Sit Down or Get Out of the Way
February 17, 2017 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Maybe this will go viral and then finally the invisible hand of the market that is so widely touted will have its effect and either the product will be withdrawn or the company will fold.
posted by hippybear at 6:04 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

One to three year lifespan for a twelve hundred dollar couch?! And they act like that's normal?! I paid three hundred bucks for an Ikea couch that has lasted longer!
posted by Itaxpica at 6:06 PM on February 17, 2017 [82 favorites]

This was a really funny and well-written story, but also, as someone who has just shelled out for a $1000 couch with my housemate, very slightly terrifying.
posted by Panthalassa at 6:06 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Both store employees told me that between one and three years was normal for a couch with light use.

What the hell?

I bought a couch roughly five years ago for about the same price from Crate & Barrel (so, adjusting for inflation, about $100 or so more). It's still fine. It'll probably still be fine for another five years. And that's with regular napping and the occasional houseguest using it as a bed.

What kind of moron would replace a $1200 couch every year? Unless maybe you have a destructive pet who rules your heart with an iron fist and leaves you no choice.
posted by praemunire at 6:07 PM on February 17, 2017 [25 favorites]

the price seemed to be proof of enduring quality.

And there's the title question answered. What does it matter if people complain about it online if new customers with sufficient cash don't check out reviews? What's the company's incentive to change?
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:08 PM on February 17, 2017

About 20 years ago, near the corner of Queen and Spadina at the south end of chinatown in Toronto, on the second or third floor of a decrepit brick warehouse, I happened across a furniture outlet packed with the most outrageous couches, chairs and full living room suites - a mishmash of 50s and 60s design cues filtered through a fever dream. Not cheap, but inexpensive for the hipster loft market it was trying to rip off. Wild colours, faux leather, eye-searing pinstriping and overstuffed, but severely underdesigned. Everywhere I looked the display models had ripped vinyl, protruding staples, bent legs and rusting chrome.

That store has long since shuttered it's dented fire doors, but it's nice to know the dismal factory that produced that landfill is still cranking out the hits.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:09 PM on February 17, 2017 [8 favorites]

I have been trying to find sturdy and attractive dining chairs at non-nosebleed prices; I shudder at the thought of couch shopping. Everything I am finding is rickety, ugly, and/or expensive; it has been depressing.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:13 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe this will go viral

Googled for the company, for some reason their Glassdoor page showed up on the first page of results. Judging from the recurring themes in that employee feedback, I somehow doubt they'll be surprised by this article.

(or maybe it's the same unhappy customers she mentions in the article I'm finding there, who knows)

Couch is $1299 in their online store, btw. Assembled in the US.
posted by effbot at 6:17 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is super niche, but if anyone is in a city that has one I can't recommend Out Of The Closet enough. It's a chain of nonprofit thrift stores - think Salvation Army but the money goes to fund services and healthcare for LGBT youth instead of awful regressive Christianity. The one in Brooklyn at least has some of the most beautiful furniture I've ever seen for basically no money; my current couch is a gorgeous brand name two-seater that google tells me would cost two grand normally. I paid thirty-five bucks for it (it would have been sixty but it was on sale).
posted by Itaxpica at 6:22 PM on February 17, 2017 [32 favorites]

I inherited a ~10 year old couch and matching footrest from my parents when they moved furniture around in their house a couple of years ago. Not beautiful, but nice enough looking. Anyway about 6 weeks ago I accidentally caught my little toe on the footrest - thing didn't even fucking move, while I had to go to A&E to have my now thoroughly broken toe corrected from the 50° angle it had adopted in relation to my foot. I thus confirmed the quality of the furniture's workmanship.

That couch will outlive me. But quite possibly because it will kill me.
posted by howfar at 6:24 PM on February 17, 2017 [51 favorites]

My husband and I bought a faux mid-century modern couch at about that price point with the same couch-buying thoughts as in the article. It was shipped on a van with dudes who brought it in (after removing their shoes! Be still my heart.) and took the plastic off. If our couch had ended up as poorly made as this, I believe I would have cried. It represents a huge chunk of change and is EXACTLY the look we want. The rest of our stuff is thrifted real MCM furniture, and we love the couch and how well it suits us and its surroundings. Adulthood at last, and us only in our late forties! I feel badly for the Peggy buyers : (
posted by thebrokedown at 6:26 PM on February 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

If there isn't already a Japanese horror movie about a couch that kills people, there should be.
posted by hippybear at 6:27 PM on February 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

My couch was made in the 1940s and may well outlive me. This couch is bullshit.
posted by nonasuch at 6:32 PM on February 17, 2017 [11 favorites]

My couch is something I got from a couple of former neighbors in my last apartment; a pair of dudes who had been college roommates and became first-apartment-out-of-college roommates down the hall from me, and now were each moving out and into their own apartments. Neither one had room in their new apartments the folding-bed couch they had, and I'd gotten nodding-in-the-hallway friendly with them, so they came and offered it to me because they didn't want to drag it downstairs. They pitched it to me as "it's a great 'lying around on the couch all day' couch".

My cat clawed the arm through to the wood, but I didn't care because I didn't pay anything for it, and just put a slipcover on it. That has lasted me about fifteen years, it is still a great lying-around-on-the-couch-all-day couch, and except for the slipcover, I haven't had to spend a cent on it.

Hand-me-downs, yo. They're a good option.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:35 PM on February 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

You want The Curious Sofa by Edward Gorey, hippybear
posted by annathea at 6:36 PM on February 17, 2017 [17 favorites]

I'm trying to imagine what my reaction would be if someone told me the expected lifespan of a couch was a year. My first thought was "I'd stab them", but that seems like letting them off rather easy, doesn't it?

I've eaten pizza older than that.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:38 PM on February 17, 2017 [33 favorites]

MetaFilter: I've eaten pizza older than that.
posted by hippybear at 6:40 PM on February 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

My couch is 55 years old and in amazing shape.

