Recently, we have been talking about scale as it relates to our upholstered furniture.
You know. Sofas and chairs.
And there’s so much information floating out there…
- If a sofa isn’t deep enough, I won’t be comfortable
- I want the “luxe” seating which is extra deep
- The back of the sofa must be a certain height
- I can’t find smaller scale furniture.
- My husband is 6′-4″ and I’m 5′-0 tall.
Today, the average “luxe-seating” is 25-27″ deep and the over-all depth is 45″.
You do realize that luxe-seating is marketing bull-shit, right?
Please don’t fall for it. It’s not luxe. It’s not luxe when you’re sitting in a sofa and your feet don’t even come close to hitting the floor!
New York Times article on why furniture is so large
The above article is an excellent piece about over-scale furniture and why many people are falling for this con.
Let’s take a look at the most often sat on piece of furniture in our home.
The is the stately Stately Comfort Height Toilet from Kohler.
The measurements of the Kohler Stately Comfort Height Toilet
The measurements of the coordinating seat.
And by the way, my toilet is a very similar size. I put the seat down and sat on it and aside from the hard seat is absolutely fine. I went and got a small down throw pillow and it is divine. So there!
But Laurel! I’m not going to sit there and watch TV.
Maybe not; but I know people who spend hours reading there. ;]
So, then why is my sofa that only has a 22″ seat so uncomfortable?
There are three main possibilities.
- The pitch
- The seat cushion
- Mushy decking
The classic Barcelona chair designed by Mies-Ludgwig Van der Rohe – and licensed by Knoll.
This is one of the most comfortable chairs ever designed. No fluffy pillow back and not very large either. Please notice the handsome pitch of the back and the seat. A good amount of pitch for a sofa or chair is 10-20 degrees off of vertical.
Dimensions in inches:
height – 31.5″
over-all depth – 30.3″
seat height – 17.7″
It’s difficult to find a precise seat depth but it is not more than 20.5″.
DID YOU HEAR ME?
Sorry to shout but the world’s most comfortable chair has a seat depth of only 20.5″!!!
I have sat in one of these beauties and I can assure you that it feels luxuriously deep.
It is comfortable because not only is the back well pitched, so is the seat.
For more information about how to choose a sofa please click here.
The decking needs to be firm. It’s the part under the seat cushion if it’s a loose cushion.
As for the so-called “gold standard” 8-way hand-tied springs. Sure, they’re usually very good but not always and not always necessary. My old custom upholsterer used sinuous s springs and his furniture is supremely comfortable. For more info on good stuff to look for this is a great article.
But… for most sofas is that there is never (well almost never) a reason to have a sofa more than 38″ deep, 35″ seat depth 24″
Alright, I’m convinced Laurel, where do I find all of this wonderful petite furniture?
Folks, there are dozens of manufacturers that carry human-scale upholstered furniture. And I could tell you a lot of them. Just don’t go here for a sofa, as previously discussed.
But let’s make this search for well-made, beautifully styled and scaled upholstered furniture a little easier.
Hang on a sec… let me go and grab my rolodex. I mean– Laurel’s Rolodex. :] There are some 140+ custom upholstery manufacturers listed and dozens more that create what you see is what you get (WUSIWYG) :] upholstery. Yes, the latter is almost always cheaper, but some of it is absolutely fine.
Okay, I have my rolodex and you know, I didn’t have to go far. ;] It’s a PDF file which you’ll see in a sec how wonderful a tool it is if you don’t already have one.
And if you don’t, what are you waiting for? The sources are both retail and to-the-trade, but everything TTT is available somewhere for consumers– either with your designer and/or a retail establishment.
Whenever I’m looking for a source, (like all the time) All I have to do is click on the table of contents tab:
The alphabetical section contains a blurb about each vendor and many anecdotal references.
Then, I scroll down to the custom upholstery section
Here’s a little snippet. And here’s the best part. All you have to do is hover over either the blue or apple green (laurel’s faves) and click on it and it will open up onto the manufacturer’s website.
