15 Favorite Classic Sofas + Some of My Top Sources


Over four years ago, I wrote a post about the top ten best sofas and what you need to know before buying. And, I thought it would be a great idea to update the post, but updating means having to delete the old post and that means also deleting 100 comments in that situation.

Therefore, I’ve decided to update that post which you can see here 

And, this post is a further update focusing on 15 or so of the most classic sofa styles.


It’ll be interesting to see which ones make the cut from over four years ago. A few didn’t and it’s not because of the furniture, but the furniture company. They deleted my account due to “inactivity.”  One day, out of the blue, I got a form letter in the mail. Apparently they aren’t interested in the thousands of people, largely interior designers and design enthusiasts landing on their site every year because of the links on my site to theirs.


I see… I’m not expecting anything, but that felt like a slap in the face which I realize wasn’t personal, but that’s the point.


Why wasn’t it? But fine, if that’s how they want it. I firmly believe in quid pro quo and so I deleted most of the links to their site.

To be clear, I am not talking about Lee Industries. I’m happy to link them as I never had a direct account with them; they do not work directly with the design trade unless one has a brick and mortar store.

And, while I was grateful to have the wholesale account for several years with the slap-in-the-face manufacturer and sold a lot of their sofas, chairs and ottomans, I became a full-time blogger and was happy to promote them via the blog and Laurel’s Rolodex. However, out of dozens of manufacturers and brands that I have net/wholesale accounts with, no one else has shut down my account. And without so much as a phone call.  ’nuff said.

Let’s move on…

What makes a sofa a classic? Is that the same as traditional?


Good question. ;] Well, in past posts, I’ve gone over my issue with the word “traditional.” I’m not too fond of “transitional either.” As I see it; transitional is really contemporary.

Contemporary is what is happening right now in terms of design trends. But design trends are all over the lot, so usually, in there are the classic designs. The thing is weeding them out.


So, what I mean by classic sofas is that they are a style that is going to stand the test of time.


But, also know that a classic sofa can be formal, casual, contemporary or modern. (which really means mid-century) But, sometimes it’s the application and type of fabric that can make the difference in some of these distinctions.

If you are in the market for a new sofa and want something you are still going to love 10-20 years from now, I very much recommend the number one sofa. It’s not the only one, but it’s the sofa that I specified more than any other for over 20 years.

Often, it’s called the English Bridgewater Sofa.

Or, sometimes it’s referred to as an English Arm or English Roll Arm Sofa. It’s all about the sleek, tight, low arm. And then, numerous variations on a theme which we’ll see some of them in a sec.


brampton_sofa front Robin Bruce cream linenbrampton side view robin bruceThis lovely scroll-back version, designed by Robin Bruce, is called the Brampton Sofa. It’s been featured many times here. The Robin Bruce line is manufactured by Rowe Furniture and all pieces are available in numerous colorways on One King’s Lane. You can see it on the Hot Sales page in two or three of the images.

I frequently feature One King’s Lane because they have a lot of great sales. Some, they don’t even seem to know about haha


Okay, let’s continue with our list of 15 classic sofas. And then we’ll also explore how you can acquire some of them if you’re in the market for a new sofa.


But, before we begin. Do you know what my favorite over-all brand is for upholstered furniture? I like several brands, but my favorite and a lot of you already know this, is Lee Industries.

Are they paying me to say that?

No, they are not, but let’s not go there. I’m happy to endorse and advertise to thousands of their potential customers for free. lol


Why do you like them, then, Laurel?


Boy, you guys are really on the ball today! That is another superb question.

What sets them apart from just about everyone else in their price-point medium-high-end price-point is—



Look. Everyone can make a piece that’s going to hold up pretty well. Not everyone knows how to create a piece with finesse. And for the most part, Lee Industries gets it. They understand proportion and scale. They’ve looked back to the classic pieces from England around the turn of the century. That, IMO was the heyday of upholstered furniture.

Does that mean that they are devoid of obnoxious trends like the flying T-Rex sofa? Anyone remember that dinosaur of a post? (pun intended)


Well, I think I have spotted a few, but it seems that they’ve already rendered most of them extinct as they should be.


Not all of the sofas will be from Lee, however, as y’all know I adore Serena and Lily and guess who makes their upholstered furniture?

Yeppers. Lee does. And Lee makes the furniture from another darling Williams Sonoma Home. And they make another line for Crate and Barrel too!

So, let’s dive into our sofas and begin where we left off with some other cool versions of the English Roll Arm sofa.

Classic Sofas - Serena and Lily Miramar sofa with bench seat


Serena and Lily Miramar sofa with bench seat

Serena and Lily Miramar Sofa -green silk draperies

Actually, I think that this is the sofa below which is another beauty. S & L doesn’t carry it any longer. But it’s similar. And who can tell with all of the pillows?


Lee Industries 1573-32 - classic sofas - English arm sofa

Lee Industries 1573-32


Robin Bruce Brampton Sofa Forest Green Velvet - Classic English Roll Arm Sofa

Robin Bruce Brampton Sofa-As above but in this luscious green velvet.


It’s on sale now. What I’m calling One King’s Lane’s double dipping sale. Most of their site is on sale, but there’s a promo code that will give you another 20% off! use code: OKL20CARD


Brooke roll arm sofa Ivory Crypton - One Kings Lane - Robin Bruce - classic sofas

Brooke roll arm sofa Ivory Crypton – Also, by Robin Bruce and also on sale at One Kings Lane. There’s also a sleep sofa version. This one is smaller and has a loose pillow back.


Chesterfield and Tuxedo Style Classic Sofas

These are sofas where the arm and back are the same height. The difference is that the chesterfield usually has a big fat round arm. And the tuxedo has a straight, sleek arm. Both are usually tufted. Chesterfields were originally only in leather. But these days, you see them in fabric and might even see one in pink linen. Like we did here.



Classic Chesterfield. This is similar to the one we did which you can see here.