Any store that tells you the max life for a new couch is 3 years is not a store you should give your money to. That is a bullshit store.

I used to buy and sell used furniture and I would always tell people to buy an old couch. If it's solid after 20 years of use, you're not gonna kill it. Same goes for chairs and tables.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:44 PM on February 17, 2017 [11 favorites]

And there's the title question answered. What does it matter if people complain about it online if new customers with sufficient cash don't check out reviews? What's the company's incentive to change?

$1200 is kind of in a sweet spot price range. It's not a cheap price point for a couch, and it certainly looks expensive if you're just starting out or don't earn a lot, but it's hardly a high dollar couch. I winced when I read that line about assuming quality based on that price. A couch at that price could be decently made and could be crap hiding behind style.

Eventually a reputation could catch up to them. A lot of young people learn what questions to ask about furniture the hard way. Questions like "did that leather come off of an actual cow". As long as West Elm has a supply of young people not doing their homework, they can probably keep working this angle once per customer. Or eventually they could get a rep for overpriced off-brand crap and shit service. But I guarantee this couch isn't their only overpriced shit product.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:46 PM on February 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

If there isn't already a Japanese horror movie about a couch that kills people, there should be.

I seem to recall somebody being eaten by a piano in Hausu, so a couch would be the logical next step. Are there any murderous couches in Horrorstor?

As far as I can tell, this couch is my graduate school furniture (er, such as it was), only several orders of magnitude pricier.

One of the advantages of living in Western NY: antiques are everywhere and cheap. So I don't need to worry about my furniture lasting one year, given that it's already 100-185 years old.

That being said, whether or not the upholstered furniture will survive my cats is an entirely different matter....
posted by thomas j wise at 6:47 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had a disaster couch like this once. On day one, while scooching it across the floor one of the little metallic feet snagged on the tiles and bent subtly. I snapped it off trying to fix it, and ultimately propped it up with a Zune. Everything has a purpose.

After an accretion of such grievances, council hard rubbish pick-up day came around. It joined a rusty bbq out on the curb and the next day it was gone.

Five years later. Council pick-up day came to my neighbourhood again, and the usual assortment of fridges and bedheads appear on the sidewalks. And there it was: my old couch. That's where John burnt it with cigarette ash. Someone had found it five years earlier and taken it home and used it until it was no longer possible to sit on. The springs that hold up the cushion were replaced with milk crates. The threadbare armrests were patched with gaffer tape. The fabric had taken on a greasy sheen of... lord knows what...
posted by adept256 at 6:48 PM on February 17, 2017 [28 favorites]

If there isn't already a Japanese horror movie about a couch that kills people, there should be.

I wouldn't go Japanese for a killer couch movie. Maybe something French, perhaps along the lines of Rubber?
posted by stannate at 6:50 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

My grandmother bought our couch from the Salvation Army about sixty years ago and while it does need recovered, it will probably outlive me.
posted by octothorpe at 6:52 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

One to three year lifespan for a twelve hundred dollar couch?!

For any couch I'd buy, I expect that I could have rough sex on it every night for a year and still not show appreciable wear. This is the most bullshit claim I've heard from a salesperson ever.
posted by fatbird at 6:57 PM on February 17, 2017 [13 favorites]

In the case of this couch, it's perhaps the most honest claim I've heard from a salesperson ever.
posted by hippybear at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2017 [18 favorites]

If there isn't already a Japanese horror movie about a couch that kills people, there should be.

I think The Simpsons did it.
posted by adept256 at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

annathea: "You want The Curious Sofa by Edward Gorey, hippybear"

Not a couch, but lethal furniture nonetheless.

Allow me to present for your approval, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, as well as Deathbed. Those folks are not the only ones to suffer furniture based trauma, I am afraid.
posted by Samizdata at 7:12 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

My couch is 7+ years old. It probably won't survive another move if it's upended, and it's slightly the worse for wear (I have two cats), but it's definitely sturdy.

If my couch were to have broken within a year, I'd throw a fit.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:16 PM on February 17, 2017

How about a Japanese killer table movie?

Design Within Reach is another one of those outlets that hawks shitty furniture under cover of high prices. We are cursed with a bed from DWR that for some unfathomable reason has the supporting slats anchored at one end and freely riding in a slot on the other. This means that every once in a while, a slat will work its way loose and slam itself into the floor like a gunshot, usually at two in the morning. Every few weeks I clamber under the bed to straighten them all out. Someday I'll just go down there with a staple gun and lock everything in place, but fuck, seriously?

If you're in the market for new furniture around this price point, check out Room & Board. Not cheap, but nice, relatively simple and solidly built stuff.
posted by phooky at 7:20 PM on February 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oooh, is this another thread where I can plug the couch that I DIY'd by dismembering my roommate's old mattress? Cost me ~$70, including the mini hacksaw I had to buy in order to cut through the steel frame. Guests have deemed it "surprisingly comfortable", though appearance-wise I feel it's in the uncanny valley of couches - looking at it, you get the impression that something is not quite right, but you can't quite put your finger on what it is..
posted by btfreek at 7:26 PM on February 17, 2017 [28 favorites]

I could replace each button in ten minutes. $100/hr is my going rate.
posted by bendy at 7:37 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

West Elm isn't trying to be anything but a cheaper option to get stuff that looks stylish, costs less, and doesn't come in flat box. Their sister company, Pottery Barn, is positioned to be the place to go when you can afford style and quality. Of course, hard to get a sofa for only $1.2k at Pottery Barn.

My GF once managed a Pottery Barn in Palo Alto, and she reports that The Peggy was a hot seller. Although, she wouldn't have recommended it for people who planned to really "use" the couch because of the buttons.

