scoping out estate sales (where she finds the BEST stuff for a tiny fraction of the Brooklyn Flea price, I have a MCM Danish chair AND ottoman she picked up for just $5!!)

  56. I agree that I would love to hear more about sectionals. We have the West Elm Henry sectional and it’s OK. I have two kids, my husband loves the comfort of sectionals, and it was the only one that would fit the space in our victorian home. I don’t love it or hate it, but it’s pretty generic. Maybe you could do a post on how to change up the look by changing the legs and include some sources? I’d love to do that, but I don’t know where to begin.

    1. I JUST bought a West Elm Henry Sofa. It is on the plain side, but I thought it wasn’t too crazy or trendy so I wouldn’t want a new one soon. I did buy it in the performance velvet steel blue color – hope that will ‘spice’ it up a little bit. I am planning to fold my Hudson Bay fleece blanket on the back (or buy another throw if it doesn’t work). I was also thinking of getting some interesting throw pillows to make it more interesting/colorful. I sat on one at the store, but I’m glad to hear is comfortable!

  57. Emily!! You are a goddess! AND, I have a question about faux leather. All the “leather” couches listed above are faux. Does that not also fall into the “trying to be something it’s not” category? Maybe I just have trauma from BAD, scratched up faux leather furniture from my past (cats anyone?), but I just cringe when I see that “ingredient.” What are your thoughts? And, speaking of cats, you should have this article linked with that great one you did about cat-proofing furniture. Gotta say, our REAL leather couch isn’t looking a whole lot better than faux because of the little beasts. I’m craving some of those wood-frame beauties above for just that reason…Keep up the good work lady!

  58. Whenever my sister and I get the CostCo coupon book every month we call each other and laugh “Should I get the big overstuffed brown leather sofa with nail-trim, or the big overstuffed brown leather sofa with nail-trim?” Or alternately, “Should I get the chunky espresso stained bistro table, or the chunky espresso stained bistro table?” It is insane.

    1. Ha, Costco’s furniture buyers must be senior citizens. I’m 49 and I think their tastes are fusty and it annoys me because I love Costco!

      1. I know… I love CostCo too. For all other things. But not generally for furniture.

  59. Great post. Thank you for actually showing the options.

  60. My own personal hell would be forcing me to furnish my house with a “living room set” from Rooms to Go (or any of the national equivalents). I shudder at the thought.

  61. 100% with you on all of this! I am still on tight budget when home shopping so sadly a lot of the goodies are way out of the realm of possibility, but I just full body cringe when I walk into a room that has a huge microfiber/bonded leather sitch goin’ on. I call them them “big turds” My husband even knows my aversion–“hey, did you see that big turd they had in their living room?”
    So many thanks for sharing budget-friendly options that still look chic. My one tiny gripe is that I just wish some of the cheaper pieces that look good still FELT even half as good as the down-filled $$ counterparts. Case in point: love my IKEA Stockholm but even after a full year of owning it, it’s hard as a rock. As such, I am simply forced to plant dat a$$ on it every night to marathon Parenthood to continue breaking it in. *Silver Lining!*

  62. My goodness – your timing is perfect. Fancy Target modern sleeper thing purchased. Thank you for the round-up! Visual, curated, designer-approved posts make my life about 100 times easier.

  63. Aaaarggh! I just bought a sofa last week and I could have really used this. I went the Craigslist route and I love my new to me 70’s velvet tufted couch and loveseat.

  64. The ones with skinny wooden arms baffle me, that has to be the most uncomfortable sofa design ever. Also, almost all the alternative sofas are cheap because they are only 6 inches longer than a love seat, you can’t lay down on a 4′ “sofa”. Maybe if I had a cute little sitting area no one really messes with I might choose one of those sofas but if I am sitting there to eat spaghetti and snuggle while we watch movies I’m buying the fugly fatty sofa. Maybe this line of thinking is what leads people to the first group of sofas, idk.

    1. I have to agree. I almost went with the gray sofa with wood arms from Overstock. When it came down to it though, comfort trumped style and we went with a small sectional.

    2. LOL, Amanda! Seriously . . . I just choked a little on my coffee. THANK YOU, because I was thinking the same thing. We are all building a home, not a showroom floor, so comfort and style are EQUALLY important. There just have to be more options that have both.

  65. Great post, thank you! Maybe Ikea needs it’s own post! 😉

  66. Oh man, just want to say thank you so much for doing this roundup. This is exactly the kind of post that is so helpful and happy.

  67. This post made me laugh out loud! Hilarious. Loving the writing lately; can’t put my finger if something’s changed?

    Great tips on the sofas, too. Currently in that stage of ready to buy new furniture (and get rid of my college hand-me-downs), but waiting to see where I move next, so I’ve pin window shopping like crazy!

  68. I have one of the terrible sofas. In my defense, it was inherited and is a sleeper, which is convenient. It’s also green and white check with some red, so it has a chocolate slipcover. I’m keeping it for a while because I could use the money elsewhere and I’m still not 100% sure what sofa I want. However, I was amused by how many of the sofas in the second set I already knew. I’ve been looking at several of them.

  69. i am printing this post out/pinteresting it/saving it everywhere. currently figuring out pieces for the new house and that tufted grey chesterfield for $799 is AMAZING. AMAZING AMAZING.

