The best sofa to buy | Laurel’s #1 pick!

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Sometimes a client will ask me what is the best sofa to buy? 

Great question. I can fully understand how confusing it can be.

So, what is the number one sofa style?

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Please forgive me, I have to interrupt myself. sorry. I just have to post this old photo. I am going to be starting to do this more and more. These are photos that I’ve saved over the years. (some of them better preserved than others). What I love about all of these images is that you cannot tell that they are old (in terms of the content, not quality of the magazine photo) and that is when I know that it is truly “timeless” as we say.

 

yellowgssofa

Okay… I’m not really a “yellow person” although I seem to post a lot of yellow, don’t I? Well… then, maybe I am after-all. I love absolutely everything about this room and I’m totally giving away the “best sofa.” (I bet you had guessed it already, anyway.)

It’s this one:

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It goes by different names. It’s usually called an English roll arm sofa or sometimes Bridgewater sofa. It was started by this company, George Smith and they call it a Standard Arm Signature Sofa. Although, they have several variations of this. Usually, it has a turned leg, but maybe this is their way of updating it. I am grateful to Mr. Smith for creating this divine beauty to sit on, but forgive me. I will never order one from them.

1) they are charging waaaaay too much

2) they aren’t all that comfortable. (at least not any that I’ve ever sat on.)

Take heart, though… there are many manufacturers including my favorite, Lee Industries and CR Laine, (who I used to recommend, but no longer can) who make beautiful replicas of this sofa and for far less money and they are verrry comfortable. Now, there are several different iterations of the roll arm sofa and this is only a partial list.

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This is very close to the original, maybe a little plumper with slighter fatter turned legs, from Lee Industries

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There’s this beauty with the straight tapered legs and I have to say that over-all, it gets my vote for favorite. A LOT of my clients do not like the fussier turned leg and a lot of them absolutely HATE casters, so this is a great alternative. Sofa by Lee Industries.

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Here’s one with a loose pillow back, also by Lee

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This is one with a turned leg is from CR Laine and it has no caster and a different kind of loose pillow back. Some of you may have remembered this piece from the laurel home shop, that unfortunately died a quick, but painless death. (for the shop, that is) I however, mourned the loss for days and still do…

Alas, it had a wordpress stroke and there was no way to pull it back to life without spending mucho bucks and since no one bought anything anyway, I decided to let it rest in peace. So be it.

leerollarmslip2Here’s one with a slip-cover from Lee. Slip covers should be chic, not shabby, IMO. They’ll get shabby soon enough on their own! My thoughts on slip covers? I have always loved the look. They automatically say “casual.” However, they are a bitch to put on. There, I said it. That  means that you’re less likely to take them off—– however, someone (doesn’t matter the age) decide to eat a sloppy PBJ with grape J and then proceed to smear it all over the fabric, you will be happy to be able to completely remove the cover to get it cleaned. right?

leerollarm2

And finally, all of the above come in a love seat, or sometimes called apartment size, two-seater. This is something that I tell all of my clients. IF the sofa is being used primarily for conversation, I do not care if it is 5 feet long or 10 feet long, there will only be two people sitting on it and therefore, most of the time you do not need a three seater. (many come with a single cushion which is a nice compromise).  This is why it is so important if you have to go to a store, to measure, measure before you go so that you won’t be talked into getting a piece that is just too big for the space!

 

Alright, sorry for all of the digression, but I guess I cannot talk about the best sofa to buy without talking about some other important sofa issues.

 

 

Oh wait… I almost forgot! I have another old image from Jonas Upholstery in NY City. Don’t even think of walking in there unless you are prepared to shell out at least 15 big ones. That’s right, one of these babies is going to cost you. Is it worth it? Sure, if you’re in the top 1%. (or maybe top .01%) :]

jonas

Have to say that I think that this is an incredible beauty and I love the slight scroll back. Yes, they put real horsehair in the filling yes, it’s sublime, but you can have pretty close to that for a lot less. A LOT less!

Here are some beautiful rooms which have featured this style of sofa. It’s classic. It will not go out of style 10-20-30 years from now and you will not hate yourself for going… “what was I thinking!!!”