One thing I try to avoid with Tuxedo and Chesterfield styles is a too-high arm. Most people don’t like that. Although, there’s another style called a Knole sofa which has a very high arm and back.

That link doesn’t take you to info about Knole sofas. They’ve lost their popularity in recent years. But the link above is a good post about good proportion in furniture and also some of the same pieces you’ll see here.



Lee Indsutries - new 2018 Chesterfield sofa 3183_11

And hot off the presses 2018, from Lee Industries is this stunning Chesterfield 3183-11 in olive green velvet. I love that the arm looks like it’s been hitting the gym on a regular basis. Trim and buff, he is. ;] And the arm and back height at 31″ is muy bien!  I do think, however, that I would’ve gone down an inch or two on the throw pillows.


Lee Industries Classic Sofas 7733-03

Another classic sofa from Lee Industries 7733-03 is one of my favorite sofas with a 33″ high arm and back rail. We did it for the family room with the green sofa.  We did it with a skirt which I also like a lot for this style sofa.

best sofas modern-furniture-lampert-sofa-jonathan-adler

I have long admired the Lampert Tuxedo style sofa by Jonathan Adler


It is available in two sizes and several fabric options, as well as finishes for the legs. I’ve sat in it and it is surprisingly deep but very comfortable. It’s also very sleek and pretty, in person.

Robin Bruce Madeline sofa taupe velvet - classic sofas

Another recent favorite is tuxedo-like, but the back comes up a few. From Robin Bruce the Madeline sofa taupe velvet. It is available also at One King’s Lane and there are a bunch of these on sale right now. Use code: OKL20CARD and in most cases, you can get an additional 20% off.


Track Arm Sofas

A track arm sofa is basically a square arm as opposed to a round arm. A round arm is called a Lawson arm or sometimes I’ve seen it called a sock arm. I don’t usually get too hung up on these semantics. But a new scrabble word is always welcome. :]

Lee Industries 1935 sofa- Serena and Lily - Spruce Street Sofa - Best Classic SofasLee Industries 1935 sofa – skinny track arm

However, this is another frame that both Serena & Lily and I adore! It’s my favorite frame for a sectional because of its economy of scale. It’s really the perfect sofa. Not too anything. :] And, it’s especially wonderful for a smaller room. It also comes in a very small love seat size which you may recall we saw in this post.

And it also comes in numerous other sizes and various options which are available through Serena and Lily.

And there’s also my favorite sectional version of this frame which you can see here and here.

Spruce Street sofa from Serena and Lily

Beautiful Spruce Street sofa from Serena and Lily (this version sans nailheads)

And the coffee table which I love too, is on sale which you can find here.

Lee Industries Living Room Slipcovered Sofa C1296-03
Lee Industries Slipcovered Sofa C1296-03

I have admired this slip-covered track arm for at least seven years. It just has the word “relax” written all over it.

Lee Industries Classic Sofas 7073-03Lee Industries Classic Sofas 7073-03


This is another one at Serena and Lily and one of their newer frames they are calling the Grady Sofa

The scoop arm is a nice detail for those who think some of the others are too boxy.

Grady sofa by Serena and Lily in lemon linen

Here it is in a vibrant yellow linen. S & L has dozens of beautiful fabrics to choose from.


Lee Industries Classic Sofas 5807-03


This is a more typical classic track arm style 5807-03 from Lee Industries


Lee Industries Classic Sofas 3232-03


And the last track arm is this Ruhlmann inspired sofa from Lee Industries 3232-03 which always takes me back to the earlier part of the 20th century. I think that Lee’s interpretation is done very well.

Lee Industries Classic Sofas 5710-03

Lee Industries Sofa 5710-03


Above is a classic Lawson arm sofa. Often, Lawsons will have a skirt. The fuddy duddy so-called traditional Lawsons tend to have fatter arms and kick pleat skirts. For fuddy duddy and what to do about it, click here.


Lee Industries slipcovered loveseat c1009-02


Another small sofa I’ve long admired is this pretty piece by Lee. This one has a slipcover, but it can be ordered without.

Lee Industries Classic Sofas 3143-03Another beauty from Lee is this handsome Lawson arm sofa 3143-03. It comes in many varieties. Casters, no casters, two-seat, three-seat, etc. and there’s also a track arm version. They think of everything!


Lee Industries Classic Sofas 3221-03
My one long-distance client from three years ago, had to have this camel-backed beauty. And since her room is hunky with high ceilings, I felt that it was a good choice for her and her large family. She already had two wing chairs from Lee and this was also a good fit with those pieces.

You can see her sofa in situ and much more of her very lovely new-build home in Kentucky, here.


Please pin this graphic to your pinterest boards as a reminder of classic sofas you might consider when shopping for sofas.


Are there other classic sofas?


Yes, of course. There are hundreds of them!

But, there are only 24 hours in a day and some of them are required for sleeping, unfortunately. It really is a drag sometimes.

And wow! There are only two days left to 2018. Please enjoy what’s left and a very happy and healthy New Year to all!


Infanta_Laurel _Isabel_de_Bourbon_e_Bourbon.3

Cheers and Love,

Oh, and don’t forget to check out the hot sales pages if you haven’t already. So many new things to see!

99 Responses

  1. Hi Laure l,
    Thanks for this article!! Wondering if Robin Bruce’s Brampton a good quality sofa or would you stick with a Lee Industries sofa??

  2. Laurel, thank you thank you for this blog. I’m the person who emailed you several days ago about the lamp cords/hardwood floors and I can’t stop combing through your funny and insightful posts. I could never afford to hire a designer, but this blog gives me so much inspiration and the confidence to tackle decorating our first house in Northeastern Iowa. It’s a very sweet colonial/cape cod revival, only about 1,200 square feet, built in 1942. You have opened my eyes to possibilities I wouldn’t have ever considered. Our house needs a lot of work, and it’s an overwhelming project for us, but I am hopeful that we’ll eventually end up with a house we’re proud of. I’m an older millennial who is so tired of seeing people my age on the internet claiming to be design gurus, when they’re anything but. Thank you for being here and providing wisdom and insight to this Midwestern millennial gal on a modest budget.

