Is it me, or has the price of furniture gone through the roof in the last year or two? I’ve been reading your blog faithfully for the last three years, but it’s only been recently that we’ve been in the market to purchase some new furniture.
I mean, I was looking at sofas on Perigold, and I almost fell over in my chair. I remember you liking those Robin Bruce sofas and also recall that a few years ago, they were maybe about 2,400.00, at the most. (Maybe less with a promo code) Well, now, they are $4,200.00!
Sure, they’re lovely, but what has increased the price so much?
Anyway, we still need furniture, and while I can certainly source certain things, like tables and some case pieces, at consignment shops, flea markets, and estate sales, I can’t bring myself to buy a sofa that someone else’s baby has barfed all over it.
And, even if I had it reupholstered, what makes the best sofas (and chairs) worth the money it takes for reupholstery? I know it’s not inexpensive.
Finally, I did see your recent post about cheap sofas and chairs, that don’t look cheap. If they’re so cheap, are they okay to purchase? I figure, if you’re posting these sofas, they must be okay. How will I know if the sofa is comfortable?
Maybe you could do a post about your favorite sofas, in general.
Thank you so much,
Hi Tay and Everyone,
Thank you for these fantastic questions. ;]
In this case, Tay is a fictitious character, but everything he/she ;] asked me; I’ve been asked dozens of times throughout my career.
First of all, yes, the price of all furniture has sky-rocketed in the last couple of years. Why that has happened is another topic.
Of course, I’ve written about the best sofas in too many posts to count.
Please know that anytime I post any furniture, unless it’s clearly to say that it or the room sucks, it means that it doesn’t suck.
So, today, we will go over approximately 12 of the best sofas.
These are the sofas that you aren’t going to ask yourself in ten years. “What on earth was I thinking?” No. If you plunk down thousands of dollars for one piece of furniture, of course, you’ll want to love it forever.
One important and quite entertaining post is “Does Your Living Room Furniture Need to Go on a Diet?”
From there, but I’ll link here, you’ll find this post from 2015 that discusses some upholstered furniture trends that need to go bye-bye.
However, one of my all-time favorite posts is this one about some of the ugliest furniture I’ve ever seen.
If you missed the post about the inexpensive sofas and chairs, there’s also a lot in there about what to avoid, whether the furniture is expensive or cheap. Just because a piece of furniture is expensive doesn’t mean it’s classic or even in good taste.
What makes a sofa “the best?”
Well, there’s the doctoral dissertation version, and the I’m grabbing a cup of coffee and reading in five-minutes-or-so-version. I’ll try to stick to the latter.
When shopping for the best sofa for our needs, we have to decide what’s being done in that room and whether it is a fairly formal room or is it casual?
After that comes to style.
In my book, there are three styles for the best sofas.
- Traditional (based on 18th and 19th c. styles)
- Modern (based on mid-20th-century styles)
- Contemporary. (Furniture that’s currently being made.)
Now, some contemporary styles are classic, lovely, and based on both traditional and modern styles. In my book, I call it classic furniture.
What about “transitional furniture,” Laurel? Didn’t you forget that category?
Ahhhh… I was waiting for you guys to bring that up.
While I may have used the term “transitional,” it is rare. I’m not too fond of that word when applied to furniture. When you think about it, what does it actually mean? I can only conclude that it means furniture that’s “neither here nor there.” And since “neither here nor there” sounds rather derogatory, they came up with transitional meaning it skirts both (so-called) “traditional” and “modern.” Well, in reality, it’s actually “contemporary” furniture.
However, folks often use “modern” and “contemporary” interchangeably.
I’m going to stick with “classic.” Classic furniture, including the best sofas and chairs, is furniture that has and will continue to look great now and 30 years from now. But, why?
Classic furniture has these qualities.
- Beautiful proportions
- Lovely lines
- No weird, made-up shapes on the sofa’s back, arms, or legs.
The best sofas do not have amputated legs.
Sorry if you have that; it’s not uncommon. A sofa should have at least a block leg, but I prefer a leg at least four inches, if not higher. If not a leg, then a skirt.
And, of course, comfortable.
