Can I get by without a couch?
April 12, 2009 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Can I get by without a couch in my new studio apartment?

I'm moving from a house in Virginia to a studio apartment in NYC. Without a doubt, I'm going to have a queen bed and my fairly large desk. The big decision for me right now is whether or not to get a couch.

Personally, I doubt I would sit in it that much. In my house, I spent my lounging time laying in bed or laying on the floor. The studio apt. has hardwood floors, so I'm wondering about the feasibility of a nice thick rug and maybe some big floor cushions. I'd love to have all the open space, but I'm worried about the rare occasions I'll have people over?

So my question is, will I really miss not having a couch? I know you can't really answer that for me, but is there something I might be missing? If I do go the no-couch route, what kind of rug, padding, and cushion situation should I explore to make the space comfortable for myself and others?

posted by AaRdVarK to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Where will you make out if you have a date over? You'd have to go right to the bed.
posted by Maisie Jay at 4:20 PM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Why don't you try going without a couch and then see if you miss it? You could always just buy one later.
posted by greta simone at 4:22 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have chosen not to get a couch for my studio (that I just moved into). However, I (a) don't like owning big pieces of furniture I can't move easily (I use a futon mattress -- no frame -- for a bed, for example) and (b) have a lovely window seat.
posted by R343L at 4:24 PM on April 12, 2009

Get some beanbag chairs, perhaps? But think of having company over. Personally, beanbag chairs are pretty comfy, but I like having something I can sit up straight in/on. A daybed is a nice compromise.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:26 PM on April 12, 2009

Because I'm a pessimistic sort, I'd think about those few days of the year that I'm sick. And how when you're sick you just need to get out of your bed and sit/lie somewhere else before crawling back to it. Sure, only a few days a year. But ugh.
posted by meerkatty at 4:27 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've lived in a studio apartment in New York. I wound up using my bed--then a twin--as my "couch," because I really couldn't have put one anywhere. After a (small and only partially usable) table, my bed, and a desk, that was all I had room for. I got myself a couple of throw pillows and things worked just fine.

You can totally get away with not having one. The question is whether you can get away with having one. That's going to depend almost entirely on your floor plan, so YMMV.

You'll find that you'll only rarely have people over. I mean really rarely. New Yorkers are pretty accustomed to an acute lack of entertaining space, which is one of the reasons that 1) people go out so much, and 2) there are so many places to go out. You'll get used to meeting in restaurants and bars for things that you would previously have done at someone's home. It's just one of the costs/benefits of living in the city.
posted by valkyryn at 4:27 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would say, don't get a couch. You may have room in your studio apartment for a pair of chairs and a little seating area. I lived in a studio for a year and the one time I had a group of six over for a little pre-funk hors d'oeuvres and wine, I sat on my bed. Two people sat in my chairs (Ikea's iconic Poang chairs), two people sat on my two floor cushions and one person sat on a folding step stool which I purchased for it's dual ability to serve as a stool and a chair and also fit into a narrow space in my kitchen.

Ikea is all about small spaces. I would go that route and maybe skip the couch for the aforementioned pain of moving it around. Chairs are more versatile, cheaper, easier to get rid of and will make a cozy space to hang out. Get a small table to fit between them and everything is all civilized.
posted by amanda at 4:31 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might want to take a cruise through the Apartment Therapy annual "Coolest, smallest apartments" photos to see how other people have handled this situation.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 4:32 PM on April 12, 2009

i lived in a studio apartment without a couch. on the rare occasions i had friends over to watch movies, we just chilled on the full size bed. later on i got a papasan chair, but it wasn't as awesome as expected. there was also the computer chair for those people who preferred to sit in that.

no biggie. it's pretty much just like a dorm room. we all found places to sit there...
posted by misanthropicsarah at 4:32 PM on April 12, 2009

Yeah, I never had a couch in my studio in NYC and it wasn't a problem. As valkyryn says, you'll almost never have people over.
posted by MsMolly at 4:33 PM on April 12, 2009

I've had these cotton floor cushions bookmarked forever since I kind of miss having floor cushions!
posted by amanda at 4:34 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

@Maisie I did not think about the making out issue. I was hoping that any floor solution I could come up with would be equally comfortable, but there would definitely be logistical issues in this case.