  3. Hi Laurel,

    It’s me again! What are trying to furnish our basement which has 7 foot ceilings…I have been reading your blog and love your post about the best sofas to purchase. I noticed you mentioned one of the sofas needed at least a 300 square foot room and at least 8.5′ ceilings for it to look right. This got me wondering, what is the maximum height that you recommend for a sofa in a basement with lower ceilings? I don’t want to purchase furniture only to get it down there and have it look too tall for the room!


    1. Hi Laura,

      Well, my favorite height for a sofa is roughly 34″. But what is the most important thing is that you can get it down the stairs! If you have ground level access through a wide doorway, then of course, it won’t be a problem.

  4. Laurel,

    What is your experience with sofas from West Elm? Are they durable? I just can’t seem to find much in the way of reviews about their upholstered furniture.


  5. Hi Laurel,
    I will be in the market for a sofa in a year or so. In looking through this post, I fell in love with the Lee Industries 5710-03. Alas, I’m not sure it’s available in my area and I don’t want to order a sofa online. While searching, I remembered saving an ad for a sofa I really liked a couple of years ago (from Bassett; I’m not sure who makes their furniture). I pulled it out, and lo and behold it is almost identical to the Lee one. I was glad to know my taste hadn’t changed and I still chose the same look. I looked at the Bassett one online just now and did notice that the side view is different. I also noticed that the back legs are the same as the front. Having just read in today’s post that is a no-no, I thought “well, I guess I don’t want that one.” Then I went back to this post and noticed the Lee one has the same legs. What’s your take on that? (For what it’s worth, I would not consider the Bassett one “cheap” with a starting price of $2,489

    1. Hi Anita,

      The legs are short that it hardly makes any difference. Plus, on the lee, the back of the sofa is straight, making it a good piece to against a wall. The back legs won’t be seen in that case.

  6. Hi. We are going to buy that bisque brampton. However I tried to use the code for your private sale and its invalid. We will get it either way and okl now have their own extra 10% off code on their website in anycase … but I wanted to check in case using your private sale code will get you credit, We would like you to have it, if possible. I am going through your link to purchase so hopefully that helps. But is there a different code youd want me to use to make sure you get credit? I wouldnt know about okl or this sofa except for you.

    1. Hi Bets,

      So kind of you to inquire. Melissa has been helping me with that today as they suddenly made that changeroo. and yes, no worries. All is fine. I will get credit no matter what promo code you put in. HNY!

  7. HI Laurel,
    Happy New Year! Love this board of great couches but not a skirt to be seen! For some weird reason, I am drawn to furniture with skirts. Is this hopelessly old fashioned? It just seems more tailored to me and the legs seem to just stick out.

    1. HNY!!! There’s one skirt and one or two in the post. No, not old fashioned unless it’s a 7″ kick pleat. A waterfall or dress-maker skirt is more current. And some frames look better with skirts than others.

      I have a skirt on my own sofa, but I have to because it’s a sleep sofa. Some come with little 2″ legs, but that’s all you get because of the mechanism.

  8. First of all Laurel, I extend my wishes to you for A VERY HAPPY, HEALTHY and PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR! Secondly, so appreciate this list since I propose to downsize my current living room sofa to something smaller which will also be a last time purchase and must be suitable for a Senior Citizen’s environment (living room) for when the need comes …. 🙂 . For said reasons needless to say; I have my eye on the Brook Roll Arm Loveseat version (by Robin Bruce) whose design IMO isn’t visually cumbersome and should work beautifully with my other seating, so thank you.

    1. Thank you Brenda and the same to you! I like Robin Bruce’s designs very much. They’re nicely proportioned, stylish, comfortable and especially with the sale prices, affordable. win, win, win!

  9. Hi Laurel, thank you for this sofa post! When purchasing a new sofa, like the English roll arm, is it necessary to consider the arm style of the other upholstered chair(s) in the room…so that they coordinate? I’m not sure if I’m thinking too much or whether certain arm styles do look better together.
    Also, I wanted to share that my husband now says “Forward that Laurel post on such and such to me” or “What does Laurel say?” Yes!!!!

    1. Hi Kelly,

      To funny about your husband. Tell him “that Laurel says “hi.” :]

      That’s a good question. I have mixed arms, but they have a similar feel. In other words a smallish round arm looks good with an English roll arm. But a big 12″ round arm is probably not going to work unless it’s a chesterfield sofa and an English roll arm on the chair. And of course, a square arm won’t work.

  10. Hi Laurel,
    Thank you for this informative post, and I’m glad to hear you are feeling better!
    I just fell in love with the Brooke roll-arm sofa you linked to from OKL… it looks perfect in every way for my room. The fabric is just what I want and the loose back cushions in this style are hard to find!
    My question is about comfort on the OKL pieces… it is going to be a hard sell to the hubs, ordering couches online. With no reviews section to reference, do you have any anecdotal information to share? Thanks! HNY!

    1. Hi Sage,

      I haven’t sat in that piece but I did sit in three pieces by Robin Bruce when I was in the OKL store in November and they were all supremely comfortable. I’m about 5′-7″.

  11. I love your post on Benjamin Moore colors compared to Farrow and Ball. Do you have a comparable color for Farrow and Ball “Ball Room Blue”? I love this color, but don’t know the closest Benjamin Moore match.

  12. Laurel, I’ve been reading your blog for a year or so, but this is my first time commenting. I’ve learned so much from you over the past several months, and I really appreciate you sharing your expertise with the wonderful community you’ve created! I have a question for you: Is there such a thing as a leather sectional that can stand the test of time, in terms of design? You’ve shared so many lovely couches, and I assume the same design principles apply to sectionals, but I’m not sure if the additional leather component complicates the equation. Happy New Year, Laurel; here’s hoping you have a happy and healthy 2019!

