How NOT To Shop For A Sofa

yesterday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

the orange sofa #hated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Live life comfortably.”

being patient also? dreaming about a leather sofa…

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

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

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

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

…to be continued

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

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

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Comments

  1. I’m from High Point, NC and my father was a furniture manufacturer from the 50′s to 2005ish. I grew up knowing furniture. I thought well of Lay Z Boy and so when my hubby and I were first married we purchased one of the big old recliner rockers. That thing lasted at least 30 years with the same corduroy tan cover. It finally went to Goodwill and is probably still living. With that good record, in 2005 my husband and I again went to purchase 2 more chairs this time. We came home with 2 leather recliners and one reclining loveseat. The loveseat has been fine but the two leather recliners have been major disappointments. The arms were put on so badly that we had to send them to a local upholstery shop to have them repaired. It cost us $75 to get them fixed. We tried to collect on the warranty but it was such a hassle that we gave up. These were $600 each chair. These chairs are not the quality or workmanship we experienced the first time around.

    So in November of 2012 when we again went looking for furniture and this time quite a bit…we went to Pottery Barn. Now you might ask why would a gal from the furniture capitol of the world go to Pottery Barn…well because it’s made less than 30 miles from me right here in NC.

    I would have gone back to Lay Z Boy had those recliners been of the quality I was used to and had the warranty been easier to work with.

    Now I will say that I found your blog because I bought white slip covered PB down covered comfy cushions….and I just wanted to see how others were getting along in the white slip covered world. This led me to your article which is well written and humorous. Now I have to find the follow up to see what you picked. I am happy for you and hope your family is enjoying it all.

    I like you blog.

  2. Thank you for the great post! I would just humbly ask you to rethink leather. Animals have to die for leather to be produced, and typically in terrible conditions, for leather to make it to your home. It is not necessary, and no animal should suffer or lose his life for a human luxury. Choose microfiber and boycott animal cruelty. It is more comfy anyways than leather that sticks on skin during hot months. :)

    • Anonymous says:

      When cattle are killed for beef their hide is harvested for leather. Shoes, purses, belts, furniture, luggage, I could go on and on, are made for this leather. The hooves and other assorted body parts are turned into gelatin. Their organs that cannot be sold for human food and other body parts are turned into pet food. Are you a vegan, no really, are you absolutely certain everything you ingest, wear, buy, etc. is free from animal parts.? Unless you can honestly say that you are just another lost cause hypocrit.

      • You mean to tell me humans are still doing what they did thousands of years ago… Using fur for comfort, and eating meat

      • And beef is unnecessary as well. Not only is it quite detrimental to the human body, but corporate “farming” of cattle and other beings is what keeps third-world hunger from reaching a resolution. How do I know these things? I have an advanced degree in Human Nutrition and I make it my business to know. The American Dietetic Association will never be truthful with the public about these matters, because they receive funding from the meat/dairy industry. Yes, I am a vegetarian. No, not for “health reasons”. It is because my eyes are opened to the suffering of other species on this planet, and I do my best to NOT contribute to that suffering. Am I vegan enough? Do I know for certain that nothing I buy or consume has “animal parts”? NO, of course not, thanks to folks like YOU, “Anonymous”, and “John”……who, with misplaced righteousness, make your excuses for not doing the right thing, contributing to the suffering of others for your own self-absorbed comfort. Someone once said.. “The only way for evil to triumph in this world, is for good men to do nothing”…
        If you disagree with people like Della who possess a rare and pure in spirit kind of compassion, you would be better off to keep your mouth shut and move on, than to call her out and attempt to ridicule her. These are the sorts of things in life that have a way of coming back around again when you least expect it, while you’re sitting on your “leather” sofa, mindlessly eating a roast pork sandwich. God help you when it does.

        • Have u ever investigated on the vegetables u eat? What about the plastic purse?? At least the the leather is coming from something bio degradable!! Just like a human body!!

    • Della, I agree with you. Just because history has not shown compassion to animals doesn’t mean we have to follow in their footsteps. Della does not mean to shame anyone, nor do I, but if you learn how the animals suffer for our “comfort,” you will likely feel different about purchasing it. When you consider that a pig, for example, has the intelligence and cognition of a toddler, and then you watch it get stripped of his own flesh “alive,” hear his screams, you will understand. They can not speak for themselves, they can suffer, and their eyes cry out “why?” It breaks my heart.

      –Melissa “FORMER meat eater, fur buyer, and leather future lover.”