Do you have any idea how much time this saves? But back to our furniture sourcing!
Then, I hovered on Barclay Butera. Do you know that line of boutique furniture?
It is a medium high-end company of super-stylish furniture manufactured by Highland House (also in Laurel’s Rolodex– of course.)
I thought I would start there because Barclay has some way-cool pieces (to fit his way-cool name!) that fit my criteria for human-scale upholstered furniture. It’s all super-comfy too! I’ve sat in most of the pieces and even the smaller ones, feel surprisingly spacious.
Barclay Butera Ridgecrest Settee 60″w 26″d 31″ h
26″ deep is for the entire piece!
However. This is something very important to know. Sometimes they are not accurate on one or more of the measurements. Upholstered furniture is not easy to measure!
I see that the back legs curve back and that plus the pitch are going to add at least 3-4 inches.
Sometimes they forget to measure that part and only measure the bottom side rail. I would say this piece is actually more like 29-30″ deep. Designers out there. Do you concur? However, the point is… don’t be afraid to speak up. Call the showroom or manufacturer, ask for a field measurement, if you have any doubts. There have been many times I’ve done that and dodged a bullet in so doing!
Oh, this piece is on sale on One King’s Lane for just over $1,900. It could go almost anywhere. A small living room or den. An entry way. Or at the foot of a bed; very versatile.
Another wonderful Barclay Butera piece is this classic rolled-arm beauty that comes in both this tufted version and non-tufted.
People sometimes want to know if a tight-back sofa is less comfortable than a loose back. In my opinion, usually not and as a rule, I like a throw pillow behind my back anyway.
A way-cool, sleek club chair from Barclay Butera Park Avenue – dimensions – 34h 36d 32
Ginger Sofa – dimensions – 72w 35d 34h
Moving on to another vendor on Laurel’s Rolodex– The Best Slipcover Company. (Above) It is to the trade and for you designers out there and they are very designer friendly. They also sell in many retail stores. I’ve never ordered from them but seen them at the New York Now show several times. They are one of the very few upholstery companies that shows up there.
I love the small roll-arm and button-tufting which gives it a slight retro feel.
Above and below by the wonderful designer Thomas O’Brien for Century furniture. Yes, this will set you back a few nickels but maybe worth it. Exquisite styling and perfect for a smaller room or apartment. (Or for folks who aren’t playing for the NBA.)
This photo is mine from the High Point Market fall 2015 when I was on the Design Blogger’s Tour.
I would take this puppy home in a heart-beat – color and all! This is a wonderful small sofa found at Wisteria but This is one of my all-time favorite sofas sold at Wisteria but manufactured by Lee Industries.
Uh huh… and this one too.
but there’s more…
Lee makes the same sofa for Serena and Lily who has THE best fabrics and a cool app that let’s you see the fabrics on the sofa. (which is why this image is a little funky and plastic looking. Their fabrics are not at all!) AND, their price is several hundred less than Wisteria.
Yes, the nail-head trim and legs are slightly different. Trust me, it’s the same sofa.However… Did you know that Lee Industries also makes some of Crate and Barrel’s upholstered furniture? Yessirrree… and this version of the same sofa is nearly half the price of the
This is a small sofa that doesn’t meet the depth minimum. And there ARE some fabulous pieces that are deeper and seem to need to be deeper. Let your eye be the guide if you have the space. OR if you truly have a cavernous left or great-room and it’s a casual-type home, of course, you can go deeper. What I object to more is when the back feels too high.
However, there are exceptions to that too!
One of my fave, fave, fave pieces from Lee Industries is this tufted beauty which is 72w 38d 37h. It does have a big beautiful pitch and is a wonderful piece from the side or back. It’s all about proportions and I think they got this one just right.
