Sofa Prices: You Get What You Pay For
When it comes to the sofa prices, the old saying “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more true. Well… to a point. Sure there are some brands in furniture for which you will be paying more for the designer brand name. For example with a $10,000 price tag you would expect a leather Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware sectional to be of superior quality, not so. A friend of mine deconstructs a PB sofa below and spoiler alert, you’re paying for the name. However, there are $10,000 sofas that pack a punch in terms of quality and will last you a very, very long time, but you might not be able to find them without the help of a professional.
Sofas, and other upholstered pieces, happen to be a piece of furniture where quality can be all over the map and where “you get what you pay for” really comes into play. Where upholstered furniture differs from case goods (dressers, tables, etc) is that you cannot see the guts of a piece of furniture that is covered in foam, down, and fabric. You have to ask about the quality indicators. So, what are these mysterious qualities?
1. The spring system.
2. The filling.
3. The frame.
4. Bonus: fabric
How do all these quality indicators shake out? This is a quick guide to the cost vs. quality debate.
Sofa Prices: Super Budget
The lifecycle on this category is very short. You can expect these soft upholster pieces of furniture to look good no more than five years with very light use. Pieces of furniture in this category use lower quality materials including the fabric, filling, and spring systems. In this category you will find retailers such as IKEA, Rooms to Go, Ashley Home Furniture, American Signature. Most families with children will find that these super budget upholstered goods will look worn with six months to one year of heavy repeated use. The frames in these pieces are also made of inferior woods, such as MDF and plywood. Sometimes they even use cardboard to shape the arms. They also are stapled and glued and may not have any other joinery beyond that. This may be an option if you do have young children and you want something inexpensive to get you through the early years. However, if you can afford a high-quality sofa, you can use stain resistant fabric and/or have it recovered when your children are older. You cannot recover a super budget or budget sofa.
Expected investment: sofa: $400-800, sectional- $800-$1500
Technically, this is where furniture stores like West Elm, Pier One, and even sometimes Pottery Barn would fall. The cost of their upholstered goods is a little bit higher, but the structural quality is not much better than the “super budget” category. You may find better joinery in the frame and the frame may be made of pine, instead of plywood, but overall these have a short life. The spring systems are usually lower gage sinuous springs, meaning that the couch will sink after a short period of time and the foam used in the back and seat cushions will also lose their loft in a year or two. In this category, you may also find some ability to customize the sofa, but it will be fairly limited. You can expect these pieces to last 3 to 5 years, but with heavy use they may look very worn after six months to a year. Expected investment: sofa- $800-2000, sectional- $1500-4000.
Sofa Prices: Mid-Point
In the mid-grade upholstery you will find a combination of quality. Most sofas in this category will be semi-custom, though there are some mid-grade manufacturers, like Universal, who offer little to no custom options. You will probably see that these pieces will have better joinery but may have lower quality fillers and lower gauge sinuous spring systems. However, you also may find eight way hand tied spring systems in this category. For instance, The sofa sold at places retailers like Restoration Hardware and Crate and Barrel are made by companies like Lee Industries. They may have eight way hand tied spring systems and higher quality filling in the cushions. This means that this couch can be reupholstered. They may even have a warranty on the cushions and frames. Sofas in the mid-range price point can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. However, because of the higher-quality spring systems they can be reupholstered and the cushions re-stuffed, and thus, their life can be extended. Expected Investment: sofa- $3000-$5000, sectional- $3500-$8000 depending on fabric selection.
How are you and is a category where the highest level of craftsmanship is employed and these are “heirloom” quality pieces. This means that the frame will last a very, very long time and the piece can be re-upholstered many times. The foam and batting used in the seat cushions are of the highest quality. They often have a down/feather blend top layer and a spring inner core, like a mattress. They always have eight way hand tied springs, if they are not sleeper style sofas. The frames are crafted with high quality, kiln dried lumber and joinery. They can be fully customizable or “designer”. The prices can vary widely, but typically the expected investment is >$8,000.
My personal philosophy on sofas is invest. I’ve heard people say “…but, my taste might change! Then I’ll be stuck with a sofa that doesn’t work for my new style.” I would invite you to think back to all the previous sofas you’ve owned. Aside from the fabric, were they really all that different? Mine haven’t been. My advice is, if you can afford it, get something with a classic shape that will work with many styles and that can be re-upholstered many times over. A great sofa is an item worth saving for.
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