Why sofas are crap

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/03/15/why-sofas-are-crap.html


FTFY. If you like sawdust you’ll love modern furniture.


One of the many reasons I love refinishing old furniture. Better quality than the new crap, keeps stuff out of landfills, heaps cheaper and just nicer stuff. And the older stuff (especially the much older stuff) is so much fun to just figure out what they did. But yes, agreed, pressboard mass produced crap is crap.


A large new low- or mid-range piece of furniture bought is one of the few major purchases that will depreciate faster than a new car just driven off the lot. Anyone who thinks they’ll get anywhere near the original price when selling used furniture that isn’t an antique is fooling themselves.

If you want a sofa that will last more than five years then you have to go to a showroom where interior designers and wealthy people shop. After testing the item and shelling out the premium price (pocket change for their typical customer), plan on waiting at least a month for your own piece to be manufactured and shipped to your home.

An exception might be the real-wood stuff at Ikea, where vast economies of scale limit prices but the design is what it is.

Ikea also saves on their costs by having the customer do the final assembly themselves, which can lead to a broad range of results in terms of long-term durability even with their solid wood pieces. But yes, in general you’ll spend less there than for a roughly comparable item at Wayfair or West Elm.


And yet, resale of solid furniture is almost impossible, even if it’s in good shape.


Bring back a rolled arm you capitalist pigs!


In my experience the quality of furniture increases in proportion to the number of stores a retailer has. The more stores in a chain the cheaper, crappier, furniture will be. The less number of stores the furniture will be better made yet more expensive. The one off store, where designers shop, will have the best furniture one can buy but will be unattainable for most.


You see fewer and fewer quality second-hand furniture stores for non-antiques now. You could usually get a decent price for a solid-wood piece in reasonable condition and they’d do pick-up on the larger items. Much less waste and hassle and win-win for everyone.

The only marketplace for items like that now is on sites like Craigslist, which means even lower sale prices, flakey customers, and pick-up/delivery hassles. Otherwise it’s the kerb on large-item trash day (or any day) or perhaps a charity shop.

This becomes a real problem when you’re tasked with clearing out the home of a deceased relative who had furniture that isn’t cheap enough to just trash but also isn’t fancy enough for an estate sale.


Well, what else should people do with sawdust; burn it to generate heat and electricity?


Counterpoint: we (a two-person household) bought this sofa for a similar amount from Macy’s and this is what it looked like after two years. Macy’s even sent someone out to inspect it and we were told that this was considered normal wear-and-tear.

Learning how to build high quality furniture rather than buying disposable junk is the basis for Christopher Schwarz’s The Anarchist’s Design Book. Unfortunately sofas are a little beyond the scope of that book.


My only problem is finding reasonably priced foam for the cushions. I keep hearing rumours of a black market foam store in our old textile quarter, but haven’t been able to pin down an adress.


I was curious about a black market for foam so I looked and what I found was claimed to the “Blackest Market” although not for foam.

Vanta Black Market?

There has been a foam shortage which might explain how so many couches and chairs are crap in that regard.


My bestie owns a store where she sells good, solid, old furniture and teaches people how to freshen it up with Fusion paint or Milk paint. She’ll also paint a piece for you - for a fee, of course.

I took my first class last Saturday, though I’ve already done my bedroom furniture and some bookshelves with Fusion paint. Learned a few things about cleaning and sanding that I didn’t know.


I can concur. I have a quantity of plain wood shelving from there (the “Hejne” line in my storage room, and it’s held up nicely after a move from the old house I was in some 12 years ago. As long as you don’t go overboard with tightening the fasteners, it’s pretty durable. (i.e., if you use a power tool to drive the screws in, use a drill with a clutch and dial that puppy down to low single digits on the limiter- using an impact driver is a bad idea.)


Next sofa I buy will be one of the wood free ones that’s just shaped memory foam. No springs or anything. I’m sure it won’t last for ever but neither will I.


Who has time for that? I just use a nail gun.


The right tool for the right job, friend. (and no, a hammer is not a universal “right tool”. :smiley:


We’ve had excellent experiences with Ikea’s assembly service through Taskrabbit (which Ikea wisely acquired in 2017). It increases the up-front cost, but I think it’s great value as it saves a ton of time and the workers are FAR more skilled at Ikea assembly than my wife or me so it all ends up much more solid. We started paying for assembly about 10 years ago when we bought all new kids’ furniture. It would have taken us weeks to find the time to assemble it all ourselves, but a very pleasant young woman with a toolbox did it all in about two hours, and that furniture (along with some other pieces we’ve since acquired, and had assembled by Taskrabbit) is holding up great even after a couple of moves and suffering the abuse of a bunch of kids. We had one drawer die recently, but that was only because the teenager tried to stuff like 20 pairs of enormous thrift store jeans in it.


I’ve used General Finishes Milk Paint (which I don’t think is technically a milk paint) on a few projects and I absolutely love it. I know next to nothing about finishing, but it went on very easily and looks great.


I’ve considered a move in the opposite direction. We (by which I mean, not I) have been particularly hard on our admittedly-inexpensive furniture over the years. I suggested that our next piece of den furniture will be built out of lumber & bolted together. Voila.

(ETA: I think I’m done with recliners in any case.)