But here’s a piece also from Lee Industries that is 40″ deep. I am going to put an absolute cap on 40 inches. I love this piece. It has that cool California-casual-we-just-returned-from-the-beach-and-now-we’re-going-to-have-enchilladas-and-sangria-by-the-pool vibe.
It is for sale at Wisteria in plain white cotton for $4,189 which is pretty much the going rate for a Lee Sofa.
You can get the SAME sofa at Crate and Barrel for less than half the price. (May 2017 – huge bargain!) Yes, the fabric is
crap not as nice. Meaning, it’s cheap and looks it up close, but hey, for the family room for your kids to jump on for under 2,000 bucks, why not? Put on some fab throw pillows. But again, this piece needs a ROOM! (meaning at least 300 sq feet and at least an 8.5 foot ceiling.)
We did this sofa, The Tarleton, last year for a fun adult room from CR Laine
Francois chair from CR Laine 29w 32d 31 h
This chair would be wonderful in a small library, office or den.
Of course, all of this is just a sampling for what’s out there. There are beautiful pieces to be found. I find that the higher-end furniture and a lot of the lower-end is well-scaled. It’s the middle-ground that’s an issue. But that certainly fits with our bloated middle-class society. Doesn’t it?
PS: FYI, I just finished the B-C-pie and enjoyed every last morsel
Hi Laurel, I love reading your blog, I think you are great. I know Calico Corners is on your list for upholstery companies, but I don’t feel they are as good as they used to be. Their staff are not as experienced as when I have had dealings in the past. I purchased a couch with crypton fabric. I brought a sample of wood stain I have in my living room to pick the leg color with the saleswoman. Well I received my couch and the legs were the color of orange wood stained cabinets! The swatch did not look like that at all, now I am waiting for a response back from Calico, my saleswomen said that the company might say it is in the ballpark and not do anything. There is No way I would of picked this color, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
I’ve never used Calico Corners and I’m sorry you’ve had a problem. Hopefully, they’ll make good on it.
This is a great post that relates so well to your other sofa posts. The Crate & Barrel info is good to know. More my budget! That Thomas O’Brien chair pictured above is so eye-pleasing. The closest I got to Thomas O’Brien design was the Greek key motif shower curtain from his line for Target that I bought. It was perfect.
Tarzhay ;] is my price-point too. I met Thomas that day. Very quiet and shy, actually.
Hi Laurel! Thanks for this great article. I noticed many of the soda fabrics were linen, cotton or a cotton blend. I’ve been told that those fabrics aren’t really good for upholstery that gets everyday use, that man-made blends are more long wearing. Your thoughts please.
oh haha! I’m thinking soda. What’s a soda fabric and then I figured it out. SoFa!
Yes, it’s true. For upholstery that’s going to get a lot of abuse, I’ve always done a nice delustered polyester that one can zip off and throw in the washing machine!
Now, they have the wonderful performance fabrics that are also synthetics. And they are great looking too.
Most upholstery companies that carry fabrics do have these performance fabrics in their line as well. Or, one can usually do their own fabric.
Thanks Michelle! That was a great question. You might enjoy this post I wrote a while back about Crypton Home Fabrics.
Yes, lol, soFa. Thank you for responding. I’ll follow your link.
The toilet reference had me rolling with laughter. When we bought our house they were pushing the taller, ADA toilets. I’m 5’1 and a smidge when I stand up very straight. I was like, no way! I’ve tried those things and my feet don’t touch the ground. No. And No again. It’s bad enough the sofas are so darn big I feel like I have to crawl on and off. I am a lazy American, I do like to recline or use an ottoman. I know exactly what Maureen is talking about, and that’s how I felt when shopping for furniture. It either leaned back so far I was staring at the ceiling or it was so deep I couldn’t just SIT on it. They made me yearn for the waiting room arm chairs at the doctor’s office.
Thanks as always Laurel.
Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for your sweet comment!
