Monday, October 15, 2012

Sofa Wars!

Before I start this story I will tell you it has a happy ending. But, my k style friends you would not have wanted to know me in "real time" during what I think of as The Sofa Wars. A little background is in order. By now you know I love decorating. LOVE it! But where there is love there is also hate and I'm here to tell you that trying to buy a new sofa in the far reaches of Southern Oregon could also be described as wilderness shopping. Sadly we live in a vast, decor void zone. Enough to make you actually immune to the sofa on "steroids" that has stared back at you for years. In my case a big, green, fat, fake velvet version.

Actually it wasn't that bad when we bought it during what I call the "overstuffed" years. The fabric both practical and a nice neutral green did the job for many years.

In fact, I wanted something similar but more refined. Streamlined with elegant lines. Maybe a little flare at the arms. Something that would look as gorgeous from the back as from the front as our sofa sits floating in the middle of a large vaulted space visually dividing living room from dining room. And yes, I wanted it to be in the green category. I didn't want to change the whole room. I already have chairs and accessories that I love and adding a new or out of sync color would send my budget into overdrive. I just wanted a new, "perfect" sofa that would complement the space and the rest of the furniture and accessories that I already owned. Sound reasonable?

Well, I thought so too. But reality quickly sank in. I  really knew very little about this process. So many things had to be taken into consideration. BUDGET, husband (he sits on the sofa for his morning newspaper, tv etc), style, color, accessibility ( I really wanted to literally sit, lounge, lay on it; try it out in real time). Well you get the picture. I hardly knew where to begin. So given the sofa void in our own backyard I knew only one thing for sure at this point. I would have to plan a trip. A sofa trip and I would have to drag my darling husband along. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that this would NOT be his idea of a fun trip. But I simply could not take the chance of hearing him whine for the next 20 years that the sofa was too this or too that and he just couldn't get comfortable or whatever. Nope, he had to come, he had to sit, he had to sign off. LOL he also had to sign the check so this could be problematic.

So we planned a trip. We live in Ashland, Oregon and we had two choices. We could go North to Portland or south to San Francisco both about a 6 hour drive away. In the end after much deliberation we chose Portland mostly because we have no sales tax in Oregon and this would represent a big savings in such a substantial purchase. We could also hit a few furniture stores in Eugene on the way up. So k style friends, reluctant husband in tow, we headed north and we sat, and sat, drove and drove hitting up one furniture store after another. We took notes, we took measurements, we took lots of photos. I  really wanted to do my homework on this. I wanted to know there was nothing better out there that I'd somehow missed. I knew I wouldn't get a do over. Talk about pressure. I felt consumed, overwhelmed and yes obsessed. This was going to be hard. Really hard!

So we went to every store we could get to in three days.
In Eugene we hit

Pottery Barn
Ethan Allen
Edman Fine Furniture

In Portland we hit

Restoration Hardware
Crate and Barrel
West Elm
Mitchel Gold
Paul Schatz Fine furniture

We looked at every line we could visually see and test

Hicory Chair
Baker (gorgeous but very spendy)
And all the contemporary lines found at the big online stores mentioned above.

We literally looked at and sat on over a hundred sofas. We learned a lot. Sofas are a very broad category. Here are just a few of the compelling issues that we began to understand in terms of what we wanted versus what we needed.

Sofa style: This was obviously a major consideration. I would say my aesthetic although eclectic would gear towards something traditional with a contemporary twist. As stated earlier I wanted something simple, maybe slightly sculptural, that would be visually appealing from both front and back. One of the issues here for us was the sofa had to look like a living room sofa but function like a family room sofa. Tricky

Sofa back: This issue was really difficult. I love the clean elegant look of a tight back sofa. Husband on the other hand definitely preferred a loose cushion style for the comfort he deemed necessary for a highly used  everyday sofa which this would be. Sadly I had to agree with him on this point so loose cushioned it would have to be. This ruled out a lot of gorgeous options.

Sofa arms: This issue proved to be one of the most challenging. I had a definite preference here which severely limited my options. I did NOT want track arms. I know they are very popular right now, very chic and definitely prevalent in the many showrooms we visited. But I had a vision of something different. Arms that were subtly elegant. Maybe slightly flared or something. Definitely not boxy and square. Again tricky. Husband weighed in here also. He didn't want the arm height to be too low. Difficult to hold a newspaper or book without a little support. Ugh, I had to agree, this was important.

