Thinking about sofas...

Isn't it crazy how so many of us still lament the loss of Domino? That was good stuff.

Remember Rita Konig? She had a really great column in Domino and seemed so cool and chic. Did you know she writes for the Wall Street Journal? And she used to write for the New York Times. While she was there she did this little post about reupholstering her antique sofa. Here's the before shot (btw can you even handle how pretty the frame of this sofa is!?):



And the after:


She picked a really cool pattern from Quadrille. I'm wondering how much she still loves this sofa after a few years of seeing the pattern day in, day out? There are probably only a handful of fabric patterns out there that I would be okay with that situation.

Anyway, when she had her sofa recovered, she had the cushions filled with down. Not foam wrapped in down, like so many of us have, but full on down-filled cushions. I've never used that for clients, but I once had an old chair that had a down-filled cushion. It was so comfortable, but I found that I was fluffing the cushion all the time!

I'd love the hear any input you readers might have. I'm going sofa shopping with a client this week so this is a little bit of market research. Anyone with down-filled cushions want to put their two cents in? Do they get smashed all the time? Does that drive you nuts?? It seems like it might just be the most comfortable thing in the world though...

PS Today on Babble...pretty pillows out of cloth napkins

57 comments:

KO said...

In February 2009, a Swedish TV documentary studied the down industry for the popular television program "Kalla Fakta" (meaning "Cold Facts" in Swedish). This documentary estimated that between 50-80% of the world's down market comes from live birds.

IKEA, the Swedish furniture company, independently verified that the 50-80% was correct, after which they canceled an order from China for down-filled furniture.

The documentary also filmed undercover at a Hungarian goose farm. On their tape you can see geese lying on their backs screaming and struggling to free themselves, while their down is being ripped from their bodies. Afterwards you can see several birds lying on the floor with large flesh wounds. These wounds are then sown back together with needle and thread by the same workers, without any anesthetic.

More information about feather and down production can be found here:
http://www.veganpeace.com/animal_cruelty/downandfeathers.htm

Anonymous said...

I have a sofa with down filled cushions that I bought at a gallery closing sale. I absolutely loved it about the first month I had it but you cannot stand to sit or lay on all that cushiness for more than about an hour. I eventually moved it downstairs to our family room and bought a sensible sofa which has served us well for the last seven years. Kathy in Des Moines

Redlilocks {Swoon Worthy} said...

I've got foam wrapped with down on my own sofa and I think it's the perfect combo - you get the firmness from the foam along with the softness of the down. I used to have a sofa in the past that had fully down pillows at the back and I was FOREVER fluffing them. As soon as someone sat on the sofa, it would look squashed and mangled... so I would say, if you expect to use it all the time, the foam wrapped seems to make more sense...

That being said, wow that sofa is just so ridiculously cool. Beautiful lines!

Renee said...

I have a down sofa and absolutely love it. I do have to fluff it once in a while, but it's not a big deal. My only complaint, is getting poked with feathers. It hurts.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I've had a down sofa, and it was nothing but high maintenance to get it looking showroom perfect each day, especially if the cushions are quite large, it feels like a weight lifting exercise, I will always go for foam. Sarah

Courtney said...

I agree with the first commenter and wouldn't own one because I am an animal right activist. I think that alone would deter me.

--Courtney

Louisa said...

I have a George Smith sofa with down-filled cushions. I think it's only comfy immediately after the cushions have been fluffed - after that, the cushions just get flat and aren't comfortable, and then it's harder to get up from the sofa! It is annoying to constantly plump up the heavy cushions so that the sofa is comfy and looks like it should. I love my sofa but it drives me nuts.

sarah said...

i have a pb down filled chair, but the cushions are stabilized on the edges, so that helps them to stay a bit firmer. absolute comfort and i love it.

Anonymous said...

I have this sofa and from what I can tell the cushions are all down (although I could be wrong). It never needs fluffing and is incredibly comfortable.

http://www.arudin.com/index.html?page=products&cat=0&item=2480.0&pagescroll=4

Anonymous said...

I had a down sofa for about two years and have to tell you that we hated it. It was super comfortable but looked like absolute death. The cushions seriously sagged, which made the fabric (linen-ish which I'm sure didn't help) wrinkle and hang awkwardly. We had to fluff and readjust the cushions constantly. Oh and there were feathers Everywhere. I found them in my underwear no joke. We recently switched to a firmer foam based couch from Room and Board and couldn't be happier. Just my two cents!

boo said...

