Please don’t tell my husband, but I’ve got a serious crush on Sven. Sleek yet sturdy and offering comfort after a long day, I know that if I train the kids to treat him with care, Sven will stick around for years.
The best part? The price.
At $1,549—with trendy green velvet upholstery—a Sven sofa from online furniture retailer Article hits my home reno budget’s sweet spot. It costs enough to ensure the arms don’t fall off after a year, but not so much I’ll worry about rogue popcorn kernels that will inevitably be trapped in crevices.
Compared to items such as food or clothes, Canadians shell out less for household furnishings—an average of $935 per year according to data from Statistics Canada—but that’s because we buy furniture less frequently, since we expect it to last. That goes double for a sofa. Compared to a hexagonal side table or even a pair of accent chairs, the couch is not only the centrepiece of a living room, it’s also the wear-and-tear workhorse. That’s why most design experts will tell you it’s one item to splurge on.
Even so, you don’t necessarily have to buy a top-of-the-line designer option to get a sofa that’s best for your space. There’s a whole range of price points to explore, depending on your budget and needs, maintains Melissa Grieve, an interior designer in Guelph, Ont., who works with local and international clients.
“You can spend $4,000 if you want a high-quality sofa, but in reality there are lots of companies where I think you can get a $2,000 sectional and it looks good in five years’ time,” she says.
Here are a few things to look out for to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your seating-area buck.
Ask how it’s made
A big price tag doesn’t always guarantee a better quality couch, cautions Grieve. So don’t be afraid to check under the hood. Does it use dowel rods and dovetailing joints? Chances are you’re looking at a quality piece of furniture. Medium-range sofas tend to use a stapled frame, which is just like it sounds— the frame is held together with industrial-grade staples. Lower quality sofa frames are held together with glue. They tend to last only a few years.
Buy for your lifestyle
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Got kids? There will be spills. Grieve recommends purchasing a sofa with cushions that are upholstered on both sides. “If you get a stain, you can flip the cushion over and it still looks good,” she explains. Or opt for a sofa that will take a slipcover if you want to extend its life. IKEA’s cheap-and-cheerful Ektorp model has removable covers that can be swapped out when you get bored with the colour.
A zany-coloured couch might seem like a good idea the moment you spot it, but a neutral hue will have better staying power. So instead of springing for that forest green velvet beauty (sob!), use that colour in other ways. That’s what decorative pillows and accent chairs are for.
Make a deal
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There are all kinds of ways to save money on even a high-end couch. Ask salespeople if there’s a blowout sale coming, or agree to take home a floor model. “Just ask for a deal,” says Grieve. “You never know what they’ll be willing to do for you.”
Originally published March 2018; Updated March 2019.