Have you ever watched the old Disney Mickey Mouse cartoons? Just occasionally, there was a scene at Minnie Mouse’s house (try saying that fast), and it’s exactly like much of the oversized junk sold today – huge marshmallow-ey stuff with puffy rolled backs and arms – i.e. Design by MM.
Haha Maureen. Actually, no, can’t say I have but maybe that’s where it stems from?
Hi Laurel, Thank you for the excellent posts on sofas and scale. After reading your first post regarding scale, I decided (husband moved) to switch out the den sofa for the living room sofa and vice versa. It then snowballed as two chairs, a coffee table and both sets of ottomans were trading spaces. It has made a world of difference in both rooms. So let me say it was like having you as a designer walk into each room and show me how to fix the problem. Thank you!!
Oh wow, thank you Leslie! This has certainly made my day! It’s my goal for people to be inspired to help themselves realize the possibilities they may not have thought of otherwise.
Great post, Laurel! You are 100% correct about furniture scale these days. I call it ‘elephant’ furniture, because it is the size of a small elephant, and because elephants could sit in it.
haha! Thanks for uhhh… weighing in Cynthia! ;]
Laurel – The reason for the monstrous furniture is Americans are visiting the fast food line too much. And, our kids don’t get recess like we did. So, when we come home at night, we don’t sit in a chair or on the sofa, we roll in.
Maybe if we have the sofa vibrate very strongly, it will be considered a form of exercise.
Seriously, the Europeans stare at Americans as we have gone to too many hog troughs to eat and our belly shows it.
The furniture from the 40’s and 50’s was for people who worked very hard, exercised and the kids played outside all day in the summer AND walked to school, you know that 7 mile walk in the snow and sleet.
Lol! May I add the tag after your last sentence– “and were glad of the opportunity to do so!”
Thank you for another informative,yet fun, article! Would love to hear your take on the many photos I’ve seen lately showing four chairs around a coffee table forgoing a sofa.
I’ve done this two times. Once, in a large family room with two seating areas. The other time was in a living room that had a raised area on one end where a concert grand piano sat. We decided that it was more gracious to have the four chairs rather than two sofas facing each other.
So, i would say that it depends on the room and the needs of the people as to whether or not it’s a good idea or not.
Really enjoying your posts! Thank you!
Thanks so much Cretee!
Oh Laurel…..I WISH I knew you BEFORE we bought that linen sofa from RH 15 months ago!!
We love the big furniture and, for me it’s been a challenge finding those pieces especially with seat higher off ground. Older folk, big heavy people, bad kneed people love the seats up a bit further, not so much the depth,in fact that can be a problem to in getting up. Sofa measurement of ht tend to include backs and are useless for seat to floor measurement.
No problems finding regular sofas. It’s big attractive ones that are difficult to find.
You know there’s a lighting company called Jamie Young.
Now, about your need for a large sofa with a high seat. It’s like Frank Lloyd Wright always said. “Form follows function.” And as aesthetically, I prefer something smaller, especially in a smaller room, I can appreciate your needs and the needs of other folks as well.
This could be another really good topic.
“But Laurel, I NEED a Large Sofa” And one that doesn’t look like a mausoleum sitting in my living room. lol
Great post with very helpful information! It’s like I have a good friend in the business who let’s me in on all her valuable secrets.
Thanks so much Renee. A friend who obviously doesn’t sleep. haha
Laurel, thanks for the great post! I’ve been looking at sofas online since your last post on sofas. From the sofas you’ve mentioned, I like the ones with castors the best. I love the look, but what do the castors do to hardwood floors? Can they scar them? We have Santos mahogany floors that have been scarred with the wheels of under-bed drawers and don’t want to make the same mistake again.
I love casters too! And yes, since they are metal underneath something heavy, they could wreck your lovely mahogany floors.
So, you have two choices that I know of.
One, put down some sort of floor covering as in an area rug.
OR, some of my clients have used coasters that the casters sit in. Something like this.
LOVE your blog and faithfully follow. The toilet example was too funny!