Googled for the company, for some reason their Glassdoor page showed up on the first page of results. Judging from the recurring themes in that employee feedback, I somehow doubt they'll be surprised by this article.

"People who think $1.2k is a lot for a couch" was the #1 complaint about customers in my house, so yeah I doubt there is any surprise.
posted by sideshow at 7:48 PM on February 17, 2017

I've tried, but cannot get into mid-century modern. To me, it's dull. Like, Federal or Eastlake, I can get with. There's Arts and Crafts style furniture that has some zing and visual interest, even if there are loads of right angles (NO, I don't love the Geffrye Museum at all!). The one in the essay is just ugly to me. And that it was weak and uncomfortable to boot? Bleh.

I love my sofa. It's one of the last sofas from Fortunoff before the furniture part of the business went bankrupt. Apparently, it had been in storage for some time, wrapped in plastic, so I guess someone bought it and never sat on it! It's a gorgeous chesterfield style, but it's this sort of rust-orange color that was probably why I was able to get it so cheap from the Apt. Deco site a few years ago—well, that, and the seller implied they were clearing out a deceased older relative's storage. It's a total score because I am certain I wouldn't have been able to afford this piece at retail. Pretty, sturdy, and comfy! I have had many a pleasant nap on it.
posted by droplet at 7:57 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Room and Board Anson sofa is like the grownup version of the West Elm Peggy. It costs quite a bit more but lasts for about 8 years before revealing any sort of wear and tear, and IMHO is way more close to the vintage style that the Peggy is trying to replicate.

I do like my West Elm dining table and other non-upholstered furniture, but I for sofas I am always going to go for Room and Board or IKEA. Because let's be honest, sometimes you just need a cheapie that can absorb cheetos, cat hair, and romping around.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:57 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

There should be room for a Wirecutter/Sweethome-like site that explicates reasonable price points for big-ticket purchases, and points to where on the price spectrum you're more likely to be in a "branding upsell" zone than getting additional quality for your money: the kind of site that says "if you've got $1200 for a sofa but not $2500, then you're better off spending $500 at Ikea or schlepping round antiques places instead."
posted by holgate at 8:07 PM on February 17, 2017 [44 favorites]

you know, my well-beyond college age and extremely comfortably incomed inlaws love to shop at IKEA, because they like good furniture at a good price, and are too old and too well-to-do to care what anyone else thinks of their taste. Though their last couch did come from Sears, because the ones at IKEA were too fashionable and thus less comfortable.

Also: a couch should last for 20 years, minimum, more with redoing the upholstery. And that's with HEAVY usage.
posted by jb at 8:25 PM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

One year. Light use. The fuck.

1.2k is a low price point for a couch, on average, however, context still matters. I've seen this couch's doppelganger in government office hallways where maybe one or two people wait at a time for short periods. Selling it for that purpose as a showpiece to fill in the space between potted plants is fine. That's truly light use and there's a receptionist to bring the buttons to.

But that's very, very different from selling that same couch to people who are actually going to use it.
posted by E. Whitehall at 8:28 PM on February 17, 2017

Mrs Fields and I got a fairly similar couch from a local furniture builder for $650 delivered. Chances are there are local builders in your city but you wouldn't know it unless one of them has a hipster son that put it on Facebook and changed the business from tacky overstuffed faux rich to mid century.
posted by wcfields at 8:33 PM on February 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

We're going good with my grandparents' old 8-foot mid-century couch, that, as far as we can tell, is authentically mid-century. We've got 3 kids and it could use a good cleaning but it's comfortable AF. It's a nap workhorse and I expect it to last for a long time.
posted by sleeping bear at 8:41 PM on February 17, 2017

Y'ALL! Ours is the Room and Board Anson! The price point was actually quite a bit higher than the Peggy, but we love it, and customer service was terrific. It's a Good Couch, and I often pet it as I walk by.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:43 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mid-century Modern, and it's named Peggy.... Do you think someone was a Mad Men fan?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:45 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

MetaFilter: I've eaten pizza older than that.

Metafilter: Can I eat this couch?
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:55 PM on February 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

I bought a bunch of West Elm furniture when I moved to New York. The guy who worked at the store was great, we bought everything in San Diego and had the local store in NYC deliver it the day we moved in. Our apartment looked great. Then we actually used it. The cushions on the couch sagged almost immediately. The cross bar on the sleeper broke. The drawers under the bed had no catches of any sort so they'd spontaneously roll open if you were on a floor that was anything but perfectly level. To make up for that the nightstand drawers were impossible to open. The only satisfying thing about the furniture was the massively satisfying crunch it made as the compactor on a garbage truck cut it in half when we threw it away a year later.

Never again.
posted by mikesch at 9:09 PM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was tempted to buy a CB2 couch as an adulting statement, but ended up getting a Futon Shop futon instead. It's not a great couch, but as my friends who've slept on it can attest, it's a very good futon.
posted by Standard Orange at 9:22 PM on February 17, 2017

I have never bought a new couch. I keep thinking I should, then my kid leaves food crumbs on one and the cat scratches on the other and I think: nah. I have so far managed to find decent, not-too-used comfortable couches from other people for free or very cheap. One that I owned for a while was both very clean and smelled fragrantly of curry. I enjoyed that couch. I think the single mom I ended up giving it to enjoyed it also.

I did think about buying a new couch, last year, but several thou was out of my range and everything else looked cheap/ugly/uncomfortable. Mid-century modern types in general seems to have weird angles and fabrics that make couch napping difficult. And if you can't nap on a couch what is the point?
posted by emjaybee at 9:42 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

the kind of site that says "if you've got $1200 for a sofa but not $2500, then you're better off spending $500 at Ikea or schlepping round antiques places instead."