  13. Oh!!! I have been looking at the Brampton sofa – I even had one in my cart yesterday ready to go with a lovely double dip discount. But I felt iffy on the color – i wanted beige and closest i could see was velvet bisque. But i see you have posted it in something different – ivory? Do they not offer that any longer, or am I just not seeing it? Or is it the platinum color they have available now?

  14. I think I’ve reached the point where I really don’t want a sofa anymore. I hate sitting on a sofa with someone else. I want it all to myself. I don’t like turning my head to the side to have a conversation. You should see the pile of lap throws and pillows I put on the other end of my sofa when I know someone is coming over just so they don’t sit there. I think my next purchase will be 2 chairs and ottomans. (I live in a studio in midtown Manhattan and that would take up the whole “Living room” but at least everyone would be comfortable.

    1. I hear you on that one. How about a tête-à-tête?!? haha! But, I have always said to clients that a sofa, unless for viewing TV is always only for two people, so the idea is to get the length that fits the space. Then, they understand the thinking. It’s such a simple thing to get right but many non-design people don’t because they don’t have the experience and neither do the folks selling the sofas, in the store.

  15. Hi, I’m back with a question.
    Do you know if the sofas from CB2 are the same quality as Crate & Barrel? Are they also from Lee Industries?

    1. Hi Mary,

      They look to be about the same quality as the main line. I don’t know who makes them and not all frames from C & B are from Lee but a few of them are.

  16. You know, sometimes I read one of your posts, and it just makes me mad! Why the hell are at least SOME of the things you know not taught in school? I don’t mean the intricate knowledge all good designers have, but just some of the fundamentals. If people only knew a small amount about design they’d be more likely to (a) hire a decorator, (b) know enough to hire a GOOD decorator, (c) not make expensive mistakes and (d) know enough to work better with the designer they hired. Every time I read one of your posts I learn something new, and frankly it has been enough to make me put the AmEx card back in my wallet. You’ve saved me from buying things without a plan, and that’ll save my future designer a ton of heartache because he or she won’t have to talk me out of a piece of furniture that won’t work but that I spent good money on.

    I can picture a math class in which the formulas used will calculate how much paint will be needed, how much flooring to buy and how big the dining room chandelier should be! Now, had that been part of my math class, I can tell you truthfully, I’d been a lot more interested in it.

    1. Oh Madonna,

      As my dear friend Nina says. “Oh, stop making sense!” This applies double when talking about public school education. I’ve often said that there should be a four-year course taught in high school called life skills. Everything from home-making to child rearing, people skills, and every-day living skills, how to write a resume, professional skills… on and on… Quite frankly, they should be teaching this INSTEAD of math, unless someone wants to go into a profession where higher math skills are required. Otherwise, an 8th grade math education is more than sufficient for 95% of us.

  17. Hi Laurel, Great post, as always. I hope this doesn’t seem too self-serving as I’m an interior designer, but..When potential clients call me they often apologize for having what they feel is too small of a project, but I’m happy to do it as are many of my colleagues. I’d like your readers to know that some of us will work on an hourly/consulting basis. If they need just a bit of help on a room, like a floor plan or color consultation, many designers will be happy to take them on as clients. Sometimes hiring a designer for a few hours can save the client thousands of dollars in the long run.

    Thank you for all your wisdom in 2018. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

    1. I don’t mind at all Alisa. Anyone interested in Alisa’s services can click on her name which will take you to her lovely website.

      Happy New Year to you too!

  18. Hi Laurel,
    Wow, another year gone! It’s been 3 years now that I’ve been blessed with your blog. I’m so grateful for your knowledge, impeccable taste, kindness, generosity and humour. As I stumble into year 5 of the DIY transformation of our 1911 four square, I can’t even imagine how I would have got here without you. It’s been a looonnng haul!! At least I have heat this winter! Dreaming of the day when I can finally send you pictures keeps me going.

    It was so fun to learn the difference between a sofa and a chesterfield. Along with “couch,” I’ve always heard those words used interchangeably. My Mother grew up poor and she and my aunt slept on a wonderful 1950s davenport that my sister and I later shared when we visited granny. Mom and granny, who is long passed, are the only people I’ve ever heard you use the word davenport. I love classic terminology as much as I love classic furniture.
    So a huge HNY hug to you. I wish you health and happiness and much success. Now off to put a third coat of simply white on the built-in buffet in the dining room and a second coat of oil on the butcher block counters, then…

    1. Gail, I feel you so much! As we stumble into year 3 of our DIY recreation of a 1905-ish somewhat four square (we bought it as it was going to be torn down and recreated the plan and reclaimed as much of the lumber as we could), Laurel has given me so much information/inspiration, and I too dream of sending her pictures someday! (And I’m sure that will be at least year 5!)

  19. Hi Laurel!
    Great post on sofas! I’m so glad that I chose an English rolled arm from Flexsteel for our new and probably last set of furniture. I love it! You look great in the fancy blue ball gown also!
    Happy New Year!

  20. Thank you for this updated post, Laurel. I will keep it in mind for the day convince my husband it’s time for a new sofa. I see several beauties here that would fit the bill.

    Happy New Year! I hope you are feeling well.


  21. Nice article on sofas, Laurel. Since you referred to the “heyday of upholstered furniture,” you might enjoy a truly wonderful book, Culture & Comfort, by Katherine C. Grier (originally published 1988). A new edition was put out by Smithsonian Books in 2010 and is still available on Amazon. It’s about people, parlors, and upholstery between 1850-1930 — sort of how people interacted with upholstered furniture. Yes I know, it sounds dry, but it’s a fascinating book for those of us who love historic interiors. Great photos, too.
    Happy 2019 to you and your readers!

  22. Sitting on our tv room sofa is always uncomfortable.
    Have re-done the seat cushions – from foam to foam w down wrap
    Yet still uncomfortable. I’d love the chesterfield sofa with high arms- I read a lot -and it would hold a book. What type of seat cushion do you suggest for that sofa? Also considering modern Italian leather with additional pillow risers… any guidelines?

    1. I recommend spring down cushions and have specked themhundreds of times and everyone has always loved them. However, I would recommend that you consult with the merchant or designer you’re working with.