  70. Emily, this is going to be a great series!! It’s very helpful and interesting to read!! I’ve personally always had a sofa dilemma..My mom gifted me my current coach when we were shopping at an ethan allen store closing sale. It was obviously a really good deal and this is before I got really into interiors and didn’t really have a plan for how I wanted my place to look stylistically. The couch is good quality, has that french country look with pretty details, and it would great in a vaulted ceiling victorian house. But later I discovered that I like a slightly more modern style and my apartment is just too small for that couch to look magnificent. I still love it but it is at times hard to style and I constantly find myself doubting if it fits with rest of my apartment. plus it has sentimental values. With that said, a couch is just so important and it’d be nice to have a vision/plan first as much as I enjoy furniture treasure hunts.

  71. I have the opposite problem where instead of buying cheap furniture right away, I feel like I should be investing in good pieces so our apartment is pretty bare. Not only do we have a tight budget, but I’m also afraid of committing to buying something because I worry that I won’t like it later or it won’t fit into our new place if we moved. This post has helped me realize that I don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money for decent furniture. Thanks! I would LOVE more posts like this!

  72. hi emily! I’d love to know what you think of the karlstad sofa from ikea. i’ve really been debating going the sofa chaise route…and love the heatherish grey look the karlstad has to offer….and changing up the legs and buying new legs for it. would love to hear your opinion of the “look” of that…..

    1. Read thru the comments and my question has been resolved 🙂 but would also love too see a post on sectionals and sectional chaises etc

  73. Great article!

  74. First I should say that this was a great post and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
    But I should also say that my two sofas resemble the first two on your “do not buy” list and that makes me so so so sad. But like you said, first home in my twenties gets the “Dave’s Furniture”-that-delivers-before-the-end-of-the-week furniture.

  75. This comes at the perfect time, for me. I am moving into a new place with zero furniture. I would be lying if I said I don’t fantasize about a super unique, vintage, one-of-a-kind sofa…but I don’t have the energy or skill or patience to hunt for one (much less reupholster it). I’ve narrowed it down to the Room & Board Murphy (I think this is my top choice) and Reese, the West Elm Finn, the Deluna from Joybird and the James from TOV. If I am going to spend upwards of $1500, I just want to make sure it’s a good price-value. I was totally obsessed with the CB2 Rue for a bit, but I have heard their quality is not-so-great. I am generally super impulsive so I’ve been impatiently waiting to get into my new space (tomorrow!) before I start picking out furniture. So, as I said, perfect timing, and I look forward to the series!

    1. Does anyone here own a Joybird sofa? I ordered the Hughes but haven’t let them start building yet because I’m having second thoughts about buying sight-unseen. I’m dying to know if it’s comfortable but about 2,000 miles from their store. 🙁

  76. Check out Bryght.com. Hard to see the great quality on the website, but it’s top notch – great linen fabrics and leathers, many have soft down stuffing, solid wood inside and…great service. On-line only but worth the risk-free delivery.

    1. Mo, I just learned of the company clicking through one of the links above, and bought this chair!


  77. #5 on “Sofas for under $600”, the sleeper from UO – I do not recommend that sofa. I recently did a room where the client had already bought it from craigslist, so we aren’t sure how old it is, but the seams are ripped and one of the tufts is gone. You can also feel the springs when sitting down. Absolutely hate it, terrible quality.

    I bought the Darrin leather sofa from JC Pennys. Got it on sale and it has been the best new piece of furniture I’ve ever purchased. And before my Darrin, I had the Kivik from IKEA.. that was also a great sofa for the price. The only thing I wished for the Kivik were that the arms were thinner. I think they just got wider and wide over time 😉

    1. Can you tell me if the Darrin is comfortable? I’ve been mulling it over for about a year but it’s so hard to go for it sight unseen (and comfort unchecked). My husband and 2 littles would be sad if I bought something we all dreaded sitting on for plunking on in front of the tv. I’d love to hear from someone who actually owns it!

      1. Hey! Yes, the Darrin is comfy!! The cushions are down filled I think. There are reviews on Penny’s that are all good, and I’ve left one too with a photo. (room with gray walls, floral rug). I’ve had it a year now, the cushions still have their shape and are getting a gorgeous patina on them. I plan on keeping this for many years (and I’m one to switch stuff out often).

        I have seen it in stores, too. Not recently, but of course almost right after I purchased it. So keep an eye out, maybe you’ll see one. And please wait for a sale, I paid $1,800 for it and then it went down another $100 & Penny’s was nice enough to refund me the difference 🙂 I also put it on a card with no interest for 21 months, it was the only way I could get it and afford it lol.

  78. Of course this post would come now! Gah! I shopped for MONTHS for a sofa that isn’t cheaply made and placed my order yesterday with Club Furniture. The frame is kiln-dried hardwood and I had the cushions wrapped in down for around $1200. I chose the Sophia. Is there any way to get your completely honest thoughts on that before I finalize the fabric? It’s not a done deal until then!http://www.clubfurniture.com/sofaupso1.html

    1. Reader reply. Intended with LOTS of love. IMO, that sofa falls into the “don’t” category. Rolled arms and the big pillows… for that much money you can get a better sofa from http://www.roomandboard.com

      1. I think it could be ok but would depend on the fabric choice and how you styled it. The rolled arms skew traditional vs modern, but that’s ok if it’s the style you’re going for (see #8 in the last set of photos).

        1. Thanks, Jen! I’m honestly not super in love with it but my husband is WAY traditional and I’m really struggling to find something that makes us both happy.