Eh, when I was shopping five years ago, around $1200 (so now more like $1300) was where you first began to have at least a chance to see something with decent design that wouldn't necessarily fall apart quickly. It was infuriating to me that there were no real choices between the already-not-cheap-but-not-nice $500 Ikea couches and the low end of the mass affluent offerings. I went a long time without a couch because I refused to pay $500 for Ikea and I couldn't afford $1200. Then I got a much better-paid job and could have afforded substantially nicer furniture, but I was already so irritated by the pricing structure of the industry that I went with the $1200 couch.

Furniture shopping is a scam, is, I guess, what I'm trying to say here.
posted by praemunire at 9:45 PM on February 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

I own this couch in the same size and color as the author. I am sitting on it right now. I have owned it for under two years and there isn't a single button left on it, the cushions are sad little pancakes that are always melting off the couch towards the floor, and I kick myself, KICK MYSELF, for buying this fucking couch. This couch cost me more than every other piece of furniture in my living room COMBINED and that's including the digital projector. I will never buy anything at West Elm again after getting bent over and given the shaft so bad on this piece of furniture. It makes me viscerally angry. I just want to sit down on an adult sofa, is that so much to ask?
posted by Foam Pants at 9:48 PM on February 17, 2017 [29 favorites]

A friend has an old, somewhat tatty chaise longue that has probably dealt with dozens of impolite cats as well as multipe bums and elbows and ankles. I have slept on that chaise. It is a good chaise, Brent.

The space that West Elm inhabits is a kind of pastiche: furniture as set-dressing, replica Rolex (or "Rolex homage") in sofa form. Pastiche consumption has been around for a while, and it's a scarily sustainable tier in retail. Anyway, I saw an authentic funky MCM sofa at Habitat some years back and it was gorgeous and comfy and completely impractical for our house and some twentysomethings went and bought the thing while we were sitting on it.

Eh, when I was shopping five years ago, around $1200 (so now more like $1300) was where you first began to have at least a chance to see something with decent design that wouldn't necessarily fall apart quickly.

Yeah, exactly. I'd like to know the point at which that starts for furniture, just like there's a point in the wine shop where an extra $5 moves you one more rung up the quality ladder, and a point where that stops and you're just paying for snob value.
posted by holgate at 9:56 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have always wanted to shop for furniture at West Elm. It seemed fancy and adult. Now I know that I won't be shopping there. I feel just terrible for people who bought this couch. Twelve hundred dollars for one to three years of wear?! No.
posted by sockermom at 10:01 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also: a couch should last for 20 years, minimum, more with redoing the upholstery. And that's with HEAVY usage

Truth. Just over ten years ago, my wife and I bought our first piece of upholstered furniture. We spent a little over $2k on a couch at Ethan Allen and that thing basically looks as good as when we bought it. Sadly, EA shipped all their furniture assembly to China since then, so I can't say you'll be as fortunate nowadays.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 10:11 PM on February 17, 2017

I got a leather sofa from Macy's for a few hundred more than the West Elm one. It was a customer return (one of the panel's stitching isn't parallel to the floor) and after three years it is comfy and still looks new.

Get a return from Macy's, I guess is my advice,
posted by zippy at 10:13 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

So where do I get a decent couch? The $700 loveseat I got at Cost Plus 14 years ago is no longer comfortable...
posted by suelac at 10:13 PM on February 17, 2017

Maybe couches are a bit like rescue dogs. It's better to adopt an adult who's been around the block so you know how things turn out.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:27 PM on February 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

The problem is that actually making quality furniture is expensive. Quality wood, metal, cushioning, and upholstery is expensive. Quality construction takes a long time and requires skilled labor. But people want stuff cheap (and I get it -- most people can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of furniture), so companies cut corners everywhere they can. Of course, some cut corners more than others. But I don't think it's realistic to get a truly well made couch for $1200 unless you buy it used. (Still, even the least expensive couch should last longer than 1-3 years. I had the absolute cheapest couch IKEA sold at the time for 7 years until my new wife made me get rid of it, and it was still mostly fine).
posted by primethyme at 10:47 PM on February 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

i lived with a shitty $100 metal framed futon couch for almost 10 years because i couldn't find anyone to take it away for any price. after the huge fire in my building i thought FREE AT LAST but no, it was fucking indestructible. finally just before i moved last year i was bemoaning my crap couch fate to the assistant super and he was like are you kidding me, i can find someone who wants that couch right now, today. and then 5 minutes later the ecuadorian guy from the bodega downstairs came up all hey i heard there was a free couch and i was like bro i will PAY YOU TO TAKE IT

anyway now i have a 2k leather one from PB and i love it
posted by poffin boffin at 11:03 PM on February 17, 2017 [11 favorites]

We got this one from ikea nearly 20yrs ago and it is still going strong. I'd actually quite like a new one but can't really justify it when there's nothing wrong with the existing one.
posted by tinkletown at 11:12 PM on February 17, 2017

So, I've never heard of West Elm (or never paid attention) and thought this was literally about one specific couch in a place called West Elm. Which seemed weird.

My first new adult couch was 14 years ago, I think around $1200 ($1500?) from Macy's. I thought that was expensive. It's still here. The foam in the cushions are a little indented, but the fabric and everything looks still looks great. Yes, fabric. Not a tear or worn spot. We have animals and use it for hours every day.

Someone is seriously getting ripped off.
posted by bongo_x at 11:13 PM on February 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am sitting on a couch my ex and I brought in 1996 when we lived in Chicago. The coach has made moves from Chicago to Marin County to NYC to Westchester and three moves in Westchester County. The only thing I had to do to it was replace one cushion because the friggin cat peed on it while we were away and the house was 90+ degrees. Don't remember where we got it, but I think the ex called them up 6 years later and they sent a new cushion for free. Best advice I ever got regarding couches was to buy a quality leather one when we had kids. It hides the pen marks, and has worn so well. That one is only 20 years old.