Oh wait… here is a “what was I thinking???” And guess what? It’s a roll arm sofa… ‘cept someone forgot to put her dress on (and underwear too, apparently.)

You can purchase one of these uglies at Restoration Hardware, but you pay MORE for less. (eyes rolling) It’s a lot like the peanut butter that’s made without salt and it costs more for what’s not in it. Or maybe it’s just that RH is a ripoff. (they really are. trust me, they are.)

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“Deconstructed,” they call it. hahahaha!!! It looks bloody uncomfortable too! And these things are MASSIVE. Huge masses of ugly. Please, do not be seduced into actually believing that they are cool. They aren’t and you will hate yourself if you get one and it won’t take you ten years either. Actually, the wonderful, wonderful interior designer/blogger, Joni Webb of the Cote de Texas blog wrote a brilliant expose about this entire travesty. you can read it here; it’s long, but it’s very interesting and very well-written!

 

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Okay, I’ll shut up now! ;]

Here are the pretty rooms!

swindsorsmith

Shut the door! Can you handle it? The little dressmaker details? The colors, mouldings and GRISAILLE wallpaper! By the ever-amazing Windsor Smith!

sgeorgesherlocksofa

Here is a sofa by George Sherlock who is not to be confused with George Smith, unless they are the same person.  Who knows?

s_onekings

Here is another variation of the English roll arm sofa with chunkier legs and a pretty damask fabric, from One King’s Lane.

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A glorious room in South, Hampton by interior designer, Joseph Kremer.

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Another George Sherlock design in the home of fashionista, Ann Mashburn– style to burn! She even painted her fireplace to match the dog! Very Holly Golightly!

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Trend-setter, Sofia Coppola on her George Sherlock sofa with rounded deck. I want that sofa! Funny thing is, her trend is actually an enduring classic!

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Phoebe Howard

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Another old photo scanned from a magazine. Room by Victoria Hagan

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Colefax and Fowler

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New-tradition

the best sofa to buy

An elegant traditional living room with a classic English roll arm sofa with a stylish dressmaker skirt by Atlanta designer, Patricia Maclean for the Atlanta Symphony Decorators show house.

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A gorgeous bedroom by one of my fave designers, Suzanne Kasler with a small roll arm sofa instead of the customary bench.

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Eva Chen in Domino Mag

Are there other cool sofas? Well, of course there are! But, if you want one of the coolest and most classic, you can’t go wrong with an English roll arm sofa!

how-to-choose-perfect-sofa

for more help in selecting the perfect sofa click here.

xo,

laurel

 

  • Emily Grey - May 15, 2017 - 4:11 PM

    Do you think this is something I could fit into a medium sized apartment? I have a small reclining chair already, but I’m looking for something to entertain guests.

    Thank youReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 15, 2017 - 4:25 PM

      Hey Emily,

      I’m sorry but we don’t give out individual advice. The furniture you tried to link to is not anything I want dangling on this site, so the link needed to be removed. Thank you for your understanding. If you’re needing more help, then please seek out the help of a trained professional designer.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy K - April 22, 2017 - 1:22 PM

    When shopping for a second-hand sofa, are there any tricks to identifying the manufacturer? If there’s no label, can you offer advice on how to assess the quality of construction and the condition of the piece? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 22, 2017 - 1:49 PM

      Hi Kathy,

      Usually the label is underneath the seat cushion. If not, then sit in it. Take the cushions off and examine. But just know that anything that’s wrong can be fixed by a good upholsterer unless the frame is warped. Of course, fixing costs money.ReplyCancel

  • Virginia Johnson - March 1, 2017 - 12:44 PM

    Laurel,

    I have visited your website at least a million times in the last several weeks! We are purchasing our forever home and I cannot express how helpful your blog has been!

    Have you done a post regarding a kid friendly media/play room? We have a finished basement in the ranch we are purchasing, and I’d like this room to be something both children and adults can enjoy. Right now it’s covered in red paneling (yes, your read that correctly) and indoor/outdoor blue carpet! YIKES! It does have a few windows. I’ve already figured out what to do on the stairs (sisal runner with black trim, thanks to you!), but after that I’m at a loss. Can you point to a post on your blog that might give me some inspiration!