  3. La Z Boy is the most awful furniture place in Sugar Land Texas. Its true about the warranty, as mentioned by Della. I bought an Electric power-assisted Sofa for my mother for $1400.00 because La Z Boy claimed it was so much superior. Then in the first week, the chair died while my mother was sitting in it. It would not go down. From that point on my mother was scared to sit in that chair, and La Z Boy refused to entertain any idea of exchange, let alone return. As a result, if La Z Boy were the last furniture store in America, I would not buy anything from there, because of their poor quality and their lousy customer service but mostly because of their terrible attitude.

    • Steve Stclair says:

      Speaking about the La Z Boy attitude. You should try living next to a La Z Boy plant as I do. The plant emits terrible annoying noises making it hard to sleep or think, even though I live about a mile and a half away. When I complained, they promised to fix the problem and did not keep their word, apparently just to get me to shut up. While claiming to be an environmentally sensitive manufacturer and ethical member of the community, they don’t seem to care about the damage they do to people or wildlife in the area. I will never buy La Z Boy again.

    • Jill Bartholomew says:

      I purchased 2 la z boy sofas (reclining) purchased the extended warranty, it covered nothing!! The fabric started to disintegrate at 2 years old La z boy pushed me off to the warranty, they claimed fabric only had one year. When selling me this warranty, they claimed even if your dog pissed on it it would be covered. But the fact was when they fabric wore away and I had netting left behind they would not touch it, then the cushions crushed so bad you had to be careful when you sat down do you didn’t hit the hard parts from the recliner, so don’t even think of laying on it. That was considered normal wear and tear. I paid $2500 for these and burned them. The only time you know how good a warranty really is, is when you need it, they will tell you anything just to sell it!

    • I bought a La-Z-Boy sofa in SugarLand, Tx several years ago from Melody Jones. At first she was very nice, but once we bought all of her promises she made to us none was kept. A total different person. She will tell you that the price is guarantied for 30 days, the sofa we bought went on sale and she would not honor the sale price. We have bought several La-Z-Boy furniture since then, but none from her. I agree with Jill Bartholomew the above write up, they will tell you you what you want to her, but once you give them money forget customer service. Just hope you get a good item and most are, if not you are screwed.

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  5. Furniture Repairs Bolton Mindsets & Lifestyles have to change….or it will keep passing on to all generations…Praying that change will come….

  6. When my husband and I were newlyweds in 2007, we bought a faux leather living room set (made by Ashley Furniture) from our local Big Lots. We were so broke back then that we even had to finance it for a year – interest free of course ;) Then six months later we bought our first house which had a den and a living room. Years later we moved the set into the den, and I had fun shopping for a new set for the living room. I had just started working for a really good company and they had given out big bonuses around that time. So being a dumb 20-something, I thought it best to spend the entire thing on a custom made sectional. They didn’t have it in store, so I ordered it sight unseen…in white soft fabric. For the past four years that sectional has been a pain in my butt! My husband loved our “cheap” faux leather that was in the den, he could just sit and eat and drink, then wipe it clean with a wet rag if he spilled something. Whereas with the white sectional he was afraid to sit on it, and I myself only laid on it using a blanket to avoid stains. The few times my parents visited, I was so picky about my mom putting her feet on the sofa that she eventually quit coming up to stay. We tried to get rid of it several times (selling online), to no avail. Then my husband was transferred to a different state, so we sold the faux leather set instead to avoid packing up two living rooms. I still miss that set! Now we are fixing to have our first baby in a few weeks, and I sooo over having a white sofa. I posted a final add asking for 80% less than what we bought it for…and sold it within a day. Once they pick it up I am going to a local furniture store in our new hometown and buying another faux leather set. We don’t have the budget for real leather right now with the baby on the way, but I am very happy with the set we have picked out. That sectional has been a thorn in my side for way toooooo long!

  7. I realize this may sound cheap, however, I stumbled upon an incredible
    vintage outdoors lantern on a hard rubbish collection on the weekend!
    At this time I am searching for wrought iron patio chairs
    to match. You know what they say, one mans garbage is another mans treasure!

  8. When buying furniture know that a lot of the stuff now seems so cheaply made seems wiser to go to an auction and buy older furniture and have it redone…
    My husband looked at tons of leather sets set then we drove by a going out of biz sale…
    We saw a black leather set original cost was something crazy like 12,000 we bought it for
    for 3300 not bad for four piece set, it was a super high end Italian made leather set …it still looks brand new hard to believe and it has been 23 years! We had fabric couch in the family we had custom ordered this set and the couch arrived it looked so different than the model set we saw at the store… Buyer beware …custom orders are non returnable then months later I became so allergic to dust mites and my cats dander that we had the rug torn out of the family room and hard woods put down and we put our custom made furniture sent straight to consignment so we could sell it . We also made sure that hard floors that have zero formaldehyde Another comfy leather couch for downstairs too. Installed two i Q air purifiers we are now all healthier and breathing much better and the airs feels super clean no more sinus issues nor nasal polyps, The things you just don’t think about when your building your nest until you start reacting to your environment then you get smart in a hurry,.