      2. Thanks, Kim! I appreciate your honesty- that’s why I asked! I just checked out R&B and I LOVE their Hess sofa but it is considerably more. I also love the Nova from Bryght and the Petra from Club Furniture. Thoughts?

  79. Nice post. I think you missed one other reason why people choose bad sofas. Comfort. Sometimes the sleek and chic sofas that look good just aren’t that cozy. We have always bought our couches on a budget and have struggled to find one that met our price range, aesthetic AND comfort level. It’s really hard.

    1. I agree. Barely any of those “good” sofas look enticing enough to want to lay down and read a book. I’ll take my “bad” super comfy beige sofa any day.

  80. THIS POST!!! man, this post is GOLD. I am so pissed, we bought the Everette sectional from Macy’s, it was the only one i could get my husband to agree on, and I so SO badly wish i had this information to show him. two things, 1) how do I get him to agree to toss our huge sectional for one of these chic’er sofas? 2) can you write a similar post on sectionals?

    1. The only thing I would say about most of those sofas is that some of them seem to sacrifice comfort in the name of style. While yes, you want your living space to be stylish, you still need to be able to sit down for long periods of time. And if you’re like me (and millions of others) and have chronic pain issues, you’re not going to order an Overstock.com sofa and hope it’s comfortable. We compromised and went for a comfortable and still reasonably priced sectional. I think it’s stylish but other people wouldn’t necessarily agree. The biggest thing though is I know that I’m not going to be reaching for a bottle of pain pills after watching The Bachelor.

      1. Oops…sorry!! I didn’t mean to reply to your post but somehow it happened anyway. Just noticed it.

  81. HAHA I love you – thank you for thinking of the po’ folk like us!!

  82. Hey, even those ugly sofa you listed look much better then the average “pohovka” or “gauč” sold here and seen in many households. The market here (Czech Rep.) offers HIDEOUS sofas and my online search for better ones is so far nowhere – the nicer ones I spot in google picture search are obviously only in online magazines and unavaiable. I could spend an equivalent of 1000 USD on a sofa, but cannot find something worthy here.
    I really like your article, points out exactly what I dislike about so many sofas + adding oversized under arms (sides? not sure about the term) – who needs 40cm wide underarms?!

  83. I JUST bought my first sofa from West Elm. I decided to get the Henry Sofa in the performance velvet in Steel Blue, “76. It hasn’t arrived yet, I am currently in the 8-10 week waiting period. I am hoping that it will be great! I love blue, and I wanted something that wasn’t grey or beige. The decision was mostly mine, my boyfriend did have some input. I’m sure if i was up to him we would have had one of those generic, leather monstrosities. This is a great series, I would love to see more like it!

  84. I love this series!!!!! I’m already hooked! Thank you for helping us poor peasants understand the specifics of “which pieces in this room make it look like shit”. Like truly grateful because my recreations of EMHendo style are lackluster at best. I need help and am looking forward to new installments in this series!!! teach us your ways!!!!! (also love the price ranges included)

  85. THANKS for this. But now I’m having a complex about wanting a sectional with a chaise. Are you anti-sectional? Also, are you anti leather? I found this dope restoration hardware knockoff at the O.co Outlet. Beautiful real leather in this awesome camel color but now I’m thinking I should stick to upholstery. Any thoughts on sectionals and leather would be much appreciated!

    Also, this is my first comment after blog stalking every day for years. Fan girl moment!

  86. Love this! Would also love to see your next price bracket recommendations too 1000-1500… looking for design and quality!

  87. Interesting post, I feel like I definitely made this mistake haha!


  88. I am SO excited about this series!

  89. Hi Emily,

    These types of posts are my absolute favorite….love when you educate us on design mistakes and offer solutions, with sources that are available for all! You earned your weight in gold today!!!

    Can’t wait to see the rest of the series.

    Barb xx

  90. I just find out I have a really cool sofa 🙂 so happy!!!

  91. Oh man, I’m so glad the style of our couches didn’t show up on your bad list! PHEW.

  92. my husband and i have been looking for a sofa for WEEKS and this post is so helpful. now i finally can explain why his top sofa pick just wasn’t working for me! also as someone mentioned above would love to see some recommendations on sectionals, SO hard to find a good sectional (and if you could do that soon before we buy something that would be great 😉 )

  93. Emily, this might be my favorite post of all time (although its hard to compete with Charlie). Probably because we’re in the market for a new sofa. We currently have a bad one, not quite as cringe-worthy as the ones you posted about, but its not a good scene. So my husband and I have set aside some cash to buy our dream sofa. Do you have any recommendations for something in the $2K-4K range? We keep going back to ABC Home and their selection, but I know you have secret sources…

  94. i will second the sectional recommendations as well!

  95. This has got to be my favorite post of yours! And I can’t wait for the rest of series. 🙂 I definitely hope to hear more of your thoughts on sectionals as well! I have a long and narrow living room, with a center fireplace, that I have been racking my brain over layout ideas for a year now. And after way too much thinking, measuring, and pinterest/blog searching — I think the best I can do for the space is a sectional up front and a single chaise in back. (It’s just so NARROW and long! And there are large french doors at the back.) And I was heavily leaning towards the ikea Karlstad for those. We have 2 young kids, and one on the way — not thinking now is our time for spending lots on couches. (And because of that, I love that the cover is washable.) So I was really happy to see the Karlstad mentioned by you as good option in the comments here!

