Thursday, January 27, 2011

On ordering Custom Furniture (and settee round-up)

Any time I bring something new into the house, I hate it. Hate it! No matter how much I loved it in the store. This lasts for about 24 hours, and then I start to acclimate to my true feelings, which are usually positive, often love. Does this happen to other people? Am I just that bad with change? A room--a home--is a very dyamic thing, and adding, subtracting, or rearranging changes everything. The way it looks, yes, but also the way it feels, the stories that the objects tell when put in a different relationship to one another. You can bring in fabric swatches, paint large samples, tape off the dimensions on the floor, but you cannot totally predict how a new piece is going to sit in your room.

Hence the nerves around custom furniture. It can't go back. Not only can you not see EXACTLY what it will look like when it is made, you can't see how it will play in your room, and you are stuck with it. And it probably cost more than your last 6 decorating choices combined. (at least, if you shop craigslist and Home Goods, like me.)

So. Our new loveseat arrives tomorrow.

It was, naturally, a saga to choose it. And of course it takes long enough to build the thing that it's easy to forget about it and move on with life. But now it's almost here! Oh, the suspense!

Why was it a saga? Oh, so glad you asked. The short answer is that it was the last thing to come into the living room, which meant there were all sorts of parameters to work around. First, the size. Most loveseats are really not that small. They tend to be at least 60" long and 36" deep, which is really just a truncated sofa and felt like it would encroach too much on the space in the room. We needed more of a settee. Or a sofette. Both of which are slimmed down in all their proportions, and more like 32" deep. After lots of searching on individual websites, I found this blogpost at lolalina, which offers a pretty comprehensive round up. I also found the Sutton Sofette from West Elm and the "mini Sofa" from Pottery Barn.

But most of the companies that make these smaller scale upholstered pieces do not have showrooms in Minneapolis. And my husband felt the need to actually sit on the thing before we paid a lot of money for it. Picky, picky, picky. At West Elm the manager told me they would "never ever ever" get that piece on the floor, but that it was fully refundable so long as I got one of the stock fabrics. (By the way, they now do have it on the floor, and it is incredibly uncomfortable. Bullet dodged.) At Pottery Barn, the mini sofa is catalogue only. I had an incredulous conversation with the customer service rep on the phone, where I kept saying. "so, just so I'm clear, it is impossible for anyone interested in this sofa to sit on it. Under any circumstances. Ever." For a moment, I considered ordering wither of these sofas in stock fabric, sitting on them, and then, if I liked them, sending them back and reordering in the fabric I wanted. But not only would that be insane, it would also take 16-20 weeks by the time both orders were processed.

On top of these difficulties, we needed the piece to be pretty from the back. Our living room is really lacking for solid walls, and the loveseat will mark the divide between living room and back hallway, which means we will look at the back of it every time we come in or out of the back door. Almost every model fails in this regard.

So, the frame. I will leave out the dozens of rejects, lest you think I am completely obsessed. These were the real contenders.

The Suffolk, like its name, felt a bit formal with the rolled arms and turned legs, though the contrast seemed nice with all the mid-century lines we've already got going.
I loved the feminine lines of the Azure, and the curved back, but felt that 60" long was pushing it for our space. (By the way, the lavender linen they now stock it in is totally to die for. I would pair it with yellow silk curtains and a white morroccan rug.) Also, you can tell this is not a popular item since they haven't even bothered to photograph the product. There's a rendering of the loveseat on the website, and a photo of the sofa version here.

This little sweetie from Lee Industries, on the other hand, was a bit small at just 50". (And the photo is TEENY. Sorry about that.)

This was better, also from Lee, but still a bit sweet in the arms.

And here we have a winner. Lee again.

Love the curved back and streamlined form, but it still has a more masculine tailored arm and base.

Didn't I make that sound easy? Well, it wasn't. Months, I tell you. It took months to pull the trigger. Partly because--guess what? We couldn't sit on it. So we have taken the exact leap of faith that we said we weren't willing to make from the get go. Like when I moved to Brooklyn in order to have outdoor space but bought an apartment without outdoor space. Yes, just like that.

And then there was the fabric choice. The room has an orange and white rug in a moorish tile pattern, the Bantam sofa from DWR (clean lines, tight back) in espresso, black side tables, and medium wood tones on a danish modern armchair and mid-century wood slat coffee table, along with art in every conceivable color (it works, I swear). So it couldn't really be about color or pattern; it had to be about texture. I told my designer Sister-in-Law about a Maharam fabric I had wanted for our sofa (which cost an arm and a leg.) It was a tweedy brown with glamorous gold thread woven in. Well, lickety split, Maud pulled out a fabric swatch from Kravet that did my description justice. Love at first sight.

But even then, I second guessed. Because while I could picture it on the frame, I couldn't actually LOOK at it on the frame, and the same way that a paint square changes when applied to a whole wall, a little fabric sample looks different on a piece of furniture, and what if I hated it? Even after the first 24 hours? I hemmed and hawed and thought that choosing the same color as our sofa in a different texture would be sumptuous. Espresso velvet. Usually when I come to these conclusions the thing I want doesn't exist, and then it's all, well, I'm off on a wild goose chase again! See you in a month, honey! But this time it did exist, and from the manufacturer who makes the settee, no less. But I'll tell you, in the room it felt a bit dark, like it sucked the light right out of there, and I love the way the gold fleck in the Kravet fabric reflects the light.

And so, tomorrow, I will have to report on how beautiful this thing is in person. And, presumably, how much I hate it. Over the weekend, I will come to my senses, and I will--knock wood--share the love next week.

Oh, and fingers crossed that the damn thing is comfortable. Otherwise, I will never be allowed to sit on our sofa again, having been relegated to the pretty but unusable loveseat for the rest of my days. And this will be just.


  1. The suspense! We have a (rejected by the original commissioner) custom upholstered curved sofa in our den which we snapped up at the room and board outlet. Their loss. We love it. Good luck!

  2. You can get information about ordering custom made furniture


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