sofa, so good, so expensive
November 12, 2006 11:08 PM   Subscribe

Are expensively upholstered sofas worth the extra....well, expense?

I'm looking to buy a new sofa to replace my ultra-cheap Ikea Klippan, and the one I'm most taken with is the Pender sofa. In its cheapest upholstery it is well within my budget of $2500 CDN at about $2000, but their salespeople, whilst helpful, was definitely trying to upsell me to their top of the line materials range at about $3700, using a material called Sensuede.

Although this is way out of my budget, it might make a sensible purchase if, as they claimed, it was 5 to 6 times more stain/wear resilient than the low grade, or if higher grade upholstery would help the sofa's resale value significantly - are either of these things likely to be the case? Or am I just helping the prove the old "a fool and his money" adage?
posted by Jon Mitchell to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Sensuede sets of my bullshit detector. I don't really see how polyester upholstery can be worth $1700. Evar.
posted by matkline at 11:30 PM on November 12, 2006

For what it is worth, we have some ultrasuade-ish dog beds from Costco that seem to hold up really well and it feels good.
posted by Good Brain at 11:42 PM on November 12, 2006

Sofas don't have a resell value. Really. Don't buy the extra fancy upholstery if that is what you are basing it on.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:51 PM on November 12, 2006

If you are buying sofas with a consideration of resale value, please re-think your assumption set. The question is simply "Do you like the thing so much better with the high end fabric that you are willing to pay for it?" Because, in the end, price will be forgotten long before dissatisfaction.
posted by paulsc at 11:59 PM on November 12, 2006

The resale value of the couch should not be a deciding factor as it will be ridiculously low. I've seen $9000 Montauk sofas that are less than a year old fetch less than a grand.

Here's the thing: the reason you pay so much for a new sofa is not only the material or even the designer or manufacturer... It's because you get to decide the designer, color, and fabric. Your buyer doesn't--they're stuck with what you chose. You may delight in the colors, sizes, and fabrics your manufacturer offers but I guarantee you that regardless of which you choose, when it comes time to sell you'll quickly find out you're the only one who likes the combination you went with.

If you're really keen on furniture and truly want to buy something that will appreciate if cared for (your Laycock-designed Pender will absolutely depreciate), and you like the modern look (which I'm guessing you do based on that design), put some effort into perhaps finding a solid used piece. You should be able to get something for less than 3k that was solidly built in the past 50 years and, if you choose wisely, will be worth more than you paid for it should you want to get rid of it--or, at the very least, will have depreciated less than a contemporary piece you spent the same amount on.

Here's a piece I was tempted to bid on last week. (If you're not in a rush, keep an eye on that seller. He has wonderful taste, imo.)
posted by dobbs at 12:07 AM on November 13, 2006

That's an absoutely stunning sofa, dobbs - I'll keep an eye on those listings as furniture porn if nothing else.

It's not so much that I want something that will appreciate, or even have good resale value, but would be something that would be durable enough, and nicely designed enough to last me for 15-20 years.

Sounds like resale isn't something I should really be considering, though, which is a good point.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:44 AM on November 13, 2006

You might want to read up a little bit on (read: Google for info about) sofa construction if you want to make sure to buy something that will last. Words like "kiln-dried" will enter your vocabulary - that refers to a process involving the underlying wood construction.

As for the upholstery, nothing is going to last 15-20 years if you actually use the sofa for everyday life. Re-upholstery often costs more than new furniture, so slipcovers are another possibility. But if you buy a very nonstandard-shaped sofa like that Scandinavian one listed on eBay, you're screwed, slipcover-wise - you'd have to have them custom-made, which would also be expensive.
posted by MaudB at 12:55 AM on November 13, 2006

In my experience, the extra cost for better fabric is often worth it, but a grade increase in fabric should only raise the cost 10-15% per grade. (by 'worth it' I'll elaborate in a sec...)

Just looking at the double-rub (Wyzenbeek Test) values, that Sensuede is not that special (75K DR)... $3700 for a sofa should get you something that is full-synthetic fabric with a Wyzenbeek DR rating of over 100K, AND feels like kittens, never mind an engineered wood frame and no-sag/8-way springs.