  23. Hi Laurel, how do you feel about sofas that have a chaise sectional? One side of the sofa is long enough to accommodate leg rest. I’m wondering if it will date in years time. I’m looking at the Irving from Maiden Home in their lightest leather. Thank you for all your knowledge, you are a gift for us who know squat about interior design.

    1. Hi Andrea,

      It depends on the situation. First of all, unless the part before the chaise is at least three seats wide, it’s difficult to get a normal sized coffee table in there and it pretty much has to be round. The other thing is, as long as it’s a chaise, why not just put the back up so that there’s the option for people to sit there. Otherwise, one could just get a stool or ottoman and put their feet up that way and then not be tied into having that piece of furniture that might not work down the line. Does that make sense?

      But, if it’s your forever home and the room is primarily being used for TV watching and not conversation, then it’s certainly an okay thing to do.

  24. Hi Laurel. This is going to sound funny, but remember that I’m a mere lay person, not a decorator/designer. When I look at the side view of the English Roll Arm Sofa in the first picture, it appears to be sort of pitched backwards, or is that just an illusion? If that were the case, it would seem to make it difficult to get from a sitting position to a standing position.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      It’s a reasonable question. But all sofas of this style pitch back about 20 degrees back from vertical. Some styles like the Tuxedo and Chesterfield do not pitch back, but they usually pitch a little on the inside for better back support. It’s a little like an airplane seat. It’s more comfortable with a little pitch back. But part of that is the seat height and depth.

      I did sit in the chair version of that sofa when I was at the OKL store in Manhattan and it was not difficult to get out of.

      This is another old post that discusses upholstery construction.

  25. Hi Laurel! You really are the best and you give great advice for helping your readers make informed decisions. I used one of the sofa companies that you recommended and I really love my blue performance-velvet, English roll arm sofa. I ended up going with tight backs on all the furniture because my dogs love to jump on the top of the sofa and wedge themselves between the pillow backs and the back of the sofa and before long the cushions are compressed into short and squatty blobs. I also have regularly cut and pasted portions of your blog to send to my contractor whenever we have disagreements and your blog has literally helped shape every room from paint colors to cabinet styles to countertop materials to light fixture and furniture placement for proper traffic flow, to rug size (the list doesn’t end there either)! When it is all finished I hope to go through each room and chronicle which blog entries correlate to each portion of the project. Thank you for sharing all your wisdom and the most important bit of advice of all, which was if YOU love it that is what matters (or something similar to that!).

    1. Hi Travis,

      Please, please send photos when it’s all finished! That is very exciting and I’m so glad that the posts have been helpful for you. And yes, if you love it, that’s all that matters!

      1. I definitely will send photos Laurel. Window treatments are finally going up sometime this month. I’m putting in some curtains and in the main living areas solid interior panel shutters, like in some of your blog photos to create that European feel that I love (and I know you love too!). I hired a designer for my previous home and was not happy because she wanted to use the same ideas and materials that she had used on her other jobs. I honestly can’t thank you enough because every time I walk into the house it puts a smile on my face. When I send you the photos I’ll put a brief summary of the posts for each room so you can truly see how useful your advice is to your readers. I bet you would be surprised at how many beautiful spaces are being created and inspired by you all over the world! Thanks again for doing what you do!

  26. Laurel–Maybe you are not familiar with The Charles Stewart Designer-Exclusive Furniture Company in Hickory, N.C. They craft pieces for Interior Designers only and sell to them exclusively. I personally do not believe you can purchase finer pieces anywhere!

    1. Hi Ben,

      I am very familiar with Charles Stewart and did order from them several times around the turn of the century. However, I stopped ordering from them after I discovered TCS Designs in 2001. The reason being that the prices at TCS are so much better and over-all, I liked the frames a little better. However, it’s not a bad company.

      1. Hi Laurel–Thanks for your reply! Try Charles Stewart again. The reason is that pricing may not always be the most important concern especially for Designers who sell to a select group that generally is willing to pay more (or at least should be) for Designer talent and hard-earned expertise. And with Charles Stewart, Designers can have the confidence they are selling the highest quality and the satisfaction of knowing they are doing business with a Company that supports only them and does not work both sides of the street.

        1. Hi Laurel–No, I don’t and my comments were meant for Designers in general after reading of your frustration dealing with companies that try to work both sides of the street without really understanding that Designers have special needs. And after many years of experience with Charles Stewart I just do not believe they can be matched for fine craftmanship and quality. I know they cannot be matched by any other company that truly sells to Designers Only!

  27. Laurel,

    I have learned so much from your blog. Thank you! Regarding sofas, what do you recommend for inserts for sofa cushions? I like the softness of down, but does it hold up for a sofa that is used a lot? And, should there be different insert types for seat cushions and sofa back cushions?


    1. Hi Mary,

      99% of the time, I have specked a spring down insert for the seat cushions. It’s an inner core of springs with a down and feather layer. Everyone loves it. It’s both soft and supportive and the seat cushion retains its shape.

      If it’s a looseback that’s part of the sofa, over the years, I discovered that what gave the best fill was a blend down of feathers, down and dacron or polyester fiber encased in a down proof ticking with sewn channels for better fill distribution.

      For throw pillows, I prefer at least 30/70 down/feathers, but 50/50 is even better.

      Oh, and if anyone (not talking to you Mary) feels it necessary to crap on me over the feathers– I would prefer that you go and take a stress pill and think it over for a few days, first. Thank you.

  28. Laurel,
    You are so right about Lee Industries. We purchased our sofa, love seat, club chair and ottoman from them in 1983 – the year we purchased our first apartment in Park Slope. They have been part of our home in five different states. They have been slipcovered and reupholstered and we still love their traditional lines. Never expected them to last a lifetime. Happy New Year to you and your blog followers. Your sense of design is as invaluable as your sense of humor.