When I was 17, I had a job in the Seaman's Furniture (NY) customer service department I answered phones and dispatched repair men to fix things like the buttons coming off. THe quality was shit, but the repair men loved it because they were busy and were paid by the visit. I did have to keep track of what furniture was having the most problems. I think they actually used the data to change the product because the repairs were so costly. The products that sucked but did not get a lot of repairs were sold to unsuspecting consumers on credit for a long time. I guess the cost of repairs is made up quite quickly when you are charging 20% interest to someone who cannot even afford it.
posted by AugustWest at 11:15 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

West Elm is owned by Williams-Sonoma (Pottery Barn, Rejuvenation, etc), so the supply chains are all the same. Of course it's shit.

Buy local if you can. Do the best you can if you can't.
posted by notyou at 11:35 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Get a return from Macy's, I guess is my advice,

For realsies. My Chihuahua and I are currently comfortably sprawled on a delightful, sectional couch from Macy's Outlet. Mr. Palmcorder and I paid about $800.00 for it two years ago, and it's in marvellous shape despite heavy use. (It did lose one button, but it's designed so that you can turn all the cushions button-side down, and we have.) Macy's Outlet FTW.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:55 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

When my girlfriend got a new job and we moved to a new city, she decided to splash out and get a nice couch. I wanted to go to sears, but that place was surprisingly expensive. Used furniture places were all very much of the hotel furniture look, unless you saw something the day it arrived in the store (we saw a couch we liked and it was gone when we went back two days later). Housing and furniture are brutal markets in the Bay Area.

So we got a couch from CB2 for I think $1000. I don't think I've ever spent that much on any one thing in my life (even my computers are cheap). It's way more stylish than either of us is, but we've had it almost two years and it's holding up fine. It's comfy, it's solid, and as long as I rotate the cushions every so often it doesn't look saggy or weird.

But now I'm worried it's going to fall apart completely, or do some other awful thing. I guess I'll check in with you all in a few years and see if there have been any crises. In the meantime I will sit on it, as I am now, with greater scrutiny.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:14 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I inherited my 20+year old couch after a relative passed away. I think it was originally purchased at Eaton's in Toronto (my relative bought a lot of things at Eatons, including the wool blankets I am currently lying under). Solid wood frame, no buttons to speak of. Sometimes I wonder if a sectional or a different color would suit my living room more. And I look at my green velvet three seat sofa that has survived 20 years, two owners (and now my cat, who likes to crawl under it in order to ambush me as I walk by) and I think about my great aunt, a lovely, talented lady who lived as a single person in Toronto her whole adult life and who loved music and funny sounds so much she once made a tape recording of the neighbourhood cat, Licorice, eating (while purring at a deafening volume).

The couch stays.
posted by janepanic at 3:11 AM on February 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

Seriously, the place to get better than IKEA furniture that isn't stupid expensive is a fricking department store. There is a reason why your parents and your grandparents, assuming they were middlish class Americans, bought their stuff at JC Penney or Sears or a regional equivalent. There is much better furniture, yes, but it is durable enough and made from actual wood. JC Penney now also sells a bunch of flat pack shit, especially on their website, but they still also carry decent stuff.

The real racket is mattresses. 90% of them are utter shit that will begin to mildly annoy you within a year or two. Supposedly there are places online you can get a decent mattress for under $1000 now, but I can't speak from experience.

My parents bought a reasonable department store couch in '84 or so. It was still in nice shape 10 years later when they died. After sitting in non-climate-controlled storage for another 10, it still managed another 5 of my use after copious amounts of Lysol and steam to get the mildew out. All it really needed was to be re-covered, but a decent set of living room furniture in trade for a spare Wii was cheaper. I suspect the fabric would have been much more durable if not for being eaten at by fungi for a decade.

Anyway, if you really can't even pay IKEA prices, can't stand the idea of buying used, and you are in any city of 100,000ish or more people, I guarantee there is at least one legit outlet store off in some low rent industrial corner of town that sells decent brand insurance write-offs/surplus/foreclosure items. (A legit place will have all kinds of random shit that is constantly changing. Like maybe a rack of wedding dresses, a shelf of crap that clearly came from a Harbor Freight, random electronics, and random furniture) I found my sister a nice double recliner leather sectional for like $350. Like any unmaintained cheap leather sofa the leather started to crack after a couple of years, but that makes zero difference to the comfort or functionality and can be easily avoided with the quarterly application of leather conditioner if you find it worth your time for a cosmetic issue.
posted by wierdo at 3:14 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a similar and more expensive sectional couch from CB2. Currently missing about 8 buttons. We complained right away when we lost our first button so now we have a entire spare cushion under the bed. The thing is the buttons just keep coming off and it is impossible to put them back on the couch with the same look as original.

They realized this design flaw and changed the newer version of their new couch so it is tufted but without the buttons. Which means their effective response to the previous buyers of their couch was "Sorry/Not Sorry".

I'll never buy another couch with buttons and I'll probably never buy another couch from CB2. If you can't stand behind your big ticket items and replace/recall things you know are flawed you're not a good retailer.
posted by srboisvert at 4:27 AM on February 18, 2017

I was considering buying that sofa. Super glad I went with Joybird instead. I have a feeling it will last much longer.

We had an Ikea sofa that totally deflated after less than 2 years. I LOVE so much Ikea stuff but it was basically pillow stuffing, not foam. Yuck.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:57 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Sweethome recommends Joybird for "starter sofas" in this price range.

