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We Saw, We Sat, We Reviewed: The Most Comfortable Sofas
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We Saw, We Sat, We Reviewed: The Most Comfortable Sofas
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We Saw, We Sat, We Reviewed: The Most Comfortable Sofas
There’s something interesting happening in the furniture world: a plentiful crop of online-only, direct-to-consumer retailers are popping up everywhere, offering incredibly good looking (and often much more competitively priced) merchandise with the caveat that you need to purchase sight unseen. With something as large of a commitment as a sofa, it might be easy to hesitate on taking the plunge, regardless of the upsides (quick shipping, generous return policies, modern styling, budget pricing). One of these companies (that you asked for enthusiastically in the comments of our introductory Sofa Squad post earlier this year) is Article.
Formerly Bryght, Article is an online-only, direct-to-consumer company that offers modern furniture for the living room, bedroom, dining room and beyond. They don’t have any showrooms, traditional sales associates or other middle men, so they can pass on the savings to the consumer. You’ll get a generous 30-day return policy, $49 flat rate shipping to your door and the ability to order swatches as needed.

Article’s been in the direct-to-consumer furniture business since 2013 with the goal of making high-quality pieces accessible to customers at affordable price points. In fact, it’d be easy to outfit your entire home in the brand’s stylishly-designed furniture and home decor options—from sofas to lounge chairs, full dining sets, bedroom furnishings, and more. The only catch? Unlike traditional retailers, the Canadian brand’s offerings are only available to shop online, meaning no showrooms or storefronts to assess options in-person before you buy.

The Sven is the brand’s most popular leather sofa—and it’s no surprise why. The classic silhouette is available in a wide range of colors and materials like fabric, leather, or velvet upholstery with or without a chaise sectional. Since I’ve always loved the look of a really worn-in leather couch (my Pinterest doesn’t lie!), I opted for the right side Sven sectional upholstered in navy blue leather.

What is the lead time for customization, manufacturing, and delivery?

Coordinating furniture delivery can be a hassle but Article takes as much of the guesswork out of the process as possible by using your zip code to estimate delivery date ranges for all its inventory. As a general rule of thumb, most in-stock orders are available to be shipped to your home in two weeks or less.

Before my Article fabric sofa arrived, I was contacted by the team via email to schedule a delivery date and time window. On the actual delivery day, the Article team called 30 minutes in advance of their arrival time to alert me they were on their way. In the interests of staying COVID-safe, I had the leather sofa delivered to my doorstep using contactless delivery, which Article offers for a flat rate of $49 on orders below $999 and comes free with orders over $999. If you live alone or you’re worried about carrying heavy weights, for $99, the brand offers in-room delivery to have your boxes brought to whatever room you’d like. In-room delivery and assembly is also available for $169, in which case the delivery team will bring the Article furniture into your home and assemble it on the spot.

What was the assembly process like? How long did it take and how many people?

The sectional sofa came disassembled in one large box (measuring 35 inches high, 50 inches wide, and 80 inches long). Inside, everything was neatly packed like a jigsaw puzzle—including a right arm-facing sectional chaise, a left arm-facing loveseat, two tufted leather seat cushions, three back cushions, and two round bolsters to accessorize each arm rest. I took each item into my home piece by piece (with help from a strong friend for the two large frame pieces), which was definitely the hardest part of the process because assembly was as simple as screwing on the solid wood legs (stored in handy zipper pockets underneath each frame piece), snapping the chaise and loveseat together, and putting the cushions in place.

Although the Article sofa comes with instructions (which can also easily be found on the website) everything was straight forward enough that I didn’t even glance at them during the whole process (which took under 30 minutes). If, like me, this is your first time ordering a piece of furniture online, don’t fret. Article offers a 30-day return policy from the date of your delivery, with a $49 return shipping fee ($19 for some smaller items) and a one-year warranty for item defects.

After installation
What are the dimensions? How does it fit in your space? Would it be better suited for a different type of home?

The Sven sofa is 34 inches tall and 100 inches wide while the chaise itself is 67 inches long and the loveseat metal sofa cushion is 37 inches deep. I have four members in my family of varying heights (from 5'1 to 6'1), so it’s important to have ample space to accommodate everyone. I’d say the Sven sectional is an excellent choice for a family or household of three that can fit maybe four adults at max thanks to the added section. Article also provides exact measurements for all its products and recommends measuring your space beforehand to ensure a proper fit. In my opinion, a sectional is always a good choice for an open floor plan (which is the case with my home) and even in a studio if you’re trying to create the illusion of separate regions for a living room, dining area, etc.

Sit test: Is it comfortable? Does it feel well made? Does the couch have a tendency to sag?

Though I chose the couch more for the look of it than the actual comfort, I’m pleasantly surprised with how lovely it is to sit in. It’s not particularly deep seated, and since leather—especially new leather—is a bit stiff, you definitely won’t get a sunken or sagging effect for a while. Unlike some leather couches, the tufted seats on the Sven ensure that you won’t slip around or have to adjust yourself to get comfy, and thanks to a generous fill of accommodating high density foam and polyester, the back cushions are firmly plush and have a tendency to retain their shape.

Lay test:  Is it comfortable? Does it feel well made? Does the couch have a tendency to sag?

