How do I buy a sofa that will last?
September 12, 2018 5:26 PM   Subscribe

It looks like the 15-year-old leather sofa at Chez DrGail will need to be replaced. The seat cushions are so broken down by now that I can't sit straight and it's very uncomfortable. While neither I nor Mr. DrGail (nor assorted dogs who join us on the sofa) are particularly heavy, the sofa gets near-daily use in our TV room. Is 15 years the most we can expect from a sofa under these conditions, or are there things we should especially look for in a replacement to assure a longer life?

We would like to purchase another leather sofa, but if there are specific features or brands we should look for, or reasons why a leather sofa is a bad choice, I would appreciate the input. Our room isn't very big, so sectionals and sofas with chaise lounges on the end(s) are probably not going to fit. Durability, and comfort over time, are far more important than price. I'm usually able to adult pretty well, but this one has me flummoxed.

I saw this question and there's good information in there but it's from 2006.
posted by DrGail to Shopping (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
If it's just the seat cushions, could you get the foam replaced?
posted by kate4914 at 5:55 PM on September 12, 2018

Neither the seat nor the back cushions are removable. It just so happens that an upholsterer will be here in a few days so i can ask her about it. But the question still stands - how do I pick a good, durable sofa?
posted by DrGail at 6:12 PM on September 12, 2018

Wirecutter has a sofa buying guide with a section on "How to check for quality construction"
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:34 PM on September 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Are there hidden zippers on the cushions that will let you get at the foam? If so, and if you’re able to wrestle the old cushions out, a trick for getting new ones in is to shrink the foam by wrapping it in plastic and using a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out, sliding it in, then letting it reinflate, and tearing the plastic off. (It’s kind of an exhausting pain, but it’s cheaper than a new couch.)

Otherwise, foam cushions will probably have a max lifespan of ten years if you’re sitting on the couch a lot. (The foam just breaks down eventually.) So in addition to the solid-construction advice from the wirecutter, consider sofas that are designed to let you replace the foam, plan on having an upholsterer deal with it, or figure you’ll need to replace the sofa when it gets intolerable to sit on.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:46 PM on September 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

You want an Ikea Kivik. Hear me out...

The whole thing is washable. You can replace the foam and cover at will. Best? I have pets and wrapped my cushions with pet pee pads and tape, if there is an accident I wash the covers and replace the pee pads underneath. One of my cats ruined my expensive Italian leather sofa previous to this solution - I may never go back. A fully washable protected sofa + pets is AWESOME. I enjoy a clean, attractive, and very comfortable sofa now. It’s the jam.

That’s my solve for this. My Kivik has a very attractive upscale looking and wearing fabric not currently available, so YMMV.
posted by jbenben at 1:11 AM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

In my opinion, a good quality leather sofa is an excellent choice for you. These can definitely last more than 18 years – we have friends who have one that was handed down from their parents. The beauty of quality leather is it's durable, yet gets more comfortable as time goes on.

Our leather sofa is about the same age as yours and is still in great shape and comfortable. We paid around $2,500 for it, which at the time was a good deal. You do get what you pay for, but the good news is that you should have plenty of choice in the Chicago area. We haven’t lived up that way for over twenty years, so I can’t help you with specific local stores. For a national chain, Ethan Allen seems to have decent quality, and their staff tends to be knowledgeable about the products they sell.

Construction and materials matter. The information in the Ask post you linked to is still accurate, and here are two additional articles about good sofa construction and leather choices that you might find useful.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:52 AM on September 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thayer-Coggin is the gold standard of couches. Expensive, but they will last for decades. The Design Classic II sectional is wonderful and you can have it custom configured (arms on both ends of the sectional! Bench-style Long seat cushion!!) and upholstered in any fabric or leather you want. Knoll is a good place to look for maximally durable upholstery.
posted by wowenthusiast at 5:51 AM on September 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you want to drop major $$$ my in-laws have the LL bean leather sofa. I think it’s 7 years old and it’s held up nicely with tons of dog and people use.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:31 AM on September 13, 2018

The information and links provided by those who answered the question led me to this thorough buying guide for leather sofas. I found it very helpful, and offer it for anyone coming across this question in the future.
posted by DrGail at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

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