My sofa (from ABC Carpet) is filled with down and DON'T do it!! I at first loved how comfy it was but it's so high maintenance I want to change the cushion to a single long cushion. - I even bought new inserts for the pillows because I couldn't stand it so squishy & feathers always coming out! Just my 2 cents! - BOO

Proper Hunt said...

Hi Jenny! I just got a vintage settee reupholstered and kept the original down-filled seat cushion and I am constantly having to fluff it up so that it doesn't look sloppy. It does drive me nuts to see it looking unkempt, but it really is quite comfortable and looks nice after its been fluffed. BUT, if I could do it all over again, I definitely would've considered getting the foam/down combo. Good luck with your search!

SuzyMcQ said...

I have a linen-covered, down-filled cushions sofa from Williams Sonoma Home. The seat cushions I find are little maintenance at all, it's the back pillow cushions that always have to be moved and plumped. That being said, this is the most comfortable couch to sit and sleep on. But, it's in a rec room and is only used for TV watching. For a sofa that is in use a lot, I would suggest a foam cushion that is down-wrapped. However, foam will deteriorate over time, down will not. So my sofa is one that I will get reupholstered, I probably would only ever slipcover a foam or foam wrapped couch. A down-filled piece I consider to be an investment. Mitchell-Gold does a great job at a reasonable price.

Julie Taylor and Danni Greenwalt said...

Love, love that sofa. The style is beautiful. Ya know -I am not a down fan either for a sofa. It is hard to maintain.

Elizabeth Passarella said...

I have some chairs I inherited from my grandmother that have down cushions. Very comfortable, but they lose their oomph and beauty the minute you sit down. I pick them up/shake them/fluff them any time I want the chairs to look polished and pretty. I'd imagine that would be exhausting with big couch cushions.

My Interior Life said...

We bought a Lee Industries sofa about 4 years ago from a local store as a showroom sample. They said it was down-wrapped foam and the tags say as much too. I'm assuming they aren't totally down as they don't need constant fluffing but we still have to take them off and re-arrange them a lot. There is a bench cushion which almost ends up on the floor after being sat upon by my husband. The worst part of the sofa though is the feathers constantly poking through the (rather thick) upholstery fabric. The seats are nice and cushion-y, but you're constantly being poked by little quills. Not the best experience. If it weren't such a good-looking and (a little expensive) sofa, we would have gotten rid of it long ago. I'll be showing a photo of it later today on a post I'm doing.

Sarah said...

Love down-wrapped, but completely down-filled is, as you mentioned, is high-maintenace. All the sofas/chairs in parents' home have down-filled cushions, and all of them have to be fluffed up constantly or they end up looking all squished. Drives my mom nuts. Comfy, but not practical unless your client doesn't mind the "lived-in" look (or the maintenance.)

Julia's Bookbag said...

I got a hand me down sofa from my mom and it is down wrapped foam -- I like it but I am a compulsive fluffer and every once in awhile the feathers poke through, which I don't love. I had no idea about the state of down as described by the first comment -- I think down and I are going to part ways in terms of any future purchases....~Melissa

EKM said...

the down filled have those feather butts that come out and stick you. i hate it. but i love the way down feels just not when the feathers pop out...

Anonymous said...

Down cushions are yummy, but they are such a pain. I had a custom sectional done last year with foam wrapped down. I didn't want the sofa looking old before it's time. Additionally, down is pricey and I don't think you get paid back for money your investment.

bethany said...

Yes, sown is comfy. If your client has kids, they will squish the life out of those cushions every day of their lives! I have been reshaping and fluffing those things for far too long!

Naomi said...

I don't have any input about down, but this sofa looks fabulous!

Kristi said...

We once had a chair with an all-down seat and it was miserable. It left a giant indentation whenever anyone sat on it and the down wiggled around and ended up in unattractive clumps.

I would never do all down again.

Anonymous said...

I have a down filled sofa now, but wouldn't get another. I am constantly fluffing, which doesn't bother me that much. What I do mind is that I find it gets uncomfortable after an hour or two - I would prefer foam wrapped in down for more support.

Anonymous said...

I have had a down sofa for 9 years now. I rotate the bench cushion every few months, and once in a while the quills do poke out, however, I would absolutely purchase down again because it is: a) super comfy, b)with a little fluff it looks brand new - with foam couches once the cushions are flat and out of whack you need new cushions, or a new sofa entirely.

Ann said...

I had a sofa, chairs and ottoman that I loved, and replaced the cushions with down when I reupholstered. It was a horrible mistake, and I ended up giving them away. The cushions not only needed plumping every time someone sat down, but they had a way of crawling off of the furniture, so I had to lift up the back cushions,and replace the seat at least twice a day. I would never get all down again.