But, Laurel. How do you know if a sofa is the best sofa in terms of comfort if you haven’t sat in it?
Ahhh, yes, the ol’ “But I have to sit in it first” proclamation. Years ago, I wrote out to some colleagues in a forum how I handled the I have to sit in it the first objection.
You’ll hear phrases being thrown around like
- eight-way hand-tied springs
- kiln-dried hardwood frames
- double dowelled corner blocked
- made in the USA, etc.
And then there are the seat cushions.
- Down and Feather
- Synthetic | Poly-dacron
- Foam Core Down
- Spring Down
- Natural | Soy-based
Tight Back vs.Loose Back [they’re both good]
And then there’s style. Maybe it’s the style that makes it the best sofa.
Finally, there’s the price.
Occasionally, someone asks me:
“What is the difference between a $12,000 sofa and a $4,000 sofa or even a $1,500 sofa?”
Well, the latter is definitely massed-produced. However, the difference between the 12k and 4k usually has much more to do with the name than what’s inside it. This is true for a lot of things we buy. Right?
I can’t tell you how many sofas and chairs I’ve sold in my career. All I know is that its hundreds. Most people buy maybe at most a dozen sofas in their entire lifetime, and some only one or two.
The sofa is the most expensive piece of upholstered furniture in the living room, and it’s also the largest, of course. Therefore, careful consideration should be paid, but please don’t drive yourself crazy. Quite frankly, if you stick to the manufacturers with good reps and quality, they’re all pretty nice.
Here are more things to consider before buying the best sofa.
What room is it for? Is it for watching TV and lounging? Will people be eating on it? Or is it for a more formal space like the “dead room” (aka living room) that no one ever goes into, but you want it to look nice because you pass by it all the time?
Or maybe it’s the main living space with a TV and more formal entertaining.
What dimensions do you need?
Sofas generally come in lengths between about 60″ and 90″ or more. The most common size is a three-seat sofa, usually +/- 84″. However, this is a really important point. If the sofa is used primarily for conversation and relaxation, there will never be more than two people on it, so it is vitally important to get a sofa that’s the right length for the room and layout.
Depth. This depends. Sofas generally come in overall depths from 34″-43.” The latter is like a stretch limo. You need a BIG room for one of those. They also have a very deep seats. I fondly call them “beds.” Some people do want a bed with arms and a back. ;]
How deep are the seats of the best sofas?
Well, the average seat depth of most sofas is from 22-24″ deep. However, I have had clients who want what I call a bed that is 25-26″ deep. It’s always the husband, and he always has a wife who’s five feet tall. This is why God invented throw pillows. ;]
How tall should the back be? Again, this varies quite a bit. A modern sofa might only be a squat 28″, and these days, I’m seeing pieces with a back of 43.” My favorite height for a traditional sofa is 33″-35.”
How high should the seat be?
The average seat height is 18″-20.” Although some styles might have seats as low as 15″ or as high as 21.” It’s a bit difficult to get an exact measurement because none of these are straight lines.
Arm height. Well, that’s a function of style, but for an average sofa, that’s usually from about 23″-25.” However, a Chesterfield style (the arms and back are the same height) could be as high as 36.” I prefer Chesterfields that are from 30″ – 32″.
There’s another important element to discuss when choosing the best sofa.
Skirt? No Skirt? That depends on the style and preference. One of my pet peeves is when someone calls a sofa with a skirt “traditional.” There is nothing at all traditional about a sofa with a skirt.
This is what a traditional sofa looks like. I don’t see a skirt! This beauty is a Chippendale into a transitional Hepplewhite sofa. And that would be circa 1800. As a matter of fact, before that, there weren’t any sofas at all! People sat in chairs like the image below.
Above, is a photo I took on a tour of the Harrison Gray Otis House, built at the end of the 18th century. Here is a parlor with a Hepplewhite-style sofa.
Alright, enough of the history lesson, Laurel. We want to see the best sofas already!
Yes, They’re coming. The
preamble history lesson is for anyone interested. Please don’t feel compelled to read if you’re not interested.
What are my criteria for the best sofas?