@greta This is definitely the current plan. Except for my desk, I have zero furniture, and I'm determined to be very, very picky about what I buy.

@cmgonzalez I don't think I can do anything beanbaggie. There are pretty equivalent cushions I've found though.

@meerkatty I totally get that. For me personally, that place has always been the floor.

@valkyryn That's what people tell me about New York. I just really like having friends over. When I did have a couch, it would always be a couple of people on the couch and everyone else on the floor anyway, but my place was carpeted with a thick pad.

I guess a good follow up question would be what kind of rug floor covering could I have that would be cushy enough for sitting/laying on but still not be weird to walk on?

Thanks for all the answers everybody!
posted by AaRdVarK at 4:36 PM on April 12, 2009

@amanda Awesome! That's exactly what I was thinking. Just having a stack of those tucked away in a corner.
posted by AaRdVarK at 4:38 PM on April 12, 2009

The main downside I can see is that you will start to live in your addition to normal bed uses you will watch TV (I do not have a TV in my bedroom so that's not normal use for me), read, eat etc. and yes, it leaves you short of a seat for guests. Although you may find that some people will be quite happy to just make themselves comfortable on your bed irrespective of whether you want them to or not...which to me felt like an invasion of my space when it happened the last time I didn't have a sofa.

If you go for no sofa make sure you have some nice, not too soft cusions, largish, and make sure you have some wallspace to sit up against - sitting on the floor isn't everybody's thing and I personally find it uncomfortable after a short while unless I can sit propped up against a wall. Indeed I'd sooner have a wall to lean against and no cushion than a cushion and no wall.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:39 PM on April 12, 2009

Do you have your bed yet? If not, maybe consider going with a futon with a frame that folds to make a couch. That was my bed for many years and is now my couch/guest bed. A good futon mattress is quite comfortable, especially if you get a wooden frame. With some thinner futon mattresses you can feel the bars of the ubiquitous metal frames.
posted by 6550 at 4:44 PM on April 12, 2009

Folding chairs are great. You can get them anywhere from "cheap but serviceable" up to "not very cheap at all but nice." Stow four of them under your bed.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:47 PM on April 12, 2009

@6550 I love futon mattresses, but I'm not into futons. I have an idea in my head for a bed frame built by ikea hacking some stuff together and topping it with a nice futon mattress.

@sonic I can't believe that never occurred to me. Thanks!
posted by AaRdVarK at 4:58 PM on April 12, 2009

I have a small apartment with no couch. Two things I've learned:

1) Yes, it can be an issue with members of the appropriate sex. However, if s/he likes you enough, s/he will not be phased by your explanation that your bed is your couch. All will be well. YMMV.

2) Older people can have creaky joints that make sitting on the floor very uncomfortable for them. If they're your parents, they will suffer in silence. Except dad, who will bring it up a few times. Just feed them well.

The take-home point is that not having a couch will raise some issues for you, but these are not insurmountable.

Even if you get cushions (do), get some sort of rug, also. Almost anything with some springiness should work. Just have something softer than wood for ankle/heel/foot bones to rest on.
posted by whatnotever at 5:06 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding using apartment therapy as an inspiration source - this year's Small Cool contest is categorized by size, which is great for being able to ignore the 900+ sq ft places that seem outrageously huge compared to a small apartment, and focus on the people doing amazing things in 250.

Depending on your bed's position, you can create a comfy sitting-area against the side by sitting against it with pillows on the floor. Get a very low table (or hack one by getting a tiny Ikea table and lopping the legs down) to put down drinks/laptop (for movies), and you've got a passable sofa-equivalent for hanging out with a date.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:38 PM on April 12, 2009

I've been couchless myself for a couple of months now, and it's not been a problem. The kitchen counter in my apartment is a nice shape for barstools, so I have three of those. I have a really good air mattress for when I have houseguests. I have not yet managed to lure anyone back here to make out with, so, uh, I guess I'm going to have to figure out how to seduce someone on a barstool.
posted by little e at 6:18 PM on April 12, 2009

Three reasons to go for the sofa (that are not applicable to everyone, but are things to consider):

1. You know in movies when circumstances force the man and woman to get a hotel room, but there's only one room left, and they walk in, and the hotel manager misunderstood and there's only one large bed, and the woman is mortified (in old movies) or pretend-shocked (in more recent movies)? That's how I feel when I walk into a guy's apartment and the bed is not only right there, but the only place to sit. I might have been imprinted by the movie Teen Witch (as part of a love spell, the girl removes all chairs from her bedroom, forcing her crush/study-partner to sit on her bed), but this situation is awkward for me if I'm trying to delay sexual activity in a relationship. It's kind of hard to not go from making out to other things when we're already on the bed.