  96. I love this post! I want to post it all over for all my friends to see. Ugly sofas no more!!! I think a nice price range for a nice simple, stylish (and comfy) sofa is in the $700_$1000 range. With soooo many great options, there’s no reason to pay more, and for an ugly sofa.

  97. Hi Emily-

    I have a question about homes with kids. I have 3 little ones and I am always stumped if I should invest in a more expensive piece or go with something cheaper while my kids are little. Right now they use my IKEA couch (Karlstad) as a jungle gym but I really don’t care. Thoughts on this?

    1. go cheap. you will forever be wanting your kids to be careful about the investment sofa and feeling stressed…when you should just be spending sofa time cuddling and sharing the ice cream who cares if it spills? And just you wait until susie or joey breaks out the sharpie pen… Go inexpensive now, upgrade when they are older and don’t want to hang out on the sofa with you any more (I think 13-14 yrs should do it)

  98. Love this post! I would love any recommendations you have on leather sofas!!! I have kids and a french bulldog that require durable and easy to clean surfaces. We are leaning towards a leather chesterfield sofa-any recommendations? Xx

  99. Impeccable timing! We are currently picking out a sofa for our basement. Could you please add sectionals? I would love to see some of your picks since we are leaning that way because it is a large space and we would like lots of seating. Thanks!!!

  100. Congrats Emily, great post, and will make a good series. Good to look at it from a different perspective…. and gives all of us “editing” ideas of what to let go of, AND most of all not to repeat the same mistakes, looking forward to more of this series. Lynnie

  101. Awesome post- fun to read and informative! In fact, every post this week has been incredible! thanks for the time you put into this blog.

  102. What is meant by cheap fabric? microfiber? anyone have any microfiber that they love?

  103. OMG such a great post!!! Loved that you included which were sleeper sofas. Extremely helpful. Love the $375 one from Target! Thank you!

  104. LOVE this post! Perfect timing for sure! You mentioned cheap fabrics being a no-no but some of the sofas you suggested still have cheap polyester, or similar fabrics. I’ve been wanting the UO sofa for so long and every time I get the balls to just buy it I read the product description and remember that it’s polyester or a “poly blend”. My current microfiber sofa (yes, I’m ashamed…but it has good form) makes my whole family’s hair stand up in the winter. Curse that cheap fab! Anyway, probably finding a sofa with a nice shape AND quality fabric is gonna cost me a pretty penny.

  105. This is so timely for me! I am moving into my first solo apartment soon, and have been FREAKING OUT over how much sofas cost! So thank you!

  106. Love the sofas you featured in this post. We have had a pair of IKEA leather Satar sofas for nearly 4 years and love them. They were $399 each but are are sadly no longer available in this country. With 3 young children a wipeable leather surface has been a dream. But I rarely find leather sofas with an acceptable aesthetic for under $1000. I have always thought that the Claudia leather sofa from Macy’s has more style than your average leather sofa and gets great reviews season after season. It is currently available in slate grey and goes on sale regularly for $999.

  107. Best post ever! Thank you for getting it!!! Anyone can make a room look fabulous with expensive furniture, you do it on a budget!

  108. really – not ONE sofa from IKEA recommended?! truly, truly bizarre. IKEA has some truly gorgeous and well made sofas for excellent prices. i personally own an IKEA stockholm leather sofa for 10?= years now, and sure, a bit above your price points, but even much lower price sofas such as karlstad, nockeby, soderhamn, even ecktorp – well designed, well priced, well made for the price points. cb2, west elm – great stuff, but to leave IKEA out of that list just doesn’t make sense, price-wise or design-wise.

    1. we have a local ikea and i’ve compared their sofa prices to others and I strongly disagree. The Stockholm line is surprisingly higher priced and the quality just isn’t there. I think Ikea lures buyers in with loss-leaders and low-end stuff, hoping you’ll say “oh, it’s just $300 more and we can get bonded leather!” when in reality, if you shopped around, you’d do a lot better for your $300 more.

    2. Emily mentions in the comments above that she didn’t put any IKEA on the list because they don’t ship, and some people don’t live near an IKEA. She says she loves IKEA sofas. I have the Karlstad, and I love it. We have 3 kids (2 to 7) and that washable cover is a god send. It’s time for a new one, and we’ve decided to stick with Karl until the kids are older.

  109. I was contemplating just giving in to one of those big furniture stores that sell the cheap, contemporary furniture until sitting on a friend’s couch from one of those stores and having it break! We turned it over and realized that the whole frame was just made of thin plywood! No wonder it only lasted a year! It just proved to me that there is a reason why those couches are so cheap. So now I am fully committed to be patient and save up for a couch with a quality frame and a stylish look that will last my family for many, many years. Thanks for the post!

  110. I don’t know if this was covered because I didn’t read all the comments, but will you please highlight some sectionals that are cool but not too expensive? I know many may groan at the word sectional, but in our family of five with a small living room, that’s the only thing that works. Plus, we like the coziness.

    Thanks–as always, an awesome blog!

  111. My current sofa problem is that I spent so much on my awesome sofa (the shape of #5 under $600, but the colour of #3 in the last section, and everything in Australia is twice the price, so you can do your own maths…) and on reupholstering my great-grandparents two tv chairs (mid-1950s – they were due for a facelift!) that I can’t get rid of my cheapo yet. It’s brown. Brown! (but at least in an EH-approved shape!) It worked well in our old house, but not here in our new place. It’s a big, dark, formless mass in the middle of our open plan living area.