  29. Thank you for educating me on classic sofa lines, I kept falling in love again and again with each one. Do you have a preference for sofas with ( I know you will hate this) footrests, aka, “ lazy boy” style. Our living room is used as the family room and unfortunately, comfort comes before style with the rest of my family. Obviously, I haven’t been able to persuade them to come to the design side of life!

  30. You’re so right about the classic sofa never going out of style; however, keeping it clean for the life of the sofa is another story. I love off white upholstery, but with a dog, cat, husband and I guess me, keeping it clean is a challenge. I would love to have your thoughts on the best fabrics and whether going with a darker color is the best option. Wishing you and all your readers a wonderful 2019.

    1. I dunno, Christine. I had a husband, cat and two grimy little boys. Plus I’m the klutziest. And I had all-white furniture in my living room for 17 years. No, it wasn’t the room where we watched TV. I’m not that much of a masochist! haha. It was really fine. But, look into performance fabrics like Crypton which are designed to ward off stains. I saw it with my own eyes. Oh, there’s a post here somewhere. Hang on. I need to eat something. I’ll be right back.

  31. Laurel, you are such a gift! My daily education for certain! This lining you speak about makes perfect sense! How does one stay in a budget and get quality like you teach us about? Along with room arrangement help that is hard for me. I’m going to try and do graph paper for the first time ever! I can’t tell you how many times I want to beg you to just take one more client… But you keep traveling and sharing the stunning photos, take care of yourself and have a fabulous 2019! ❤️

    1. Thank you Joni!

      Please read my comment to Anne Davis and then you’ll know why this is a much better occupation for me. Apparently, I have a “faint heart.” lol

      The only thing I want to say about budget is that quality home furnishings generally cost a lot of money. The general public often is not aware of this. And that in part is thanks to the likes of HGTV who make it sound like you can put a beautiful, quality room together for nickels and dimes not, tens of thousands of dollars.

      I always want to say. How much did you pay for your car? Well, your living room furniture is going to run at least that much and maybe more.

  32. I purchased a $4K Baxter sofa from Jonathan Adler for a client earlier this year. She had it about 7 months before a button came off and left a rip in the fabric. J. Adler refused to do anything about it. I’ll never shop there again.

    Question – have you or a client had experience with a bench cushion? I love the look and the fact that there is no break in the seating but I’ve been told that the cushion can start to sag and also that the ends tend to pop up if sitting in the middle.

    1. Hi Anne,

      Oh man, I hate it when brands screw themselves over by making poor business decisions. You know the old adage, “Do a good job and they’ll tell one person; Do a bad job and they’ll tell 20.” Well, thousands of people reading these comments just found out the bad news.

      I have a bench cushion on my Lee 75″ sleeper.

      You can see a little of it on my home page, as well. I ordered it the the standard Natural Lee cushion. It is quite comfortable, but on the firm side. And no, it does not sag, nor do the ends ride up. That would happen with a cheap cushion that doesn’t weigh much. This one is quite heavy. It’s not going anywhere, but it’s a good idea to flip them occasionally.

      99% of the time, for clients I always did a spring-down insert. One time, I ordered a Hepplewhite repro sofa with a spring-down bench cushion about the same length as mine. 67″+/- from South Hampton Furniture (may they rest in peace). Yes, she used it as a sofa in her living room in a gorgeous rambling Victorian home in Bedford, NY. Very nice client.

      The furniture arrives and I get a phone call. (it was still the 90s – lol) She says that when she sits on the cushion, it feels like there’s a large steel bar like one would use in a closet to hang their clothes on. I’m thinking. What? Is she drunk? I take the 15 minute drive down the road where God lives. He does. There’s even an oak tree that’s over 400 years old!

      Anyway, I sit on the settee and guess what? It feels like there’s a large steel bar inside the cushion that one would use in a closet to hang their clothes on. haha I get South Hampton on the horn. No problem. “We’ll send a replacement insert ASAP.” And they did and I get another call from the client.


      Seriously. I have no idea why anyone would want to do this business for a living.

      I go over again. And yes, of course, she’s right. I’m looking at the cushion and it LOOKS normal. When the insert is not IN its casing it feels NORMAL. Believe me. I felt that thing up like it was Hugh Jackman needing consoling. (sorry to be so gross) And, it was soft as a cloud. Crazy time!

      Because, back INSIDE its casing, it felt like there was a steel closet bar inside it. WTF??? But, here is the clue to the problem. The insert was CRAMMED into the casing. I mean, it’s supposed to be a little bit bigger, but this one was several inches in all directions.

      I speak with South Hampton again. They couldn’t have been nicer. I tell them that I think the problem is that the cushion insert is too big. They tell me to send the casing back to them. Smart and they will make sure that this one is nice and comfy before shipping it back.

      Well, that worked. How long did that take?

      The other day, I was reading some bad reviews about some of my favorite vendors. And I’m just going. So? THIS IS NORMAL! You’re just not used to the furniture biz. Everything comes in busted. It takes three times longer than it’s supposed to and the people on the other end of the line are rude. Not all the time. No, but too much of the time, this is our reality. This business really is not for the faint of heart.

      1. Not for the faint of heart? NO KIDDING!! And the sad thing is that young people who want to be interior designers don’t have a clue what they’re getting into. I was at a client’s office once putting together a table that just arrived. A girl there said she wanted to be an interior designer. I told her she has to do a lot of shit in this career (like being on hands and knees putting tables together) and she said “oh, no I don’t want to do that kind of stuff. I just want to shop and buy pretty things.” Poor girl. I hope she made other career plans.

        1. Me too! Shopping (until your legs are burning so badly, you think that you’re going to collapse) and buying pretty things (that won’t be back in stock for six months) is about 5% of the job. The rest is largely aggravation. Plus,let’s not forget other job duties such as baby and pet sitting, delivery and cleaning service, and marriage counselor and shrink. lol

        2. And having no time to eat during the day until you think you’re going to pass out but you can’t stop to eat because there’s too much to do, waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) for checks to come in, customer service who really don’t give a shit about your issues, and did I mention – waiting for the checks!?