Our pair of IKEA Kiviks are going strong after about five hard earned years in the family room. Get the covers cleaned every so often, fluff the cushions a bit, and they're good to go. When we want something more substantial we go with Room & Board.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:15 AM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I also went with the Joybird Hughes sofa in summer 2015 and it's holding up really well so far. In fact, apart from admiring its Lucky Turquoise color, I barely notice it any more, which is really what I want from a sofa. I spend hours on it every day, it's proved a surprisingly comfortable bed for visitors and I haven't noticed any sagging or flattening.
posted by peacheater at 5:15 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I worked as an upholsterer in a furniture factory for a while. They started me in the repairs department, where we fixed stuff that never made it to a customer before it broke. High quality, it wasn't, but it gave me some education of how furniture is made. You know that opaque stuff they staple onto the bottom? It's not to keep dust out; it's to keep you from seeing how the frame is constructed, so you'll buy it and not sue them when the wood splits from having loads applied at weak points.

My advice is to find a good upholsterer, and have him or her redo old furniture that you already own or buy. They will rejuvenate the cushioning so it's comfortable, and put on any fabric you like. I believe some will do the work in your home, so you don't have to deal with moving the furniture back & forth.

My sofa story: My 1st wife and I bought an overstuffed (but not plush) sofa at an outlet/overstock store in Haverhill, MA about 30 years ago. I got it in the divorce. My 2nd wife wanted new, so we went to a major furniture chain and bought a sofa and loveseat with those big rolled-over arms. We gave the old sofa to my mom. The new stuff didn't really work out well. The fat arms made the pieces longer than our smallish living room could absorb, and when you lean back, the seat cushions slide to the front, so we had to keep pushing them back. (Tip: self-adhesive Velcro won't cure this; it just rolls up under the cushions and leaves sticky stripes that are instantly coated with indelible dirt. That makes it so you can't flip the cushions over to equalize wear,) The back cushions are attached, but configured to make it harder to push the seat cushions in place than it is for them to slide out. The pieces are getting pretty tattered now, thanks to the house rabbit, but my wife doesn't want to buy new again, because of the house rabbit. The old one we gave to my mom is still in good shape, except for some minor seam failure on the thinly-padded arms.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:21 AM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

My couch.... my couch was bought by my grandmother in 1927; she passed it down to my parents when they got married in 1951 and Grandmom got her 'new' couch. My parents moved that thing all over creation for over thirty years of military moves, with Mom recovering it every now and then (Mom could do damn near professional-quality upholstering with nothing more than talent and an ancient Singer!) until they got their own new couch in 1985. They passed the old couch on to me, and it's still in my living room: I've promised it to one of my nieces when I die.

I don't care what the price is, "one to three years with light use"?!? Bull.
posted by easily confused at 5:23 AM on February 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

Mrs Fields and I got a fairly similar couch from a local furniture builder for $650 delivered. Chances are there are local builders in your city

QFT - getting stuff locally built, as far as I can tell, is pretty much always better value and cheaper in absolute terms for quality furniture.
posted by howfar at 5:56 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Curious whether anyone's tried Article.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:32 AM on February 18, 2017

I lucked out with the first couch my wife & I bought together-- a Nebraska furniture mart floor model that has survived over 10 years and 5 moves. The cushion covers are washable, and it has withstood numerous wine-spills, chocolate smears from little fingers, and 8 years of daily dog & people use. We bought a second couch earlier this year and due to my mis-measuring of the stairwell, the new couch (that we bought after I spent an afternoon reading "how to buy a couch" articles & 5 separate visits to the furniture showroom) sits in the living room with the old couch and... we stare at the new one while we camp on the old couch.
posted by worstname at 6:38 AM on February 18, 2017

Perhaps the lesson is not to buy a piece of furniture that has a human name. I would feel terrible throwing out "Peggy". On the other hand, I still wonder what I was thinking buying "Gullholmen". I must have been insane.
posted by acrasis at 6:51 AM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

My ex had a sectional from the '50s that had belonged to his great grandparents. Truly mid century and very stylish, I finally begged him to give it back to his mom because the thick fabric was so abrasive it made me bleed on three separate occasions. That thing will last until the heat death of the sun.
posted by annathea at 6:55 AM on February 18, 2017

In my experience, it's the rare mid-century-designed piece of furniture, either original or contemporary faux, that is anything other than god-damned uncomfortable. There are a scant few that reward sitting upon, but they also come at breathtaking prices.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:06 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

erhaps the lesson is not to buy a piece of furniture that has a human name. I would feel terrible throwing out "Peggy".

Some of you are feeling bad for the lamp. That's because you are crazy! It's just a lamp and the new one is much better.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:13 AM on February 18, 2017 [13 favorites]

I bought this dresser a few years ago from West Elm. It's fine - it's certainly much higher quality than the Scandinavian-design piece of shit my parent bought me for college, that I had been using all the way into my 40s.

This FPP is timely for me, because I have actually been considering an AskMe of "what sofa (love seat really) should I buy)" because I need to replace our Klippan love seat that has become too low and squishy for my elderly parents to get up from. I need something comfortable, firm, and about 70-75 inches wide.

I've been looking for this new sofa for about a year, by which I mostly mean looking at a few things on-line and then feeling depressed about how they probably suck. I don't feel great about my options in person in my city - the usual Pottery Barn/Crate and Barrel options, and then a lot of places that sell terrifying squashy potato-like sofas.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:22 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's realistic to get a truly well made couch for $1200

When I moved to Vancouver in 2004, I got a leather couch for $1,000 CAD from EQ3 (which aims at the same segment as West Elm), and sold it a decade later for $200 because the leather had some scratches on it from the cats. It held up fine over 10 years to daily use. $1,200 for a couch that's not supposed to be sat upon is a terrible distortion of expectations and price.
posted by fatbird at 7:24 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

My husband and I are planning to buy our first house this summer.

Our current furniture is a wide array of styles and colors. Some of it is hard as a rock and will never break. Other pieces, I'm not sure will make it to the summer.

I love MCM aesthetic but I'm not sure if it's for me, because I also love clutter. I love seeing all my things. My things are my friends, why would I want to put them in a closet? I love bookshelves where there's so many things on the shelves you can't actually see the books. I love walls that have interesting things on them almost no matter where you look.