  9. Thank you for posting your story, we are getting ready to buy a new sofa, it will be my 6th one in the past 10 years! Haven’t had the best of luck. First two were from Levitz, first set was microfiber and plushy and comfortable but broke super fast. We kept it around for a year, then plunged right into another Levitz set, twice the cost of the first set but more sitting room and cooler looking. That broke rather quickly as well, but we dealt with it for about 4 years until the breakup, I insisted he keep it! I bought my self a beautiful, big, somewhat pricey chaise sofa at La-Z-Boy that I loved more than any sofa I owned or grew up with. After 2 years (and the new boyfriend’s kid being a bit rough on it) I still planned to use it when we moved to a smaller apartment. However, my then boyfriend told his friends that I’d pay them to move us (without asking me first) and they were tossing the couch cushions down the balcony and into the grass where dogs went to the bathroom! By the time the sofa made it into the new place and overwhelmed the small living room, not to mention knowing where the cushions had been, I asked them to haul it away for their second hand store. We went to La-Z-Boy to look at recliner sofas. We happened upon a theater seating style with 3 recliners, and in-between tables with cup holders. It was burgundy which isn’t very attractive on sofas but it seemed comfy and it was a discontinued floor model. Sign said retail was $3700 but this last model was only $800, how could I resist?! WORST couch ever, and with the kid around I paid almost $300 more to get the fabric treated. The recliners actually cut off circulation! 2 months later I decided to part ways with the not so great bf, and my friend came to stay with me and said it was the most awful sofa he’s ever experienced and helped me try to sell it. I couldn’t even unload it for $200. I ended up leaving it in parts near the dumpster and got a smaller cheapie chaise sofa from Easy Life. I still have it 4 years later but both my boyfriend and I hate it. The ottoman supporting the chaise is removable and it splits apart every time I get up. The cat has destroyed the sides, and the cushion filling is seriously deformed. I cannot wait to get a new one but after reading this post I think it would be a good idea to take our time and get something we really want that will last a long time. My mother always jokes about how quickly I go through sofas, she keeps the same ones for 10-15 years. I’m on the fence with La-Z-Boy since I had a really great couch and a horrible one from there. I want something economical but built to last.

  10. Grew up with La-z-boy. I inherited my first la-z-boy from my dad, it lasted for years. When I bought my first house I bought a brand new la-z-boy and I loved that chair. It was made out of thick leather, it was built solid, and it lasted many years. I’m a big guy, so I’m tough on chairs, and La-z-boy sent me an entire new mechanism for the one i inherited from my father, and for the one I bought new — no charge, they really stood behind their warranty.

    So last a couple of years ago I got a new la-z-boy and within 6 months all the color had worn off the paper-thin leather. the mechanism broke so the footrest wouldn’t stay up anymore and La-z-boy will not honor the warrant and send me the parts to fix it. a few months later, the leather on the arm rest just flat out wore through and tore. The chair is a broken down mess.

    The la-z-boy you buy today might as well have been built by a completely different company. The leather and fabric is thin, the frames are made cheaper and the mechanism is junk. Looking online at all the complaints, their warranty service is a joke now. Sad really. I’m sure someone got a bonus for finding a way to save money by cutting build quality.