        3. Oh, Anne… we could go on and on… One of my faves were the shopping trips to the D&D building when my kids were little and I had exceedingly hectic mornings getting them ready for school and myself and then hopping on a train to Grand Central (a 70 minute trip in those days) and then subway it up to 59th and third when I had exactly THREE hours to run around like a little nerd lol and then hightail it back to grand central so I could be home when the bus arrived.

          I’m exhausted just reliving that!

  33. Laurel…love your site. We are retired and with a fixed budget, plus time to replace our sofa, need something durable. With our two small fur dogs and grandchildren who visit us frequency, it must be comfortable and durable. The sofa we have has lasted 24 years with one recovering after the first 12 years as frame was excellent. With all this said, can you recommend a style & brand that would meet our needs? Thanks once again & I pray 2019 will be the best for you filled with good health, much love & blessing from above,

    Loving your site,
    Jan Richardson
    Dunwoody, Georgia

    1. Hi Jan,

      Thank you so much for your kindness and the same to you as well!

      I wish I could make a specific recommendation, but like everything else, it’s not possible as I can’t see what else is going on. And, it’s dozens of things I would need to know and even then, it might require a lot of time and research to give a responsible answer. Plus, if I started doing that, I would soon be swarmed with similar requests.

      And then, I would soon expire. So, rather than an early demise, I am writing a blog and all that entails which is a pretty immense undertaking that requires constant vigilance. On occasion, I take on someone’s home which has lessons that will apply to many readers.

      But, hang on, because I am planning a companion post for the top ten or so CHEAP sofas. And many of them have reviews and they are superb! Plus, these pieces look a lot more expensive than they are.

  34. Hi Laurel,
    Last summer I won a consultation with a local designer. One of the things she suggested was a modern, colored sofa. She thought it would be a nice contrast with my mostly white & vintage furnishings. I’ve been saving my money ever since to get one. So this post is truly appreciated.
    I want to thank you for all of your hard work on the blog this past year. I’ve learned so much & your humor cracks me up.
    Happy New Year!

  35. Hi Laurel! Very timely post! We are replacing our almost 20 year old sofa and matching chair this year. It is very deep, 44″ and requires a pillow or two behind you for feet to touch floor.
    My question is this. I think the seat depth of your #1 sofa would work without pillows behind. But I have a wonky neck that needs support. Is the back high enough for that? We need 2 chairs also, but I don’t want ugly recliners. We r near retirement and want this furniture to do for 20 years. Also, can U order sofa and chairs in Crypton velvet of color choice or other fabric? I need it to be husband – proof! Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Debbi,

      The Robin Bruce Brampton sofa is approximately 34″ high. Whether that’s high enough to support your neck depends on how tall you are and how you sit on the sofa. But, if it’s for watching TV, why not get something that supports your neck no matter what piece you are sitting in. Just a thought. Or, you could have a soft down and feather pillow. We had a sofa that was only 29″ high and I used to stick a pillow on top of it and support my neck that way, sometimes.

      That furniture that I have posted is available in different colors, but if you are wanting COM, Customer’s Own Material, then you would need to go to a store that sells that line. Most likely, the manufacturer has dozens of fabrics to choose from. But online, at OKL, they only offer the ones that you can see on their website. It would be nice if on the page, they linked to the different options, but they don’t. If you put Brampton Sofa in their search box, they’ll all pop up. I think I linked to that in the post.

  36. Thank you, Laurel, the classics do last. My parents ordered a sofa in the early 1960’s with long, low, simple lines, had it custom made, and it lasted until both of their deaths many decades later in 2010. By then, the original (harvest gold) upholstery was faded and torn – it looked so sad, we were about to toss it out on the street. A moment of clarity and into the “save” truck it went, recalling the good times it held and supported us all. It is now recovered in off white, perfect in its new 1844 home (fits just below the historic windows) and we hope it lasts for another 50 plus years. Our family still calls it Trudy’s sofa, after my mom. It brings good memories with it, and is making many more.. You can find expensive new ones very much like it in current catalogues – the classic ones never go out of style.

    1. Hi Deb,

      Oh, I LOVE this story! And yes, I had reupholstered numerous old pieces that had sentimental value for my clients. And each one turned out beautifully and were my favorites. That’s one reason why I love the old upholstered pieces so much. Those sofas and chairs from that era were sleek and had great detailing in their frames that the big, boxy pieces proliferating in the market-place lack, to put it mildly.

      I keep hoping and praying for the trend towards what was will come back. And yes, you can find it, but many of the companies who make furniture more in keeping with the great oldies are very expensive.

  37. Hello Laurel, Apparently there are lots of great choices in sofas, one of the biggest-ticket items for most people. For myself, I find most comfortable a sofa that is reasonably firm, that one doesn’t sink into. I know that most designers would disagree, but I dislike the look of too many pillows on a couch (or a bed either, for that matter).

    If only one sofa is possible, it should be long enough to lie down upon–even in a formal living room. I also disfavor the sofas with only one or two long cushions. Three seems better, but I suppose it depends on total length and proportions, and even on other available seating in the room. Do you remember the old four-cushion sofas that were the thing for a while (slightly before our time, true, but there are survivors and old magazine shoots)?

    1. Hi Jim,

      You know it’s so funny. Well, not really that funny, but that Spruce Street line of sofas, loveseats, chairs and sectionals at Serena and Lily comes in ALL of those versions. And there are a lot of four-seat sofas on the market. Lee Industries has several of them. I just didn’t post them because the average living room is probably too small; but what’s average these days?

      Yeah, men, on the whole, what they really want is a bed, with a back. lol And it seems that there is always a very pretty, petite wife. That’s why God invented throw pillows. Hooray! Now her feet can touch the floor when she sits on the “bed.” haha

  38. Your guide to couches is one of my favorites! When I recently purchased a new sectional, I tried imagining, “what would Laurel do?” The scale, color, and lines are fine, but I wish I had you with me when I ordered it! Somehow the fabric and cushion insert aren’t playing well together. The fabric on the back cushions is puckered and stretched, and Ethan Allen is telling me it’s normal. I guess an in-store designer isn’t the same as hiring you! Now I have a cheap looking sectional and am wishing I spent less at another store. Any advice is appreciated.