    I hope there’s going to be a post on dining chairs too – I’m stuck there.

  112. Great timing! Years ago, I fell hard for a William Birch style sofa that I had seen at a local design store. It was beautiful and classic but at $2000.+ and with a toddler at home it was neither practical nor affordable. I promised myself that someday when my circumstances changed I would buy it. We ultimately ended up settling on a “compromise” sofa at one of those generic furniture stores you mention. I lived with it for 12 years and grew to hate it more and more each day. When we moved into our new house two years ago I told my husband that under no circumstances was that sofa to come with us even if it meant sitting on floor pillows. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary because a few months earlier I had received a small sum as an inheritance so I took myself back to the same store and finally bought the sofa I had seen all those years ago. It was very satisfying.
    Fast forward to today where we are looking to buy a small love seat for my now teen aged daughter’s bedroom. And guess where my husband has found one? If you said a generic furniture store that they have in every town (having rejected one at IKEA) you would be correct. I was being lulled into that same compromise mode from years ago so this post couldn’t have come at a better time because it serves as a reminder that if I do I’ll most likely end up living with something I’ll again grow to hate.
    There are a lot of interesting choices here and there’s some much more available online than ever before but when it comes to upholstered pieces I am still a little hesitant to buy something I haven’t sat on so I’m hoping reviews can guide me.
    Thanks for performing a public service with this post!

  113. I am weirdly seduced by that light blue sofa. Like, I will probably dream about it tonight. But I’m still nervous about the prospect of buying a couch without sitting on it first. I could get a great deal, or I could be stuck with something that feels like slipcovered cardboard. I’ve been lusting after the Ollie at Crate and Barrel for months (also affordable, especially by C&B standards), but haven’t taken the plunge on it because it’s not available for a test-sit in my area.

    Regardless: I love this post, and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of your design mistakes!

  114. What a great post and way to call out the ugly sofas across America (that I see WAY too often)! Love, love, love your solutions, and the prices are amazing.

  115. In case no one mentioned it yet, your danish modern dream sofa link is broken…

    And I have to join the chorus about this being such gooooood, nay, GREAT advice. We have two large dogs and a fabric sofa isn’t practical unless we make a rule about no dogs on the couch (and forever live with missing them in our laps, scolding them, and cleaning up the hair that would be left behind because dogs do what they want when you are not home or looking in their direction).

    So we needed TWO leather sofas. Anything not make of pleather, or worse, bonded leather is expensive. And if it isn’t expensive, it’s an investment in something that won’t stand up to said dogs.

    So I trolled our local version of craiglist until I found someone selling matching full sized sofas in a classically neutral silhouette. The back story is that she was only asking $1000 for both, and couldn’t sell them fast enough so sent them to a consignment shop and we ended up paying $1800 plus delivery, BUT, two sofas from American Leather for $2K is still 50% off getting only one new leather sofa on sale for $2K. So it still felt like the right decision.

    And. We COULDN’T BE HAPPIER! on the one hand, I don’t stress about the dogs getting on the “new leather sofas”, they came to us “pre worn” in a good way, and even being 10 years old (I called the store and they had the original order on file) they are still in amazingly good condition. What’s more, because we went went with a maker like American Leather, I can get a single cushion restuffed for only $150 — those middle cushions are slightly more sink-in than the side cushions.

  116. Great post Emily!!! I could not agree more, thank you for saying what all designers are thinking. Seriously…thank you. =)

  117. this is awesome Emily, thank you! i’m in love with the grey chesterfield!

  118. Do you have any sectional suggestions? Or did you purposely leave them out because you hate them? 🙂

  119. we have a sofa that we love – completely classic but no generic but it is in desperate need of new fabric (note to self- don’t buy a white linen sofa when you have a 2 yr old son and a black dog). Any recoS for an upholster person in LA? Any idea what that typically costs (sofa is just over 7 feet long).

  120. PREACH. And keep preaching. I’d also like to suggest that for the love of all things holy, people stop buying horrible quality micro-suede couches. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to touch, and it screams “I cost $800 for a set of 4 pieces from Rooms to Go!” Furniture doesn’t need to cost a fortune, but it also doesn’t need to look like it was basically free.

  121. THIS is why I love you!! Amazing. You put all my feelings into words so beautifully and hysterically!! Great post.

  122. Yes Yes and Yes!! And damn it I knew I should have bought the $30 awesome vintage Ethan Allen sofa that was so great just needed new upholstery.

  123. The beginning of this post made me remember one of your shows where the clients wanted you to design around a giant black leather sectional. The room design was lovely, but a new sofa would have made a big difference. I own two vintage sofas. They were made before I was born and will probably outlive me.

  124. Gorgeous sofas! Love #5 in the higher priced one!!

  125. Emily, I’m another fan of your old blue velvet couch. Your new one is nice, but … it’s not the beautiful blue velvet. Where is it now?

    1. She mentioned she sold it. I think 3k when she was in for some quick cash.

  126. Great post. What are your thoughts on stylish sectionals? Who knew sectionals were so expensive!! We need a fairly large one for a fairly small room (it will be the only seating in the space so I wan’t to maximize the available wall space in the room). I live in a 1925 home and the doorways are narrow so I am already limited but I don’t want to sacrifice style. I LOVE a stylish home and I am contemplating doing a salmon silk velvet with the thinnest white contrasting welt on the back and seat cusions). I am also thinking about using a lighter (salmon? peach?) grasscloth on the walls. Does that sound hideous? In person it seems fabulous. But here’s the thing. That silk velvet is $$$ per yard. I am always impressed that you are able to reupholster your pieces in relatively inexpensive linens. How do those actually hold up over time. This sectional is going to be a big investment and I want to upholster it in something that is going to stand up to the wear and tear of a family of 5. Older kids who are pretty careful, but still…..

