Updated: Jan 24
The other day a good friend of mine called, asking about an alarming issue with her sectional…Why is it sagging so much in the corner? It’s become super uncomfortable and they’ve only had it for a few years, but the rest of the sectional seems fine... And what can she do about it? They’ve invested enough money in it to expect it to last more than a few short years!
So I did a little sleuthing, and learned a few facts that were 1) enraging and 2) made we want to share what I learned with you, so that you could avoid the same fate.
Did you know there are many different ways to construct the “guts” of a sofa? You can Google all the different techniques, with 8-way hand-tied considered the gold standard of quality made furniture.
But today I want to focus on a couple construction techniques that most people encounter in retail stores - even stores that are considered high-end retail establishments.
The first alarming construction method is done using webbing support. Remember Grandma’s old patio furniture, where the seat was woven with straps of webbing? That’s how seating support is built on many inexpensive sofas. And remember how Grandma's patio chairs would sag as the webbing would stretch out? That’s right, that’s what happens with these sofas.
This is the cheapest of support systems - it’s a waste of your money to purchase furniture built using this technique. While it seems that you are snagging a great deal, in reality you are snagging future junk. Designers even have a nickname for this stuff, "Three Year Furniture". Makes that bargain seem like a big $$ waste when you think about that potential life-span, doesn’t it? Three years is a very short time for such a large purchase, even an inexpensive one!
Or, you are stuck living with it for longer than that, never feeling comfortable or happy.
The construction method of the sectional that my friend has is something different. It uses a drop-in suspension system. It’s a support system that’s dropped into the frame and attached at the edges.
Think about how trampolines are suspended with connecting springs along the edges, that’s similar to how this support system works. Sounds fine, right? Well, all’s not well and good, because these systems have a history of becoming detached from the frame, are not repairable, and then YOU are stuck with more junk for the dump. $pendy junk.
I am so frustrated, because from the outside these items look so stylish and nice. And you can’t easily see inside the frame to understand what you are buying. Plus, you trust the store it came from to sell you a good quality item, right?
Recently, I took myself on a little field trip to America’s largest furniture-brand showroom. This store is chock-a-block full of fancy looking furniture, and almost all of it is crummy quality. The dining chairs are stiff and uncomfortable, the sofas are cheaply built - but the look is on-trend. And people buy the promise of the look. That’s also why RH furniture is so popular, it's look is very on-trend. But again, it doesn’t last long enough compared to what you are spending. In fact, you could spend a similar amount for double the quality!
What to Do?
You have choices, and it pays to be a smart consumer: I encourage you to investigate before purchasing.
When you work with a furniture store, it’s up to you to do the research. Many retailers offer free design service, which can be great, but remember, they only work with the product available through their specific company… And many of these national chains aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Understand, I am not saying that all furniture that comes from a retailer is bad. There is definitely good product available to you when you know where to look. But here’s what I want you to do; arm yourself with knowledge before becoming swept away by that sparkling showroom, so that from now on you buy smart.
When you work with an independent designer like me, we explore your options and find the best quality sofa for your budget - a designer’s goal is to find a great product that will last for a long time and look good, too. If you are the kind of person that gets overwhelmed with all the choices out there, is too busy to spend the time doing the research, or you don’t even know where to start, working with an interior designer can save you a lot of stress and money over the long term. And they are on your team, not the retailer's.
Online furniture stores are a hot “disrupter” to the marketplace these days - currently they represent a very tiny fraction of furniture sales overall, and seem to be primarily price and style driven, with longevity and quality taking second place to fashion. Think of it like the fast fashion from H&M or Zara. You aren’t buying it to last very long.
What About My Friend’s Sagging Sectional?
I think she’s kinda screwed. She can call the national 800# for support. At best, they will send out a new drop-in spring system that she can then try and find someone to pull apart her sectional and replace… At her disruption and expense. Or, they will tell her it’s been too long, sorry, bye.
That’s why I am enraged. I honestly feel that consumers are duped. Until I really started researching furniture construction myself - it began when I toured some American-made, high quality furniture factories in North Carolina, digging deeper into the different elements that go into building furniture, I was just as clueless. No, we did not spend a lot of time on this in design school. And I think about the money I’ve spent over the years on what turned out to become landfill. I am not going to do that anymore, and I don’t want you to do it, either.
If you are dealing with sagging sofas, tired flooring or even a kitchen that needs a reboot, let’s connect and we can discuss what’s going on. Sometimes we can solve things very quickly over the phone, or we’ll set an appointment to meet at your home. During our time together, you will have access to my designer’s brain for anything you need to work on. It’s a great opportunity to jump start your projects.
I'm easy to reach at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are also very welcome to call or text me 206-794-0314. Let's get you the good stuff.