  11. This is a short story called : pregnancy sofa debacle. I decided when about 5 months pregnant that I no longer liked our sectional from Macy’s. We purchased it (only) two years earlier, but in a different house with a different set up. The grey color looked bluish purple in our new house, and the only option we had in our new living room, even though it was larger, was to place it in a way that really made the room feel small. I tossed it up on craigslist and within 48 hours…we were without a sofa. Oops. Thank goodness for my patient husband! Next step, the search. In our area, sofa shopping isn’t very easy. We looked at Crate & Barrel, local stores, etc…but none of them seemed right OR the reviews were no good. We thought we wanted something MCM but needed it to be affordable and functional for a family. I struggled between the idea of an ikea sofa and more of an investment piece. We are expecting our first baby, but I knew this new piece needed to function for years of wear and tear with lots of children and family use. I found a site in LA that had affordable MCM furniture with what seemed to be a great return policy (365 days) ….but of course we wouldn’t need that!! Right?! My husband trusted me to make another sofa decision, (he’s nuts) and we purchased a beautiful 3 seater sofa from Thrive furnishings. Upon its arrival I was in love. It is gorgeous, like all of the reviews said….a few weeks in, I was noticing it’s not that comfortable, like some other reviews stated. But, I COULD NOT SAY THAT OUT LOUD. I felt like I’d done my due diligence and had our friend who lives in LA (I’m on the east coast) go to the show room to sit on the sofa. I read all the reviews….(reading and listening are two different things) After 6 weeks with this new sofa….I’m so upset. With myself. I tried to make it work, I just can’t get comfortable on it, and neither can my husband. The cushions are constantly battling each other or pushing us forward, as if we will roll right off the sofa and on to the floor. And I found my husband sitting in a chair and our time TOGETHER on the sofa very limited. It took me a few weeks but I finally spoke up one night about my disappointment. My dear husband also agreed that it isn’t what we hoped for. So now we are trying to decide if we should return it, sell it on craigslist, or suck it up. If we return it, we pay a $300 restock fee + shipping it cross country. Ouch. We could probably do that and buy an ikea sofa and break even, but can my pride take it?! Can my poor husband take it?! We aren’t people who throw money away and I don’t take purchases like this lightly! This has been such a frustrating process and I really wish the sofa fairy would just find me the perfect fit for our home.

  12. My husband and I are looking to purchase two sofas. We did go to our local LaZBoy after my parents redid their house almost entirely frmo the Hoover, Alabama store. But we decided to do a bit more research. I have been researching LaZBoy customer reviews all day. We have narrowed it down to them and Pottery Barn. I happened upon your blog today. I am shocked to read these comments along with many others throughout the web. I hope LaZBoy sees these comments and realizes their brand is suffering. With all the negative comments – I think we will have to do some more shopping.

  13. You are so cool! I do not believe I’ve read something like this before.
    So great to discover somebody with original thoughts
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  14. I AM VERY EAGER TO SEAT ON A 10-14 INCH THICK AND SUPER SOFT CUSHION.
    I LIKE SUPER SOFT CUSHION WIT BOX SPRING FOR EXTRA COMFORT
    I FEEL LUXURY WHEN THE CUSHION PRESSED DOWN/SPRING DOWN – 4-5 INCH WHEN I SEAT ON IT.

    HAVE U ANY CUSHION THAT CAN FULFILL MY DESIRE

  15. You post is very helpful. I love your story about the toile. We bought mauve carpet once and it was in the house for 12 years. Can you imagine?! Well, I am now searching for a couch and want an uber comfy one. It is hard to find any posts on this. I have been trying them out but I am a bit picky. Do you remember what model your was – It looks great?

  16. Sheila Henne says:

    We recently purchased a 3-piece dark brown microfiber set from Sofa Mart in San Antonio (part of Furniture Row). Dual reclining sofa, stationary loveseat, and rocker recliner chair. We are pretty happy with it. Was on sale for $799, savings of $548 on the set. We did purchase a $99 5-year warranty, as it would be a shame to not get full use of the recliner mechanisms, which are often the first things to break. This set is Primo brand.

    We had bought an on-sale dark brown microfiber recliner for me (edema in the ankles) at Sofa Mart last June, and our satisfaction with it influenced our decision to try the store again. We have been pleased with the customer service. Both purchases came with a free set of fabric cleaner products from the store.

    I love the white-on-white shabby chic look, but keep gravitating toward wood and more color. I just need to accept it. I’m actually delighted with the dark brown furniture in my home, and love the new living room arrangement pulled off the wall and turned sideways. Much more welcoming! picture: http://www.Instagram.com/pinkrosessheila . “Day 40″ picture. The large reclining sofa is in the family room, and it’s not completed yet, so not pictured.

  17. After 46 years in the same house, I just bought a townhouse and am looking for a new sofa. Did a search for the ‘best sofa’ and your site was at the top of the list where I discovered people love their sofas as much as I do. Years ago I wandered into a thrift store and found this 8′ sofa that two men could barely lift because of the solid wooden structure and huge size. The cushions were down and it was incredibly comfortable but had ugly, cheap yellow upholstery. I still have it because nothing has come close to being as well built and comfortable and am hoping to get a white slipcover made after visiting your site. It will be a nice change from the dark red microfiber sheets that do very well as clingy covers and some lovely quilts that drape the arms.
    Still need to find a new sofa/chair configuration for the living room as my beloved couch is headed to the tv/computer room. Thanks for the advice here

  18. Penny Bevill says:

    I currently have a Clayton Marcus that I need to replace. BEST sofa ever!!!! I’ve tried shopping for a new sofa and can’t find any that compares to my Clayton Marcus. What did you finally get Myquyllin?!

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