In order to maintain its clean linear shape, the Pender's probably not down-wrapped foam core, but it should at least be be dual-density-foam-something to make up for it, at that price. Poly-wrap foam is the standard in Ikea stuff and costs nothing.

Ok... by 'worth it': when you pay for more expensive fabric, you're paying for some combination of 1) durability (including stain resistance and cleanability) 2) "hand" (how it feels against the skin) 3) uniqueness in pattern (by pattern, we include weave, colour pattern, and exclusivity).

Nowadays, when you're looking at modern contemporary sofas, you're probably looking at solid colours, on which microfibers have nailed down durability (100K+ WDR is standard) and hand (newest microfibers feel like kittens without any directionality in the nap) at a low cost. The only thing they can reasonably charge more for is pattern uniqueness, which is up to your taste.

Although you're probably not conisdering it, an expensive old-school exception is something like chenille, which has natural fiber content -- which is a protein magnet, and has absurdly low durability. Its strengths are insane flocked/raised patterns (think toile, or damasks) and better breathability, but microfibers are catching up there too.

Short version: I think that's a bit high a price for that sofa. $3000 with the sensuede if you absolutely have to have that particular sofa would be more reasonable. You are paying for the cachet of local manufacturing and the name.

If you haven't already, check out some other places in your city like Koolhaus or Bravura. They'll have comparable prices and styles made by larger outfits, so may have better value for the dollar.

And yes, folks here have it right that sofas have very little resale value -- worse than cars.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 1:11 AM on November 13, 2006 [3 favorites]

Oh, for you folks looking for furniture pr0n that's not ridiculously expensive ($3K sofas, $2K sectional pieces, $CDN):

Calia Italia.

Colexion Perez from Quebec.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 1:15 AM on November 13, 2006

Last week I arranged for our local waste disposal people to come and pick up an old sofa that we were throwing out (it was cheap and lasted exactly 3 years). I had kind of imagined that they would take it away to some kind of recycling centre. Instead they heaved it into the crusher on the back of the truck! So no - don't expect much of a resale value from a typical sofa.

My guess is that the really old and distinguished looking sofas you see around are there either because few people ever sit on them or because their owners employ an upholsterer to come and work expensive magic on them every few years.
posted by rongorongo at 3:10 AM on November 13, 2006

Thanks for the very informative post, Extopalopaketle, and "feels like kittens" is my new favorite expression.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:27 AM on November 13, 2006

Agreed regarding the durability factor of fabrics vs. actual construction. I have a great chair from the 60s that I love love love. It's in great condition except for the arms which show some wear. I don't care though. The thing is solid and will last for decades longer and at some point I might have to spend a small fortune to have it reupholstered because they just don't make chairs in this style any longer.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2006

i have to agree with the other posters who say that resale value should not be a priority. i am 30 and have the sofa my mother bought when i was two. it's leather, dark brown, deco style, and classic. it isn't mod, 50's, mid-century (as i might choose) but i have slept on it many a night, i'va sat in it with screwdrivers and pens in my back pocket, and when i was a kid and painting houses, i always managed to have an elbow still wet with paint. two kids, a dog, many adults, so much spilled EVERYTHING and even a sleeping intruder have not impacted the beauty of this great piece. she paid $1200 in 78/79, and i'd say it has been more than worth the money. i think a well made piece you plan to keep for many years is worth the extra expense. that being said...

i'm moving and not planning to take this sofa with me (which is pleasing my roomate to no end!) and have been seriously considering the new leather sofas ikea is offering. they are well constructed, shockingly, with down filled cushions, thick leather, extremely comfortable and are selling for a grand ( i think the arild? )also, check out room and board for the "jackson" sofa. hot, hot, hot. and, um...more comfort. duh.

in the end, follow your heart. and sit in the thing before you buy it!!!! happy hunting.
posted by metasav at 9:42 PM on November 13, 2006

Um, okay. I'm new here. I didn't know serious this capitalization bit was. I do, however, love this site and will promise to adhere to the "Rules of Capitalization" for the sake of not irritating you lovely folks. I will figure these "in...whoa...Inter-Tubes" out yet!
posted by metasav at 10:00 PM on November 13, 2006

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