    Thanks for the great blog! Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year!

    1. Oh dear, the old “it’s normal” excuse. Yes, it IS normal for some fabrics to stretch, pucker, shrink, expand, loosen, etc. And that is why God invented knit backing for ALL linens, silks and chenilles– to prevent that from happening. If you have one of those three fabrics and/or some other loose-ish weave and the fabric was not knit-backed before the upholstery, then most likely, there will be problems down the road.

      Please read this post for more about knit-backing.

      You’ll also have a good laugh as over the years, I had to fix stuff like this for clients. And yes, it was expensive.

      Otherwise, if you have a fabric which required knit-backing and they didn’t do it and/or advise you of this, ask them why not and tell them that Laurel, an interior designer since 1988 says that it is NOT NORMAL for a fabric on a back cushion to pucker and stretch in a significant way and that you would like it fixed. And if they tell you that they can’t, tell them that they can and send them the blog post linked above.

      Good luck!

      1. Thank you, Laurel! Read the post you referenced, checked my sectional, and discovered there isn’t knit backing. You’re a life-saver!

        1. Hi again.

          Okay, we’ll have to see… This is what’s going to happen. They are going to play dumb. And actually, they might not be playing. The person you speak to is not going to have the faintest idea what you are talking about. So, of course, you know that you need to speak to whoever is in charge. They most likely won’t know either. And you will get a script about how they don’t provide this service.

          So, what I would say is: “Well, then if you refuse to have a fragile fabric knit-backed, how come you are selling it for upholstery? I just commented on Laurel Bern’s blog. Do you know it? Thousands of people will be reading this comment and it might be a good idea to make good on this issue. Up to you, but that is what I recommend.”

          If they do, I will come back and edit this comment to reflect that they did indeed, come through as they should. If not, the comment will stand as is. My other sofa post is getting about 200 page views a day. That’s over four years later. And it’s going to link to this post.

          What I would do is tell them that you will take care of the knit backing, but they will need to send you the fabric required to redo the back pillows and get a cutting for approval (CFA) first if it’s not the same dye-lot. Have them ship the fabric to you and then you can ship the fabric to Schneider Banks (SBI) in Texas. But call SBI first. I believe that they work with the general public, but am not sure. Do a work order as they instruct. Have them ship the fabric back to you and then ship it to Ethan Allen as instructed. This way you will know that it’s done. This process does take several weeks. Between processing and shipping, it should not be more than about $250 and maybe less. Then, of course, EA will remake the cushion covers.

          My only other concern is how are the seat cushions holding up?

  39. Great post! Wish I had had it before buying our Lawson sofas. Which reminds me…we got the loose pillow back rather than attached for practical purposes, but it just doesn’t look as tidy as I would like, day to day. Any thoughts on that issue?

    1. Hi PFW,

      Well, in my book, there are loose pillow backs and a tight back. Attached pillow backs never look right, IMO. Part of the issue is what they’re filled with and how the insert of the cushion is constructed. For instance, if it’s feather and down, are there channels so that they feathers and down don’t travel all over the place? Otherwise, it’s constant fluffing, which can be a bloody drag.

      If it’s foam, what kind of foam and also construction? If it’s from a company like Lee, they’ll have different insert options. If it’s more of a what you see is what you get and you don’t like how the cushion is performing, it might be possible to have a local upholsterer change the inserts into ones that will stay looking neater while still looking soft and providing maximum comfort.

  40. Dear Laurel,

    You have such a gift for explaining yourself directly, clearly, and humorously.
    This post, as many…all?….of yours are…..is a highly useful education that goes down like a fun conversation with a best friend.

    Can’t thank you enough.


    1. Hi Ann,

      So glad that you enjoyed. You know, this post took far longer than anticipated as I realized at 2:00PM that it needed to be a new post, not a do-over post. So, I’m editing it at 1:00AM and going, “Oh, Laurel… Cut that entire paragraph. You sound like an idiot…Now, you’re rambling–just get to the point…” haha! So, I’m glad that the final version makes sense!

  41. This year has been a bit of hell for me!!!! My mother died this summer and after grieving, I was ready for redecorating; however, the Good Lord has other plans for me…..I am now at MUSC after having a heart transplant Christmas Eve……how is that for drama!!! Have had heart disease for almost 19 years so not much of a surprise, just the timing was . My brother-in- law was diagnosed with Colin cancer at the same time….so family crisis for sure. Bought your paint and decorating books but won’t be using those for awhile since have to concentrate on getting well…oh, did I say I am 66 years old…..so I am not a spring chicken! Please keep up your blogs as they will give me something to think about instead of my troubles!!!

    1. Oh my Lord, Faye! Drama indeed! Not to mention intensely brave! There are nearly 600 posts here! Go back to the beginning and have a good laugh. I got rid of some of the really bad ones, like one where I actually pictured the crap that came out of my vacuum cleaner. lol

      Here’s to your continued excellent recovery and new lease on life. Prayers for Angel Mama in heaven, now looking out for you and for bro in law to kick cancer’s ass! {{{BIG HUGS!}}}

  42. Hi Laurel,
    I love your post and it’s really timely. These couches are all just beautiful. I’ve been trying to persuade my family for several years now to replace our heinous pleather sofa. They love it because it has cup holders and USB ports which they will need to learn to live without. Can you please give me some guidance about which of these sofas is the most comfortable? That seems to be their #1 requirement. Happy New Year, Laurel, and thank you for everything you teach us!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Oh gosh. They’re all comfortable. But, of course, that’s subjective. The only sofas that I’ve ever found to be uncomfortable had a super low, mushy, deep seat and I felt like I was being swallowed up. And then, my pretty antique settee is pretty gross to sit on for more than a few minutes. But, it’s straight up and not very deep or soft. And HNY to you as well!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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