    Best wishes from the deep South,
    Virginia JohnsonReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 1, 2017 - 9:22 PM

      Hi Virginia,

      Thanks for your sweet comment. I don’t think I’ve done a post about playrooms. I have to admit that every time I do a kids’ post, they aren’t as popular.

      But really, a basement for both kids and adults isn’t that different than a family room. It depends partly on the age of the children. But they grow up so fast!ReplyCancel

  • Sara Williams - February 21, 2017 - 2:47 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    Found your website by a chance. But really impressed with the article you provide on interior design as it is one of my favorite topics too. Seems you have missed bean bag chairs. Am I correct? Please write a great article on bean bags too.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 21, 2017 - 12:20 PM

      Sara,

      Yes, beanbag chairs are not on here and won’t be. Sorry.ReplyCancel

  • EMILY GRAHAM - February 19, 2017 - 6:14 PM

    I’ve just found your site and it’s so helpful! I’m currently furniture shopping to replace a 17 yr. old sofa. I love your recommendations. However, you said “there are many manufacturers including my favorite, Lee Industries and CR Laine, (who I used to recommend, but no longer can)”. Do not recommend either of these any more? Is so, is there another ‘moderately priced’ brand you’d recommend? I live in Atlanta, so I have access to try many options.

    Thanks!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 19, 2017 - 6:24 PM

      It’s just CR Laine who recently without notice closed my note due to “inactivity.”

      I’m a full-time blogger now and there are thousands just like you landing on my site looking for the best sources. So, while I’m not placing orders, I’m sending them orders. Or, I should say… was sending them.

      You can certainly purchase their products. There’s nothing wrong with them and I still love Lee.ReplyCancel

      • Meredith - April 20, 2017 - 1:51 AM

        Sorry, forgive my ignorance but what does “closed my note” mean? I’m not a blogger so probably just a term I’m not familiar with? The only reason I ask is because I had the same exact question as this commenter so wanted to make sure that Lee and CR are ok to use. Thanks! (I was also looking at RH but have been discouraged by recent bad reviews.)ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - April 20, 2017 - 11:10 AM

          You’re not ignorant either. Or are you the same Meredith? Comments are moderated and I am inundated today. Sorry it’s bothering you so much. It’s a typo Meredith and it’s not easy to find the comment to go back and edit it. Both companies are fine in terms of the furniture.ReplyCancel

          • Meredith - April 20, 2017 - 6:35 PM

            Apologies…I accidentally hit send too soon before I finished commenting, then didn’t know if my comment went through so resent the comment with a little extra written. 😊 sorry about that double duty! I was technically challenged today! Thanks again

          • Laurel Bern - April 20, 2017 - 10:31 PM

            NP

      • Meredith - April 20, 2017 - 1:22 AM

        Sorry, forgive my ignorance but what does “closed my note” mean? I’m not a blogger so probably just a term I’m not familiar with?ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - April 20, 2017 - 1:28 AM

          Hi Meredith,

          You’re not ignorant. It’s a typo, of course. The word is account. ReplyCancel

  • Donna Hill - February 5, 2017 - 11:26 PM

    This article is the reason I now own a tight back English arm sofa with tapered leg covered in a beautiful durable Sunbrella fabric custom made in NC by Temple. Love love love it! Thanks for the advice!ReplyCancel

  • Cathy - January 6, 2017 - 12:10 AM

    It’s a nice classic sofa, but way too traditional for me. I’m looking for more modern classic styling with chrome legs.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 6, 2017 - 12:13 AM

      Yes, we’ve done those too. But this is what is the top seller in the New York Metro area.ReplyCancel

  • Eva - December 31, 2016 - 2:39 PM

    Laurel, what are your thoughts on an English roll arm sofa with a single seat cushion? Would it look strange with the three “sections” on the back? Many thanks for your thoughts, have so enjoyed your blog and writing style!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 31, 2016 - 2:54 PM

      Hi Eva,

      If I did a single seat cushion AKA a bench cushion, I would definitely do a tight-back style. Usually, they are sectioned, but some have welting. I prefer a French seam which is flat with top-stitching.

      Also I think that bench cushions can get a little unwieldy if too large.