2. no biggie. it's pretty much just like a dorm room. we all found places to sit there...

I don't know how old you are, but do you want to live in a dorm room? I'm one of these people in NYC, and I appreciate places to sit other than a person's bed where they've been sweating their nightly one-to-two quarts and changing their sheets God-knows-how infrequently.

3. If I'm wearing a skirt, it's really inconvenient to have to sit on the floor.

Not that any of these reasons would in any way keep me from dating or befriending someone, but if you can find a way to fit the sofa, why not?
posted by thebazilist at 6:56 PM on April 12, 2009

I think you also have to consider the folks who live downstairs. If you are flopping around on the floor without some sort of sound deadening plan, they will start to complain and that will cause unnecessary angst. I would consider getting a small couch or love seat. If you are ok with the folding chairs concept and the air mattress for guests, consider a blow up couch. I have seen them and for short periods of time they are cool. Certainly makes a good conversation starter. Bring back a date and ask her to help blow up the couch.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:37 PM on April 12, 2009

Great points from everyone. As a disclaimer, I don't live in NY and I have never lived in a studio/loft/bachelor apartment.

In a bio of Mick Jagger, apparently back in his Marianne Faithfull days, it was the thing to have people over and everyone sit on the bed to drink and listen to records and whatnot.

I don't know how many people out there think this way - but I know (of) someone who thinks that sitting on a bed in your street clothes is quite crude, hygienically speaking, because you are introducing the dirt and germs of the world into your sleep space. Comparable to, maybe worse than, wearing shoes in the house. He is apparently quite adamant about it. YMMV.

And I'm lukewarm on the futons as a solution. They're usually set up so that you are sleeping parallel/alongside the wall rather perpendicular to it. As I understand the feng shui, parallel/alongside the wall is not the power position but perpendicular is. Again, YMMV.
posted by philfromhavelock at 7:51 PM on April 12, 2009

posted by ctmf at 11:22 PM on April 12, 2009

@whatnotever Great points! I'm definitely getting a rug, and probably putting a carpet pad underneath it to make it extra squishy.

@tomorrowful That is a brilliant idea. I'm going to have to think if I can adapt the design I had in my head to do that.

@little One benefit of not having a couch is that I might be able to squeeze a small breakfast table in there. That'd be far more useful to me than the couch, and it would also make a couple of chairs available.

@thebazilist Thanks for the well thought out answer. I definitely do _not_ want a dorm room vibe.

@JohnnyGunn I'll have a well padded rug.

@phil I don't really think of my bed as being a couch substitute. The floor would be the couch substitute.

Thanks everybody! Keep it coming!
posted by AaRdVarK at 11:54 PM on April 12, 2009

You want these. I've even seen loveseat versions.

Our apartment is definitely not a studio...well, part of it is. A yoga studio/classroom. ANY furniture we use in that room needs to be small enough to fit in the closet under the stairs and light enough for my 12-year old-looking yoga teacher waif of a wife to move without my help. Plus, I run my neighborhood classes from there, and we do, at times, use the space as a living room/conference room. Camping chairs plus a rolling whiteboard plus discreetly mounted projectors (something that'll save you TV space) make the space very, very flexible.
posted by saysthis at 12:36 AM on April 13, 2009

Just as a follow-up to your follow-up, re: the breakfast table: I think it'd be a lot easier to find a nice table that's foldable or collapsible or has leaves than non-bed seating that's truly comfortable (besides the floor). It doesn't have to be a card table, either. I've seen decently-sized two- to four-person tables that fold up flat.
posted by thebazilist at 2:14 PM on April 13, 2009

Ditch the bed, get a sleep sofa!
posted by markjamesmurphy at 6:25 PM on April 13, 2009

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