I’m on the petite side (about 5'1), and find I have more than enough room to sprawl out on both the loveseat or chaise section of the sofa (my dad who’s 6'1 also finds it comfy). However, because everything from the material to the fill is on the firmer side, I don’t see myself taking any luxurious naps or using it as a makeshift bed anytime soon. That said, it’s still definitely an ideal children sofa for lounging about while reading or watching TV.

Is the sectional suitable for particular decor styles and, if so, which?

From the get-go, I was drawn to this couch for the look of it. I’ve always loved the patina of a distressed, lived-in leather couch, and I can tell this one will age beautifully. The leather is good quality while the navy blue is a bit more interesting than black but still versatile enough to match with other neutral colors. Its classic design mimics the silhouette of midcentury-modern furniture so it can blend in with both modern decor styles but also any vintage or more eclectic aesthetics as well.

This sofa is definitely one of those furniture pieces that will just get better with age. The leather feels soft but still extremely durable so I don’t feel like I have to be too delicate, and it’ll still last a long time. As odd as it might sound, I’m even fairly excited for it to get substantially worn down to achieve that super lived-in look and feel I mentioned before.

There are no pets or young children in my house, but I think the material would fare pretty well because of how durable the leather feels (though you might find it bothersome to clean pet hair and dust out of the tufted regions of the seat cushions). It definitely seems like a sofa that can take some light scratching and with no sharp edges, ideal to have if you do have young kids or finicky pets.

What are the care and cleaning instructions? Do you think stains could be easily removed?

In terms of keeping everything clean, Article suggests wiping stains with a soft cloth and fluffing cushions regularly to help maintain shape, though you should turn to professional cleaners for major messes. I would also definitely invest in some leather conditioner if you want to spruce it up somewhere down the line.

Do the photos do this product justice? Was there anything you were surprised to see IRL?

I was relieved that the sofa looks just as good in person as it does on Article’s site (no one likes a catfish!). It also helps that Article posts review images from happy customers on its site so you can see how others style the piece and how it might fit in your own home. Though it looks fairly substantial on the website, I would consider the sofa to be very much the Goldilocks of couches—not too big, not too small, and an overall crowd-pleaser.

Nobody buys a house without researching the neighborhood and inspecting the foundation, plumbing, and electrical. Yet many people drop serious money on a sofa without understanding what goes into a well-made piece of upholstered furniture. It’s a leap of faith that often leads to buyer’s remorse and one too many “for sale – hardly used” Craigslist postings.

The quality of the frame, suspension, cushioning, and upholstery are what separate a sofa that will last 10 to 20 years from one that will start to wobble or look dingy after only a few. To understand what distinguishes quality components from inferior ones I toured BSC Furniture sofa factory with owner Joshua Siegel, the manufacturer that at the time was making BenchMade Modern’s line of upholstered seating (the two companies have since parted ways), followed by a visit to Modernica’s facilities in Los Angeles guided by Jay Novak, co-owner and president of the modernist furniture manufacturer. In 2017, Wirecutter senior editor Christine Cyr Clisset toured the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams factory, based in Taylorsville, North Carolina.

These tours, in addition to more than 80 hours we’ve spent researching for our sofa buying guide and coverage of the best online sofas, helped us understand the difference between an average-priced sofa (say, under $1,000) and a more splurge-worthy equivalent.

Everything begins with the frame. It’s an assertion we heard several times over when we asked experts and retailers where to begin when searching for a sofa designed to be used daily and to hopefully last for years. The type of wood used for the frame and how each piece is joined not only determines a sofa’s durability, but will also be reflected in its cost.

Slower-growing, denser hardwoods like alder, poplar, maple, teak, and walnut are more expensive, but are generally considered more suitable for durable furniture, and will typically outlast faster-growing and economical softwoods like pine and Douglas fir, doing a better job of holding staples, nails, glue, and joinery in place. (“Hard” and “soft” have nothing to do with the hardness of the wood, simply distinguishing coniferous evergreens (soft)from deciduous (hard) trees [PDF].)

Jay Novak, co-owner and president of Modernica, implores buyers to avoid any furniture constructed with MDF (medium-density fiberboard). “You’re not buying something designed to last, but renting disposable furniture that will fall apart in a year or two.” If a sofa wiggles in the showroom, it will undoubtedly exhibit the same structural issues over time in your home, and MDF is prone to give up the ghost quicker because the glued wood fibers don’t hold screws or staples like a dense wood does. Novak recommends frames built with engineered, furniture-grade plywood (“grade A”) as a stronger and more beautiful option to MDF.

Manufacturers commonly market their sofas with terms like “kiln-dried hardwood” and “FSC Certified”—a designation for wood sourced from responsibly managed forests. But Joshua Siegel of BSC Furniture told us that practically all commercial wood furniture made domestically uses kiln-dried lumber: “Kiln-drying is standard procedure done to remove all moisture to avoid the wood from warping … I can’t name a single company that doesn’t use kiln-dried wood,” said Siegel. “Same goes for FSC Certified wood and low VOC. They’re just buzzwords. Above a certain price range we’re all making FSC Certified sourced, low VOC, kiln-dried sofas.”

The strongest and most expensive frames are constructed using the labor-intensive and traditional technique of mortise-and-tenon joinery, connecting pieces of wood with precisely routed tabs (tenons) that fit into holes (mortises). Only the best and more expensive sofas (like those from Modernica) are made this way and you’ll hardly ever find a mortise-and-tenon-constructed sofa for under $2,000.
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