      Bench cushions are especially good if the sofa is being used for TV viewing. If it’s primarily being used for conversation, then 99% of the time, no matter how large, the sofa won’t sit more than two people.ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn Smith - October 22, 2016 - 1:10 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    Thank you! Do you do any consulting over the phone/skype?
    The link to lee industries doesn’t work. Can you tell us a little more about the sofa? Style name?
    Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 22, 2016 - 8:49 PM

      Hi Carolyn,

      I’m sorry, but no consultations in person or any other way at this time. Lee website is leeindustries.com. From there, it is easy to find the sofas, etc.ReplyCancel

  • farnaz - October 18, 2016 - 6:11 AM

    Only word which can describe your blog is Awesome!!! Great blog with a attractive images.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - August 14, 2016 - 11:43 AM

    I love the last sofa by Eva Chen. I clicked on the link which took me to Domino magazine, but I couldn’t find it. I believe she is the designer and not the manufacturer. Can you give me more information in locating it.
    Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 14, 2016 - 12:41 PM

      Hi Kathy,

      Not 100% sure, but I think that is either a George Smith or a George Sherlock sofa.ReplyCancel

      • Kathy K - April 27, 2017 - 3:42 PM

        I’ve solved the mystery of the manufacturer of the blue 2-seater: It’s the English Saddle Arm (535-2) apartment sofa by TCS. After waiting patiently for the just-right sofa, I bought this one advertised on craigslist last week. It’ll be an investment because it needs reupholstering, but I’m thrilled with the size (70w) for our small space. Now, for the next frontier — that gorgeous blue fabric in soft bullet-proof chenille …ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - April 27, 2017 - 4:59 PM

          Hi Kathy,

          As a TCS dealer who’s sold dozens of TCS saddle arm sofas (since 2001), it is definitely not their sofa. It’s similar, but not from that manufacturer. I’m almost 100% sure that it’s either George Smith or George Sherlock.

          But rest assured that the TCS English Arm is a lovely version of the English roll arm sofa. Enjoy!ReplyCancel

  • Clara - July 17, 2016 - 12:09 PM

    Hey Laurel,

    I have been going through your website for the last few months and tell you what I’m loving your way of writing and framing the article.

    This is another piece of great work to help people to find the best sofa for them.ReplyCancel

  • MaryJo - July 15, 2016 - 9:40 PM

    Love your site. Valuable information. I love decorating. Bought 2 sofas, Norfolk, and grateful they are exactly what you recommend!! I need a true gray paint for upstairs that will blend with my Revere Pewter greige downstairs. HELP!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 16, 2016 - 4:21 PM

      Hi MaryJo,

      Well, I wish I could help you but I can’t see what your sitch and also I’m not doing paint consults at this time.

      You might consider getting my paint collection because Revere Pewter is in it and it’s also part of the Universal collection where there are 65 other colors that go with it including several shades of gray.

      https://laurelberninteriors.com/2016/05/18/laurel-home-essential-paint-color-collection/

      Whether it reads as “true” or not has to do with our lighting, the time of day, what else is going on and even how one perceives color.ReplyCancel

  • H SCH - May 27, 2016 - 5:31 PM

    thanks for the great article. LOL on the RH commentary. I considered RH furniture, but with the horrible ratings, high prices and questionable design, that’s not going to happen.ReplyCancel

  • Tammy Lewis - February 29, 2016 - 11:35 AM

    Love your sight! Lots of very helpful info! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Susan Lopez - November 22, 2015 - 10:18 AM

    Adding my 2 cents on picking out the “perfect” sofa.
    1.Size matters – start with the size not the maker. The sofa size needs to be scaled to the room size. Does it fit? Measure your space and access to doors, walkways and other furniture. Leave room to move-both visually and phyically. Most mistakes are made purchasing a sofa too large for the space. Unfortunately, it will never fit if even slightly too large. If the model you desire is too large, move on and find one that fits.
    2. Personal style – After too many bad purchases I would recommend discarding the “House Beautiful” dream room of the moment and really assess your personal style as well as lifestyle. Do you have a big family? Large spouse? Will this be the main entertainment area? My own personal style is modern. My husband is a former sportsman of large height. We we have a small living room in our home in France so I chose a custom made deep lounge of not longer than 260cm. Because I needed the internal length for louging the arms could not be too wide. My husband does not like sloping arms and prefers straight for resting on the corners. Leather is out and Italian custom removable covers are in. All of this in a hardwood frame with high density foam and down/feathers . The lounge will last you 20 years. The investment is worth it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 22, 2015 - 5:57 PM

