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Design Mistake #1: The Generic Sofa


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.

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

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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


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!

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… Read more »


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

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


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.


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?


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.


Please add in your Ikea recommendations!

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!

Alicia h.

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!


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!


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!

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.


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


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.


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.


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

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 >.>)


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.


That last paragraph, YES!


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?!


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


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.

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.


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.

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!


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


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!

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


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. 🙂


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.)


WILL DO. Thank you very much. xx


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.


Have you looked at 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.


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?

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.


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.


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.

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

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


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.


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:

A bit spendier, sadly, but beautiful!


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.

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.


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.

Grammar Police

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

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…

oops-make that THANK not thanks LOL


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


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. 🙂


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


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 🙂


Thank you!


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


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!


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.


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


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

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 😉


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.


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!


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 …

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!

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!!!


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?


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!

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?

Kate S.

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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. 🙂


Ooo and tufting I like tufting 🙂


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.


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.


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.

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.


Yes, do a sectionals post!


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.


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?


YES Emily please a sectional post!

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 🙂


Thank you 🙂


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.


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


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.


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.


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. 🙂

Zoe Royall

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

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!


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.


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.

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


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.

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… Read more »


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!


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! 🙂

I second this!


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.

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…

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 !


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.

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!


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!


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.


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).


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


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.

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