  127. This is so helpful- we are in the midst of buying new sofas for our house, and it’s so nerve wracking to spend so much money on something you will keep forever. (Like the olive green microfiber monstrosity my husband loves and I can’t wait to ditch.)

    Would love more sofa posts about:
    – sectionals (like everyone else!)
    – higher price points (the fancy furniture stores in my area call their $2000 sofas “budget” ones and talked up the hand-tying feature, etc, etc), What is really worth it?
    – mixing arm styles! I have two chairs I really like, but figuring out which sofa will go ok with them has me going bananas

  128. This was awesome and you’re awesome too. 🙂

  129. The other day I was browsing Lamps Plus site and was pretty amazed at all the mid-century-like stuff they have now and the furniture was a big surprise, too.
    I would never get gray or taupe. When I get my old (well-built, comfortable) vintage sofas recovered I’m doing them in color…I’m a fish out of water in this era, yuck. Furniture was built better then, too & you could trust the furniture makers to use 8way hand-tied coil springs, quality wood construction & fabric, etc. Now, things might “look” good, but looks are deceiving.
    ‘Tho, I clicked on a few of your sofa choices & browsed around & saw this one that actually appeals to me: http://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/Bowery-Navy-Velvet-Sofa/9756074/product.html

    1. Just looked up this sofa and it looks awesome!! Just wish I knew how comfortable it is!

  130. Ha! I hate the overstuffed everything sofas. Why must there be pillows attached to the arms? Can the arms not be comfortable enough themselves? Muffin tops are not acceptable in fashion, nor are they acceptable on furniture.

  131. This whole post makes me want to send you a picture of my couches to see how bad they are. I think 2 are good, but one may be questionable. The questionable one is the one my husband likes the best. 😉

  132. Really great post I’m miving across the country this summer and will need to buy a new sofa for our new home. Will keep this bookmarked!

  133. First, I love your last paragraph. It is so true! I’m not even a broke college student, I make decent money and I still don’t want to spend $600 on a pair of “investment boots” that probably won’t fit after my next pregnancy (wah wah).

    Second, what a great series idea! I can’t wait for the next one! Dressers? Maybe even nice looking kitchen appliances? With open concept houses, it can make a big difference!

  134. This is the MOST AMAZING POST EVER. I needed it so badly! Exept I live in Europe, so these do not apply… 🙁
    Still on the hunt for a reasonable priced nice sofa.

  135. I cannot begin to explain how wonderful it is to hear how you talk about budget and investing in things for homes the way you do! I’m studying to be an interior designer and sometimes it drives me up the wall hearing people talk about bed sheets that cost $5k. I understand that quality materials will cost more because of their good craftsmanship but sometimes I can’t gt over how ridiculous some of it is. Thank you for being real.

  136. Great post! Hey Em…Any info on when the $499 Target sofa will be back in stock?

  137. Emily,

    I really liked this post like so many others. I just wanted to pop in and offer the encouragement that I love when you are bold and opinionated! You don’t have to back track! You are helping people, me included.


  138. Two of the “bad list” sofas have very, very similar elements to those on your good list. I know you were taking in the big picture, but nothing looked really offensive. They didn’t seem to match any of the criteria for being with the baddies except needing foot upgrades. I think there are a lot more over used and obvious choices that could have made the list first.

  139. I would love to see your sectional recommendations. Also I have a design question. I have a leather sofa. It looks just like pottery barns manhattan leather sofa. I still really like it but I need more seating in there. It is our main “family room”. Where our tv is. How and what do you pair with leather? I would love to do another full size sofa in there or a love seat but am stuck. Or do I just replace the sofa with a nice sectional? Help?!

  140. I really really wish I would have seen this awesome list 6 months ago. Hate our couch from Ashley Furniture >:(

  141. Thank you for saying this! I have been trying to “help” my family or friends with this problem since high school, but its hard when what is available to them and in their price range is just BAD…and they love them too… anyway, Thank goodness for the internet, and thanks for posting the 2 price points! Totally referring my family and friends to this post now. You’re the best!

  142. Hi, my name is Courtney and I have an ugly couch. Not only is it ugly, it is HUGE. Made a bad mistake of buying a sectional with recliners on each end. Any suggestions for when your husband insists on having a recliner? No – I can’t get rid of the hubby. 🙂 It seems everything that comes with a recliner falls into the overstuffed category.

  143. GOOD LORD, you hit the nail on the tufted head. Holy smokes. I can’t tell you how many of my friends spend $1 million on a new house and then stick their Living Spaces 10 year old tan couch with brown pillows right in the middle of it. A bad couch can make any gorgeous new custom home look cheap. This post rules.

  144. ALSO have to add that my custom navy Taraval sofa from Crate and Barrel arrived a few months ago and its truly transformed my life. Blue inspired by you!

  145. Thank you for showing all of these options. I love them all! Who knew there were so many great, inexpensive options out there. But what about fabrics?!? What is the best sofa fabric for a pet lover like me – mainly dog hair?