I discovered you last year while deciding on paint colours for the house we bought that was done in various shades of peachey beige. I followed your advice and the house looks and feels great.
Question about sofas though: what if the main function is hubby’s naps? We are looking for one for our den, aka Daddy’s inner sanctum. He wants a deep nappable sofa….should we go extra deep? Should I tell him to go to bed or just put a day bed in there next to the fireplace?
I do have a good compromise. My sofa, which is a Lee has removeable back cushions, however, I’m not using them and only using throw pillows. Without the throw pillows, the cushion is 26″ which is plenty deep for napping. In fact, both of my sons (one is 6′-3″) have slept on it as is–overnight. Actually, it’s a sleep-sofa but it’s plenty comfy as is and they usually don’t feel like bothering to pull it out!
Hi Laurel – great post. I have a Lee sofa which is great but hate three cushions!! Have been looking at the C & B English arm sofa with two cushions….good to know its Lee! I guess a ‘lower’ quality would be ok as we do not have a busy house anymore….thoughts?
I’m not really sure to tell the truth. But maybe there’s a convo like on houzz where they have those forums and people share their experiences. So, maybe do a search for “crate and barrel sofa quality” or something like that.
Laurel, I can’t tell you how much I love and appreciate your recent discussions on furniture scale. Im so glad you are blogging about this and including resources for sensibly sized sofas. I have watched sofas, chairs, and even table lamps grow bigger and bigger each year. Much of it looks ridiculous and it’s very uncomfortable. My mother-in-law has a 50-year old Scandinavian sofa that she has reupholstered many times over the years because she loves it and can’t find another one like it. (She is petite and it fits her perfectly.) I have back problems and many sofas are way too soft and plush for me. I need firm cushions for that reason. I have your Rolodex and it’s wonderful. Can you advise me how to find fairly firm support in a sofa and which companies among those you mention in your blog and/or in your Rolodex provide firm support? It sounds like Lee might be a great source. You always show such pretty sofas!
Thank you so much!
Most of the high-end furniture companies offer multiple options for seating. But 99% of the time I do spring down which is both soft and supportive. You don’t ever get swallowed up, the cushion retains its lovely shape, but it’s not like sitting on a rock either.
I’ve seen some of the Scandinavian furniture and it’s really lovely.
i just discovered you and am enjoying your blog and i invested in your roladex, brilliant!
i used to carry lee industries in my shop, still love the product and recommend to my design clients. with crate and barrel for example, they explained to me the reason for the lower cost is lower quality; wood, less springs, less tied springs…….
you always get what you pay for
Yes, I do know that C&B uses sinuous springs. I don’t know if they’re inferior or not but definitely a lot cheaper to install than eight-way hand tied springs. It is confusing perhaps though to folks who think the furniture is the same, or the same quality, but it’s really not. I think the fabric is the tell.
And thanks for your kind words!
I love your blog! I too have unearthed the Lee Industry sofas marketed for different vendors. I nearly bought a Crate & Barrel one for a client but as the fabric was boring/ hideous and their ‘designer fabric’ line not much better, I would have had to do a COM which would have put it more $$ than a Kravet sofa or something similar.
I agree about the ridiculous over scale furniture these days – my fave size is from the 1940s and I wonder whether this is one reason that people like mid century modern furnishings – it’s generally on a smaller scale.
By the way, I too was in ‘the arts’ as a Broadway makeup artist and began my 2nd career as an interior designer after going to The New York School of Interior Design ( where they aren’t remotely interested in anyone expressing themselves out of the box).
Yeah… don’t see myself selling one of C&B’s sofas to a client for a lot of reasons.
As I see it, there are two-types of mid-century furniture. There’s the stuff that looks very retro and there’s the stuff that looks more like our furniture today, only scaled down and often with curves. Or a hybrid of the mid-century modern with a more “traditional” style. Whatever, it is far smaller in scale but twice as comfortable!
Yeah, design school pretty much sucks. lol