So I'm torn. I want to have an aesthetic. But I also don't want to be limited in what I can use, what I can display.

I love to look at furniture on instagram and in stores and magazines. But I think the wise thing to do is to start trekking out to the rich town inside our city for their garage sales.
posted by rebent at 7:24 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Spent a week shopping for couches in September. West Elm had probably the weirdest (I.e. worst) price point - apparent material quality relationship of the 16-20 stores I visited in Nashville but the stuff looked fashionable at least. I actually have never been disappointed by a Value City Furnitute purchase... they sell some cheap as hell couches but the $1000 sofa of theirs that I have theirs is about 7 years old and looks new will hopefully last another 10... it'd be nice to never have to buy furniture with kids under six in the house.
posted by midmarch snowman at 7:47 AM on February 18, 2017

Back when I was growing up in the Mid Century era, most people I knew had Colonial-style furniture. It was comfortable, but you never see it now, even in thrift stores. In 2003 we bought a recliner sofa and loveseat set from Lazy Boy. It is still going strong. The upholstery we chose has been snagged by dog claws, but otherwise is still fine. The seat cushions are attached, but have not sagged at all. I think the sofa cost around $900. I guess Lazy Boy is rather unfashionable, but comfort is my goal.
posted by lazydog at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing Room & Board. Not cheap, but not that much more expensive than West Elm.

Furniture really only comes in two flavors: Ikea and the real stuff. Everything in between is pretty much Ikea quality or worse, just more expensive.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:25 AM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I lucked out and paid $2400 for two couches about 13 years ago and the only wear and tear is from a couple of asshole cats.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:17 AM on February 18, 2017

I'm going to need a new couch soon, I fear. The problem is, my main requirement for a couch (other than being comfortable to sit on) is that it is long enough for me to lie down flat across the cushions. At 6'1" tall, it's hard to find a couch that has a cushion bed that's at least 74" long. (I'd prefer even a tad longer than that so I'm not wedged in, plus a pillow, etc.)

When I was couch shopping for the one I have now, I spent 3 days visiting furniture shops all over this place and found ONE couch that was long enough that was under $3000. At $800, it felt to be reasonably priced. And it's served me well across the, um... over a decade that I've had it. It's been breaking down in various ways all long its lifecycle, but it still works fine enough. At some point I do want to replace it, but there's no way I'm going to pay $3000 for a new one. I wonder if that furniture store sells an equivalent to this one these days.
posted by hippybear at 11:32 AM on February 18, 2017

And there's the title question answered. What does it matter if people complain about it online if new customers with sufficient cash don't check out reviews?

With all due respect, what reviews? most people will become intimately familiar with, what, 5 couches in their lives? And they can't tell you if one will last for years until it does so. There isn't a Pitchfork For Couches. You can find out if a couch is bullshit ONLY if it has inspired so much hatred that, like the Penny, its customers are bombarding the company's social media. But even then, do you go and look at every photo on a furniture store's instagram and then check the comments? I know I don't.

Furniture is nearly impossible to review professionally, because it takes months or years of daily use to really know if it's good. And user reviews are usually submitted for furniture too early to be actually useful, Because who's thinking of reviewing a good dining table 10 years after purchasing it?

Almost all furniture shopping these days is an anxious gamble and maybe I'm a little sensitive right now because I have to replace nearly every piece of shit in my apartment after just a year of use so fine i'm a little miffed about it okay.
posted by shmegegge at 12:07 PM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Speaking of the local (Los Angeles Area) bought mid-century, got my couch and giant farm table from here:
posted by wcfields at 12:32 PM on February 18, 2017

The pic in my profile was taken almost 45 years ago. The couch (and chair and two end tables) are solid oak and heavy as hell. My mom has reupholstered them three times and they've moved with us at least ten times. They're still with us.
posted by bendy at 1:19 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have three couches. One's my grandmother's olivegreen velvet camelback stuffed with down, which was given to me for nothing and which was completely fine and perfect until about six months ago when a mated pair of woodpeckers broke in (I don't know. I STILL DON'T KNOW) and crapped enormous quantities of what looks like elderberries all over it. I then have a velvet Victorian sofa the color of dried blood with evil demonic carved legs that live to catch your toes and tear them off. It's hideous. It looks like I went to a blackmarket cannery and hauled back the spleen of a whale and threw it in my living room. But it's really comfortable to sit in the corner of the grotesque sofa with your back against the one horribly ugly outcropping and your legs on the couch part; it only has one tiny flaw in the ugly upholstery that would be easy to conceal with a pillow if you could only find one ugly enough; and it cost me $100 at the antiques auction. The third couch god damn it to hell forever cost me $800. Supposedly it's from the 40s, but I think the guy lied and it's actually from the 80s. It's covered in this gorgeous, lovely-feeling, pale peach/fuchsia sharkskin silk. As soon as I got it home I realized I could never even once allow anyone or any thing to touch the surface of the couch, so I covered it in quilts and then the cat got to it anyway and slashed the arm open. In conclusion, sofas will break your spirit and drive you mad. Don't spend money on them.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:19 PM on February 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

posted by saladin at 1:41 PM on February 18, 2017 [28 favorites]

Whenever I find myself at the local rich person mall, I like to wander into the absurdly expensive furniture store, sit down on their $20,000 couch, and marvel at the idea that people exist who buy $20,000 couches. Somehow this experience does not diminish my opinion of my Ikea couch at home. It is a fine couch that has held up well. I wonder if the buyers of the expensive couch sometimes have the buttons pop off?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:35 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I then have a velvet Victorian sofa the color of dried blood with evil demonic carved legs

Shit, where are you? I think I have your couch's forever home.
posted by bongo_x at 2:49 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I told my husband last week that I feel like we've spent 50% of our married life attempting to buy couches. He said no, more.