    Thank you! http://www.jessicastoutdesign.blogspot.com

  146. My parents bought a sleeping couch 5 years ago with orange upholstry and lemon green back cushions. Oh the horror! It is “just” in the guest room, but I still cannot pass by without covering my eyes nor sleep on it. They think I am crazy and I overreact, but it gives me real, physical pain somehow (even with closed eyes when sleeping). At least they confessed themselves that there might have been better options available… 😉

  147. Emily,

    Thank you! My best friend HAS the two-toned red on black leather sectional you have listed above (although hers is at least brown microfiber on brown leather;) and it just breaks my heart. She always asks me for advice on furniture and then goes rouge anyway!! When she first got her apartment with now husband, she had opened a line of credit at Ashley Furniture and HAD to get a couch from there. I found a fabulous little muted teal velvet number with squared arms and tasteful nail head detail–it was really lovely. But eventually, her husband wanted something bigger and they gave that little gem to her little brother…so sad. They are about to buy a new house and she promises she’s sworn off Ashley furniture…maybe I will send her his post to encourage her next furniture purchase!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU and yes, PLEASE keep these posts coming!

  148. So I am struggling with this post. While I agree with you on some points, there are certain things that I insist upon that you didn’t mention.
    1. I insist on a 3-cushion couch with unattached cushions that can be flipped and rotated to prolong the life of the couch (think spilled red wine). That is a huge consideration for me and, I would assume, would be great advice for shoppers in all price ranges.
    2. A lot of the couches you show above just do not look comfy. They seem very retro and too straight-lined to be a nap-on-a-rainy-Sunday kind of couch. Especially the ones that don’t have covered armrests. A lot of the ones shown above look like they belong in my dentists waiting room.

    What I would have liked to have seen are some durable yet practical fabric suggestions along with things to look for when buying (unattached cushions, how to test for sturdiness, neutral palettes vs. neutral patterns).

    Please take this in the spirit it was intended. There are so many other factors to consider.

    1. I love coming here for design inspiration but I have to agree. Before I worry whether it’s coming from Rooms to Go or not, I am going to ask about cushion fill, frame construction and what kind of springs it has. To me that’s what makes a good sofa, but it does seem like this was more about aesthetics. Since so many people do have the “other” type of sofa though, how about showing us how to style it so it looks less like a “design mistake”? Totally on board with, and look forward to seeing more of this type of series!!

  149. I had to scroll down for an hour, but it was worth it to tell you THANK YOU! I’ve been looking for a small sofa for my home, but have been so unhappy with my search results. I seriously think I’m going to save up for one of the ones on this page. <3

  150. ARGH!!!! This makes me so so sad.
    We bought a matching sofa and loveseat a year and a half ago, on clearance, because it was the best value for the $$ we could find in our area. They are winged, with tapered legs, and while the material isn’t the super-cheap micro-fiber, it is a tweedy beige-brown that has been SOOO hard to decorate around.

    When I bought the couches I couldn’t figure out how to style the rest of the room. So, I started reading design blogs and got an incredible, free (!!) education from Jenny K, Emily H, et al.

    18 months later, I have figured out how to “work with it” (more or less) but I just wish so badly that I had started reading these blogs BEFORE we made our most major purchase!!!

    Anyway. I guess when we buy another sofa in 6 years or so I will know to look before I leap!!!!

  151. This is AWESOME Emily! I hate PUFFY sofas…and that is what we currently have, which is leftover from my boyfriend’s bachelor days. He INSISTS we have something comfy for the future…it’s a fine line. We are leaning towards a leather sofa…any other recommendations out there are welcomed!

  152. Krrb does have an awesome selection of sofas at all different price points! From vintage designer pieces to secondhand CB2.


  153. Thanks for your post!! I feel vindicated! My hubby kept wanting to buy the high backed crazy looking sofas for moving watching. Our style is definitely contemporary edging into modern here and there. Most of those sofas were in hideous plaids or tweeds, and made me think of what was in my grandparents cabin in the 60’s in North Dakota…(trust me, it was bad) I wouldn’t let him buy anything new, and then I got him to agree that we would replace it with what I wanted when I sold off our existing furniture. I had our furniture sold off in about 12hrs on craigslist, and we went shopping. I prodded him into ordering a sofa, it took us almost 20 weeks to get it, but it’s beautiful, and we will have it for a long time. And like you said, I walk into the room and it just makes me happy!!

  154. What a great idea for a series. I love having a few rules of thumb to go by so it feels less overwhelming when making decor decisions. Excited to see what else is on your list!

    Also, gotta admit…our couch was only $300 and it’s from America’s Furniture Warehouse, so I felt a bit scared that we might have committed this mistake. BUT, it doesn’t have any of the terrible qualities, and actually looks a lot like #4 on the first list. Whew! Crisis averted!

  155. THIS IS A REALLY GOOD POST. (all caps so you don’t miss it because seriously, GOOD POST! except my sofa looks an awful lot like the “bad” ones and it’s like 50x better than all of the other options i found in my tiny valley. those online resources are really helpful. thanks!!)

  156. Yep. Great post. Love it. Looking forward to the whole series. Well done you!

  157. Thanks for this post! My problem is that I don’t have an eye for design at ALL. So I can’t really tell the differences between a lot of the good and bad sofas that you posted – could you clarify a little better about what to avoid? And, my problem with design most of the time is that it’s all about looking “pretty.” I always always would prefer something practical over something that only works in the looks department though. Only two of the couches in the “good” section look comfortable at all. It seems like all the couches that are made that are attractive nowadays are very uncomfortable. So, what to do about that??