Sofa legs: This one was fairly straight forward for me. I was tired of the skirted sofa I owned previously and wanted exposed legs. But definitely refined. Not big balls or boxy squares.

Sofa height: Many of the sofas we sat in were very low. Beautiful to look at but almost impossible to get out of. Again a really good reason to trek around and try out the lot. A sofa really needs to be experienced. So we wanted something reasonably cushy but not too low. It had to pass the "get out of bed" test.

Fabric: This was a tough one. Unless you're having a sofa totally custom designed or recovering an old sofa you are pretty limited to the fabric options provided by the particular manufacturer. There were sofas I liked but not a single fabric choice that would work for me. Again I knew I was being pretty specific but I wanted what I wanted. Something in the green category, something practical and something fairly dark as again we would be using everyday. A little problematic since I didn't want brown. I am just not into brown sofas unless they are leather. And you guessed it. Brown or a version of brown was everywhere. Green was very hard to find.

Availability: I knew I would be waiting for this sofa. There was no way on gods earth I was going to find something I wanted "as is" on the showroom floor. But how long was I willing to wait? Patience is not my middle name so over 3 months would be hard. I would have to really love/want it to wait any longer.

Budget/Quality: Predictably I left this issue for last because well who wants to talk about budget. Yes, I wanted a quality sofa that would stand the test of time. That would be "worth" recovering in the future. But, and this is a serious but, I didn't want to spend $10,000 on said sofa. It would have to be in the middle sofa range. Not cheap but not high end. Again tricky!

So k style friends I'm sure you're dying to know. Did we find the sofa of our dreams on this trip? Well the simple answer is yes and no. We learned a lot on this trip. A ton. But we still had some work to do. Predictably there was no sofa that totally called my name. But we were definitely closer to understanding the issues, identifying some feasible brands and armed with new and practical insights ready to hit the vast online world of furniture shopping with gusto.

Here's what I knew. Baker furniture lines were beautiful, gorgeous in fact but out of our price range and frankly too refined and formal for our space. Contemporary big chain brands like Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, Restoration hardware were either too large scaled or well, not adequately made. The kind of sofas that would wear down and lose value in the future. We already had one of those.

But then there was Stickley. An American made brand that was beautifully crafted, rooted in tradition yet definitely offering many designs with a contemporary twist. I didn't find anything on our trip that was "perfect" but both husband and myself were attracted to many aspects of this line. We saw and tested a variety of sofa styles from this renowned company. So when we got home I hit the Internet. Specifically Well needless to say I wasn't disappointed. Flipping through the "Look Book"  I found this. The Broadway Sofa.

The Broadway

While up in Portland at one of the fine furniture stores I had photographed another Stickley sofa, the Wheaton, upholstered in a gorgeous deep spruce/pine green corduroy like fabric. Very thin whaled and natural looking . The sofa style was close to what I had envisioned but too big and bulky. However, I loved the fabric. So click, I had it in my "like fabric" file.
                                      The Wheaton

And well k style friends, whew, three and a half months later I had my "perfect" sofa. The Broadway sofa from Stickley, upholstered in the fabric as seen on the Wheaton. It was a quest. It was a journey. But in the end I got the sofa I had envisioned. A sofa with beautifully articulated arms, elegant and sculptural in shape, as beautiful from the back as front, loose cushioned, medium height arms, cushy but easy to get out of, in the green category, dark and practical and within budget. And not to be underestimated it passed the husband test with flying colors!

"Our sofa feels like a man's well worn corduroy jacket thrown over the shoulders of a gorgeous curvy woman. A perfect blend of the masculine and feminine and for me the best of both worlds."
                                     lov,   k

There's just one thing I should mention. Yes, all of my other furniture looks great with my new sofa BUT lol I'm thinking I really need a new coffee table to really do it justice. Stay tuned k stylers. The coffee table wars are definitely in our future! k

1 comment:

Gerry said...

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me! And a good point, I must say. The sofa is the focal point of your living room, and choosing the right color and right size of sofa would make a big difference on the look of your living room. Nice work!

Gerry Bossier