      Hi Susan,

      All wonderful advice! And I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately, people get seduced inside the furniture stores or in a Restoration Hardware catalog. lol and all hell breaks loose!ReplyCancel

  • Hillary - November 5, 2015 - 11:53 AM

    I am considering Lee industries english arm sofa but we are a house with 4 tall men 6’4 and myself so we are looking for loungy that doesnt look super messy. Comfort is first priority.
    1571 is what we are looking at but the bridgwater is lovely but is it loungy comfy?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 5, 2015 - 1:47 PM

      Hi Hillary,

      Thank you for your interest, but I’m sorry, I cannot offer individual advice in comments. It would be best to speak to the merchant you’re buying from regarding comfort and cushion fills, etc.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Morrison - October 3, 2015 - 9:31 AM

    Recently retired and with time now, I am trying to get my 1991 house to look like it has some thought and design. Hard for me to decide on expensive purchases on my own. I get paralyzed, so nothing gets decided. Your thoughts on everything from sofas to barn doors (ha!) are wonderful. It has helped me make a few decisions. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 3, 2015 - 12:06 PM

      Hi Nancy, So glad you’re finding it all helpful! I enjoy (duh) writing the blog a lot. In fact, I enjoy it so much that the move has been to be more of a full-time blogger and less of a full-time designer. Right now, the blog (and associated work) IS a full-time job, in any case! But I totally love it! ReplyCancel

  • Sarah L. - September 28, 2015 - 10:51 AM

    Ikea now has a version of this sofa! I think its called the Stocksund. I have small children (boys) and a love of white so am thinking of buying this one (inexpensive replacement slipcovers!) Would love your thoughts. Your blog is a delight.ReplyCancel

  • ronald prasad - September 26, 2015 - 12:06 AM

    love your blog… okay, potentially dumb question (sorry to ask):- why is this number? as is there a ‘contemporary’ version of this?ReplyCancel

    • ronald prasad - September 26, 2015 - 12:07 AM

      what that should say is: why is this number one? and is there a contemporary version?ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - September 26, 2015 - 1:28 AM

        That’s a good question Ronald. It’s a very old classic style that’s been around for about 130 years or so. It has lovely lines and isn’t so bulky.

        The more contemporary versions have the straight tapered legs. Thanks for commenting!ReplyCancel

  • Glenda Miller - August 1, 2015 - 10:46 PM

    Hi Laurel: I, too, think the English Roll Arm is the BEST in terms of design. It’s simply a beautiful piece of furniture in any colour and I’ve never seen it in a room where it doesn’t take centre stage. A slight ‘observation’ of your photos, however: I would like to see this sofa in a wider balance of room styles: boho; eccentric; industrial etc. etc.. Also, being from Canada, I’d like to add a wonderful, well-priced source of this English Arm sofa for those north of your border: it’s The Hemingway, made by Statum Designs Inc..This is a Canadian made, terrific sofa and with the decline in our dollar against yours, (our dollar is now at 76 cents against your dollar) I have to look here. And again, I continue to appreciate your great articles and insights.ReplyCancel

    • mrsben - January 23, 2016 - 1:02 PM

      @ Glenda: As I live in Canada and am currently looking for a sofa, thank you so much for mentioning it. With appreciation -Brenda-ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 2, 2015 - 10:29 AM

      Hi Glenda,

      Thank you so much for that information.ReplyCancel

  • Guus - March 25, 2015 - 4:16 PM

    We like your sofas…..Are they also available in Spain ?

    If so could you give us an address –

    regards
    GuusReplyCancel

  • cindy hattersley - February 18, 2014 - 3:15 PM

    Hi Laurel

    I prefer the updated version of the English Arm. I am from the camp who does not like casters! I don’t like the way they look and I hate that they can slide all over the place!ReplyCancel