- classic styling
- beautiful proportions
- good value
As for seat cushions— 99% of the time, I have used spring-down seating. It is both soft and supportive and retains the shape of the cushion better than any other.
And now, the list of the best sofas that will stand the test of time.
First, you already know the number one sofa you can read about in the link.
This is known as a Bridgewater Sofa or an English roll-arm sofa. There are numerous versions. The one above is the gold standard for styling from George Smith. However, I believe they start at about $12,000 for the love-seat size. And, I don’t believe that includes the fabric.
Most of these sofas can come with loose backs or tight backs, and also:
Scroll back or straight back.
with a skirt or without a skirt
And, numerous variations on the legs with and without casters.
Scroll Arm or Lawson Arm Sofa
This also might be called a roll arm. Sometimes the arm fabric is pleated to make a fan shape. The arm can also be smaller or larger.
Another common variation I didn’t mention above is a T-cushion or a straight cushion, as you see above. A T-cushion sits in front of the arms.
None of these variations is a detraction for the furniture unless the legs are super weird or the proportions are way off.
The sofa above with a Lawson arm by Lee Industries
The Lawson arm sofa is probably the most common basic style. In the ’80s, the arms were really BIG sometimes. This version from Lee is updated yet still classic. The so-called “traditional sofa” is usually a version of this arm with a 7″ skirt.
The post, Does Your Furniture Need to Go on a Diet, shared numerous images of Albert Hadley and Billy Baldwin, who designed the Paley chair and sofa for Baby Paley in the mid-20th century. Today, the Billy Baldwin furniture is still faithfully reproduced by Anthony Lawrence.
Track Arm Sofa
This was found in Gerald Bland’s Shop in New York City and is a superb example of a track arm or square arm sofa. Sometimes it’s called a Square Arm Lawson.
Spruce Street Sofa from Serena & Lily comes in many configurations and lengths.
Skinny Track Arm Sofa
A sofa seen dozens of times on Laurel Home is Serena & Lily’s Spruce Street Sofa. It is my favorite style for a sectional because it is sleek yet incredibly comfortable.
Please remember, if you don’t know. A sofa is exactly like a pregnant woman who’s giving birth.
It’s not how big on the outside. It matters only what’s going on inside.
And now, for a big switch of gears regarding the best sofas that will stand the test of time.
A classic Chippendale Sofa
Another red Chippendale sofa is coming up in the widget that is much less expensive.
The contemporary version of a Chippendale sofa is a camelback sofa.
I assisted this lovely lady long distance with her camelback sofa from Lee Industries.
Above, one of the most beautiful Chesterfield sofas by Lee Industries. Chesterfields are sofas with large round arms that are the same height as the back of the sofa. Usually, they are tufted, and they are often made of leather. However, they don’t have to be.
This is a job I did in 2012 for a fantastic young family in Scarsdale, NY.
You will never guess that this beauty, a contemporary take on a Chesterfield, is from Pottery Barn. I love that they kept the arm in proportion to the beautiful traditional tapered legs with casters.
A Tuxedo Sofa is the first cousin to the Chesterfield. Well, it’s a much skinnier, less curvy cousin. Above is the Lampert, a sofa by Jonathan Adler. I’ve sat in this one, and despite having no pitch, it is verrrry comfortable, surprisingly deep, and enveloping without being too high and overwhelming.
There’s a good reason it’s been in Jonathan Adler’s line for over a decade. Sadly, however, the Lampert bed, another favorite, has been discontinued.
These are by no means all of the sofas I like. But, they are some of my favorite sofas.
It might be interesting to compare this post from 2016 about upholstered furniture and specs for sofas and see how they compare.
Again, if you missed the post earlier, please check it out. Some of today’s sofas may not be in your budget. This post from last summer features some of the best sofas that are less costly, still beautiful, and classic.
Above is an image you can pin to Pinterest for reference.
And below is the widget with most of the same images you can click on for more information.
I hope you enjoyed this post about the best sofas. I believe these are the sofas that will still look current 20 years from now.
PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES! And, if you haven’t seen them for a while, there have been some substantial changes.
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