In January, I shared the story of a client’s Loaf sofa on my socials. The ‘luxury feather’ cushions were so uncomfortable that her guests preferred to sit on the floor at Christmas.
The response was huge, and just about every brand was shamed in my DMs over the following 24 hours by disappointed followers sharing their bad sofa experiences. As a result, the #NoMoreShitSofas hashtag was born to highlight the realities of buying mass-produced, new sofas.
And the stories are still coming in.
It’s no secret: I’m not a fan of off-the-shelf furniture. I knew things were bad, but they seem to be getting worse. Since COVID, quality appears even less of a priority for big retailers than it was. They are cutting corners and very obviously. I see very few mass-produced sofas that are made well.
Emma recently got in touch to share her regret about buying a new sofa from a well-known retailer. Her story is one of many and one I thought worth sharing.
Emma’s sofa story – Why I won’t buy a new sofa again
My partner and I bought our first house together during COVID and spent two years renovating it. We were so excited to finally start shopping and make it our home. Our priority was a new sofa as we’d borrowed one from a friend.Our budget was open; we wanted something we both really liked and that we could keep for at least the next 10 years – so a new sofa was very much an investment for us.
We fell in love with two velvet French Connection sofas. They were perfect and ticked all the boxes. The style was spot on, we loved the colour and the fabric, and they were firm yet comfy to sit on.
We placed our order feeling really confident not just that we’d found our dream sofas but that we’d ordered from a retailer whose range carried a BSI Kitemark, they gave a 15-year guarantee, and our sofas were handmade in the UK.
We thought we’d done everything right.
The new sofas: damaged on arrival
After a 12-week wait, our sofas were delivered.
Sadly, one was visibly broken, and the other had an electric fault (recliner mechanism). In addition, there were significant quality issues with the foam-filled seat cushions and the fabric (irreversible compression and abrasion marks). We were so disappointed.
The sofas looked and felt like returns, and we even questioned if we’d been sent the right furniture. Sadly, we had.
Poor aftercare from the sofa retailer
While mistakes do happen, nothing can excuse poor aftercare. We were sold high-quality, ‘luxury’ upholstered furniture, and that is what we expected to receive. What we got were two sofas put together with little care or a proper quality check. The response from the retailer was akin to a shoulder shrug – they were not surprised by the condition, they didn’t look into how it came to be, and they didn’t apologise.
Worse still, our assigned service manager had questionable knowledge of upholstered furniture.
“He told us that because our sofas were velvet, we should expect ‘some’ damage.”
After five weeks of calls and emails with the retailer, our time had run out. The service manager gave us an ultimatum: order replacements and keep the broken furniture until it arrives or cancel, and they will collect the sofas.
After a fruitless search to find something else, we begrudgingly agreed to order replacements so we wouldn’t be left without furniture at Christmas.
Fault with the replacement sofa
We ordered the replacement sofas in December, which arrived in March – quite a wait again.
I’m pleased to say the quality is so much better compared to the first order. However, the sofas aren’t without fault.
This meant another service visit to request two new seat cushions to replace one with an abrasion mark and another with missing stitching. The saga continues…
Buying a new sofa: Expectation vs reality
The experience of buying new sofas was eye-opening!
I thought I’d save time – I didn’t; the complaint process was very time-consuming and included store visits, emails, calls and a referral to a complaint intermediary.
I thought it would be better value – It wasn’t; the filling and construction are cheap, and the fabric (while nice) does not reflect the high-end price tag.
I thought it would be less hassle – No, it caused a lot of inconvenience as we had only half the seating we needed for 3 months. It also took a toll physically (from using an unsupportive, sagging sofa) and mentally because it caused anxiety and worry at a time when the cost of living crisis was already weighing heavy on my mind.
I thought my experience was a one-off – unfortunately, not. I connected with a consumer group made of people fighting the same retailer and discovered they’d experienced similar problems and got a similar response.
Not surprisingly, I won’t be buying from that retailer again!
But it’s also changed how I think about and shop for all furniture, not just upholstered.
Going forward, I will explore the pre-loved options first, and mass-produced furniture will only be a last resort.
What you should know before buying a new sofa
Emma dismissed getting a second-hand sofa because she was unsure how to find a local upholsterer she could trust. And she isn’t alone.
Off the back of the Loaf-sofa post, I ran a poll. Not knowing where to source a trusted upholsterer was among the top 3 reasons stopping you from exploring re-upholstery.
Yet, like Emma, nearly 80% of people expected a sofa to last 10 years. Something you are far more likely to achieve by buying preloved and re-upholstering than buying new from a high street retailer (where you’ll be lucky if it lasts half that).
Advice if you are buying a new sofa
1. Explore small and independent brands: There are small British makers out there doing great work, like Living Room. These companies are genuinely passionate about the craft. Living Room takes pride in creating each item with the utmost care. They source high-quality materials, and best of all: they are professional upholsters and craftspeople. So don’t be seduced by the large marketing budgets of mass-market retailers. Check out family-run and independent businesses.
2. Look into your retailer: It’s easy to check an upholsterer’s reputation, and you wouldn’t choose one with a history or disappointed clients. The same goes for retailers. It may take a little longer, but find out what people are saying about them. Check Google Reviews, Trust Pilot and Facebook groups.
3. Understand what you are buying: I talk about this all the time because it is so important. Check the construction of your sofa (what is the frame made of), the seat cushion fillings (foam or feather), fabric composition and rub count. Don’t assume that because it carries a luxury price tag, it is made of high-quality materials. I talk you through what to look for in more detail in this blog.
4. Don’t be afraid to go higher up: An upholsterer can answer your questions about fabric and guide you in choosing the right one. Retail staff, on the other hand, have very limited knowledge. If you can’t get an answer to your question (or if you’re not sure about the one they give), refer it up. Take it as a red flag if the retailer is reluctant to provide information about fabric, fillings or construction.
5. Ask about the guarantee and aftercare: Unlike when you get an item re-upholstered, there is no single person responsible for your new sofa. This makes attributing responsibility when something goes wrong quite difficult. The retailer and the manufacturer can blame each other, which can leave you in limbo. Check what you can expect before you buy.