  158. That tan tufted sofa from World Market in the 2nd group is on sale for $524.00 right now!

  159. We have a local Habitat for Humanity REStore which has older sofas with great lines. I’ve seen prices of $150. The construction is usually superior to newer sofas. Reupholster with your choice of fabric for maybe $800 and you have a great looking sofa you’ll love for a long time. Estate sales will yield some good oldies too.

    1. Apartment Therapy and Chairloom have photos of great old sofa (and chair) makeovers.

  160. Yep- I spent a fortune ($5k) on a sofa with nailheads and curves in the back support. Do you think it is possible to turn that sofa into something more fresh and modern? I was thinking of reupholstering the whole couch in white. Its big – 84 inches long and quite deep. I’m not sure if it will just look ridiculous.

  161. Way to tackle a tough topic and keep it real — and stylish! I couldn’t agree more. I had a really nice quality sofa (floor sample) which I got rid of after 20 years and then later bought one that was a cheaper one. BIG mistake as the style is pretty classic but the cushions are already looking a bit schlumpy after just a few years. And the fabric then looks loose. You really did your homework and provided a lot of great options! Thank you for sharing. Eager to see the rest of the series. And I am loving your series for Target. Missing you on the tube, but love all the work you are doing!

  162. This is a really, really good post. Such good, useful information. Thank you! Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  163. Heads up…I purchased the West Elm Paidge sofa and two Henry chairs less than a year ago. The chairs are in a performance velvet fabric and are great. However, I could not regret the sofa more than I do. It has great lines, but has never been firm. It had a broken in feel right from the start (I did test it out in-store and it felt fine). The fabric, which I believe is a polyester/cotton blend but looks like linen, has pilled everywhere. I spent about $1200 on it. Will not shop for upholstered furniture there again.

    1. I purchased a bed frame from West Elm a few years ago and I’ve sworn them off as well. The construction is pretty much the same as Ikea (maybe worse, actually) but double the price.

    2. Just a heads up on your West Elm sofa. We also purchased the Paidge sofa in the linen blend fabric and it pilled like crazy almost immediately. After about 6 months I got so frustrated I called them up to complain and they agreed to send me a replacement sofa (we had ours less than a year so I think that helped). Apparently the linen blend had been discontinued probably for the issues with durability. We picked a different fabric so fingers crossed it holds up better!

  164. Hi Emily,

    What are your thoughts on the modern sofa with a chaise combo? My family loves to curl up and the couch, and it’s much more functional with a chaise.


  165. Awesome post. I just bought a house and can’t wait for the rest of the series. Based on your design blog, I bought a teal west elm sofa a few years back as a treat when I got a better job. This NYT article had just come out and was so helpful:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/garden/analyzing-the-couch.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 I ended up with a $1000 on sale, and have never been happier. Now that we’re moving, I have to redesign the new new living room around it (in a good way, I hope!)

  166. I love how real you continue to be! This is great, thanks Emily.

  167. oh why oh why did you have to show me that $700 grey roll arm?! i have been agonizing for months trying to find the perfect sofa and it has been slowly driving me crazy. i finally bit the bullet and ordered a RH grey slipcovered english roll arm the other day but have to wait until MAY and so now i have 3 months to second guess myself and live in fear that the cats will shred it to bits once it arrives. spending $700 on something that could easily be replaced in now feeling like the better idea…just have to keep telling myself that one would be too deep 😉

    my craziness aside, this is an awesome list! so nice to see you keeping it real and showing us some great inexpensive sofa options. thanks!

  168. Love this post!! Have you found any great options for reasonably priced, family-friendly sectionals (that are still nice looking)? We’re hoping to buy our first house this year and need something that will better accommodate our growing family.

  169. This post was AWESOME. My rich dream sofa is only slightly more reasonable than yours…but the fulham leather sofa from RH leaves me blushing giddy, like Prince in his hoop earring phase. SEXY. http://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/product/product.jsp?productId=prod540028&categoryId=search

  170. I have never Heard anyone give this advise and it is an excellent point. Great work with showing bad examples and then examples of good sofás. You rock

  171. I have a sofa that fits in the “DO” category but my fiance hates the rigid, minimally padded arms. I have a couple of throw pillows on there which helps but it’s just not all that comfortable! I may end up getting a sofa with rolled arms again next time around.

  172. Oh my gosh, I feel genuine heartbreak that this post didn’t exist a year ago when I was buying my first couch for my first apartment. I spent $700 on a loveseat because I didn’t want to settle on one of those horrible looking couches. Of course now my cat has scratched the shit out of it and I have such buyers remorse seeing what I could have gotten for a lot less. Especially because I don’t absolutely love it, I just bought it because it was miles better than the generic widely available couches. And now I’m reevaluating my life…

  173. It’s official. You’re a life saver. Hey little income tax check..

  174. LOVE THIS! I would love a post on sectionals too…especially ones with slipcovers for those of us with little kids running around:) I have 2 slipcovered sofas and adore not having to worry about the kids with them, but I am dying to have a linen blend sectional because we entertain so much and it’s just so comfy for everyone! I AM LOVING the bench seat sectionals, too. Would love to find one in a good price range! Unfortunately my taste is expensive, but my pockets are shallow.

  175. I bit the bullet and bought a custom section from Bassett – sort of a long wait, but in the end if wasn’t much more than alot of the other sections that I almost settled for. 3 years later I still love it.

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