Anyway, my Joybird Hughes in Lucky Turquoise is being built at the moment (freeish replacement for a cheaper couch we got from them that broke -- they are not fucking around with the customer service) so peacheater and I are officially BFFs now.
posted by gerstle at 5:42 PM on February 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

My red leather sofa and chair set cost $5,000 about six years ago. It was probably the most irresponsible purchase I've ever made (and there are some doozies in the running). 100% tax refund blow.

The cat has shredded the armrests. I expect to be able to leave the set in my estate. One to three years is insane. It's like if Old Navy made furniture. Or, McDonalds.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 5:43 PM on February 18, 2017


Don't fret. You still have at least four months of life left.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:53 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Noooooooo, contrary to a comment above, I strongly urge that anyone looking for a sofa not buy Crate and Barrel. I own what must be CB's version of the Peggy, the Petrie. My mom bought it for my ex and me one Christmas in a (what turned out to be drug-fueled) fit of generosity. So many things went wrong with it so quickly, but it was a gift, and I ended up feeling horribly guilty about it and still own this fucking shit couch. Everyone who sees it loves it until they sit on it and a button pops off when they move or a leg collapses with no provacation. I have a friend who is a furniture designer and an extremely skilled carpenter on the side and he has fixed the legs with all of his skill more than once and I still live in fear of the sofa falling over whenever a guest comes over or when my ancient Great Dane jumps up on it.

The response from CB about these issues was the same as West Elm's: this sofa is not designed for heavy use. They reluctantly sent a new leg after a few months of back and forth and they charged us $50 to do so and implied that fat people should avoid using the sofa. They wouldn't let me write a mild but truthful review of the sofa on their website, but awhile back I searched for options for reupholstering it since it's basically in tatters from the cat and dog existing near it and discovered, like the Peggy, that the Petrie has a community of owners that hate it as much as I do.

It's long past time for a new sofa but I am paralyzed by this experience. And West Elm was on my list! I think instead we are buying a sofa from Interior Define in a more cat and dog hardy "mod velvet" fabric, the fabric of my hyper-femme trashy dreams.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:57 PM on February 18, 2017

I've eaten pizza older than that.

Sounds like one would need superpowers to accomplish that unscathed.

Or maybe that's how you get them in the first place.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:00 PM on February 18, 2017

Well I didn't see it mentioned yet but one other major issue with buying from these chain places is bedbugs. My cousin bought a fabric and wood bed headboard from either Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel. They used it for a night and were both itching - when they checked it out they saw it was crawling with bedbugs!

She called customer service who denied that the bugs came from them. I think she got her money back but had to fight them on it. Just one more horror data point to chew over.
posted by gregjunior at 8:16 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Let's see. Tulip poplar futon frame - $99 (or, for more $ on Amazon from the same people under their retail brand, but with reviews.) Bought this five years ago. I sold it to my boss for two of those years before I got it back, and it held up to daily office naps without needing more than re-tightening the screws when I re-acquired it.
6" full-size/double futon with a 10 year warranty (if its a usable warranty, I don't know... but I've owned and enjoyed their Haley mattresses for regular-bed use without having any problems) - $279
Umax 'linen' (okay, polyester, but it's machine washable) futon cover - $89
Futon grip strips - $25
Add in shipping, and I'm out $550 for a nappable, minimal, so-far durable sofa that's also an extra guest bed. I slept on it in bed form for a solid week when my back gave out this winter.
Everything made in the US (KD Frames, GA; Otis Bed, NY; Ling's Designs, TX) except maybe the grip strips.

Plus, owning a futon gives you that coveted 'upscale dorm room' look.
posted by sysinfo at 8:24 PM on February 18, 2017

Awhile back I looked into Room and Board couches and found out that a local company in NC makes some of them and could make me pretty much any couch I wanted from their catalog for 90% of list price. But then we bought a Craigslist behemoth that my brother still has, moved across country, and bought an IKEA Kivik, which is a durable beast and has flat armrests I can rest my drinks and books on.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:01 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

A good sofa should last 10+ years.

I have a small one that I paid about 3K (Cad) for that is over 16 years old and has moved to Germany & back with me. It's still in very good condition, despite the fact that my 4-year old believes it's primary function is as a launching pad.

Our sectional cost a lot more but it's 7 years old and will probably last at least another 8, and it gets slept on a fair bit.

They have no buttons of any kind; I choose a fabric from among the ones with the highest rub rating, not necessarily the one I liked the look/feel of; and I got the extra firm upholstery. The last one's the most important.
posted by lastobelus at 1:14 AM on February 19, 2017

Oh man I love my Joybird furniture. I have two chairs and a coffee table from them, as well as lamps and a rug, and I'm looking forward to eventually replacing my current sofa with one of theirs. And probably some dining chairs. And maybe a new chair for my bedroom. Fabulous company, amazing furniture. JOYBIRD.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:09 PM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Over a hundred comments in, and nobody's used the words "class privilege" to characterize that obnoxious article? I'm impressed.

I had to stifle the up-against-the-wall-motherfuckers instinct when I got to the phrase "For many young professionals in their 20s and 30s, the next stop after Craigslist and Ikea is West Elm," but I guess YMMV.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:04 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Halloween Jack: "What does it matter if people complain about it online if new customers with sufficient cash don't check out reviews? What's the company's incentive to change?"

For whatever it's worth, the entire Peggy line no longer exists on West Elm's website (as noted on the article's author's Twitter).
posted by mhum at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have contacted West Elm. The contact supplied by the follow-up article - "(Customers should contact the special support number (888) 922–7870 or email" - is for people who ordered online. They will probably want your order number and photographic proof of how Peggy has ruined your life. I purchased from a store and I have a slightly different number to call, so, if you made your mistake in person, you should start by contacting the store where you originally got fucked over. I am not bitter in the least. I am saving that for if I get my refund or not.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

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