Gloria L said...

I totally remember this sofa from an article in Domino (sniff sniff)! God, I miss that magazine.

Collins @ Life. Mostly Sweet. said...

i don't have an opinion on the down but that sofa is awesome!

chanel said...

Three things...1) the seat needs either two things...a very dense stuffing of down OR a thin foam core with plenty of down around it so that it doesn't loose shape 2) if the back cushions don't have the right density they will flop over. 3) depending on what fabric is being used the feathers will poke out. If the fabric is tight woven enough, it will be fine but if it's too thing than the feathers will be constantly stabbing you. All that said, if it is done right, there is nothing more comfortable than a down stuffed couch. :)

http://bywayofney.blogspot.com/

smilesfromstilacoom said...

I'm so beyond in love with this sofa the quadrille pattern also reminds me of dwell studio pyramids from the distance. I love how everything seems to be solid and then the sofa is stunning and filled with pattern. It seems to be a small room, and works, works well!

www.runninginheelswithtwins.blogspot.com

Jordan G. said...

My parents have a down filled sofa, and it needs tons of fluffing. Also, a lot of people are allergic to down so I would worry about that.

Whits said...

I have one huge cushion of down on my vintage loveseat. It is a really great look but we are constantly fluffing! I would go the other way for an everyday couch.

Anonymous said...

I have been obsessed with this sofa! Have you seen a this shot on Caitlin's blog?
http://caitlinwilsondesign.blogspot.com/
Can you tell us more about the fabric? or the sofa — similar style to look for?
Thanks!

my little apartment said...

I have a vintage sofa with two super-long down-filled cushions as the back. I am CONSTANTLY re-fluffing them. It drives me craaaazy! I love the shape of the pillows and they are super comfortable, but if you have dogs or kiddos, it might make you koo-koo.

Anonymous said...

HATED my 100% down filled sofa. HATED! No matter how much I fluffed, it always looked terrible. And I found myself sitting anywhere but there just to avoid having it look bad and require more fluffing. I have even abandoned down wrapped seats. It's poly and springs for me from here on out.

Jessica said...

I have an antique sofa that has down cushions. I'm having it reupholstered this week - and I'm replacing the cushions with foam.
They get super flat every time I sit down, so I'm constantly fluffing. But the most annoying part is the feathers themselves - they stick out and poke me, and I'm constantly vacuuming up stray feathers on the floor. It drives me NUTS.

The cushions are old, so perhaps these issues are due to age. All I know is I can't wait to get rid of them!

Rachael said...

Goodness, that first comment is very sobering. I have chosen to use down in my home without really researching how this down is "manufactured." As ignorant as this is, I often thought that people went with synthetics for allergy reasons. Anyway, I will be asking a lot more questions in the future and hopefully becoming more mindful - geez. I try to be in other areas of my life ... This all said - I have one down filled seat in my living room and it is very high maintenance. As others noted, the comfort of sinking into the down is tempered by the rate of feathers protruding and poking. I then must pluck the feathers - no horrible documentary reference intended - so over time my cushion's stuffing is becoming less substantial.

Ani Toncheva said...

We got our couch off of craigslist a couple of years ago. It had down cushions that drove me absolutely crazy. They were getting smushed all the time and we were all punching them pack into shape all day long - great for aggression, I guess, but quite annoying and not very nice looking. As soon as I put away some cash, I ordered myself new filler pillows and I am so much happier! They are not as fluffy, but they sure look nicer and they are still pretty comfortable.

Hillary said...

I always order down wrapped cushions for clients and for myself (I have 4 kids)! There is also a great dacron wrap around the foam and there are never any hard edges. I have a huge pet peeve with flat, square cornered cushions. I love what upholsterers call a "crown" - even if the down is minimal, extra dacron can make it look like down is within. And the pokey/protruding feathers can be stopped with a blackout lining casing. Love your blog Jenny:)-- Hillary

Ramona-quilter said...

I have a sectional with dense foam surrounded by batting with down feathers on the outside of that. The seat cushions lose their shape when used and frequently need reshaping. The cushion backs seem to fare better. Every few days I come across a piece of feather on the carpet or on my clothes. Eww. I am not a fan of "down". If it was not such a pain I would pull the feathers out of the batting. I am replacing the sectional with a new sofa. At the store, the first thing I did was unzip and look inside. I think that foam and batting is soft enough for me.

la. said...

We have down cushions, from JCP ironically, and we have to fluff alot! But it is very comfortable! Great for naps!

SHERRY HART said...

If you are in any way a type A person it will drive you crazy, always looking messy!

Laura said...

I think it is important for designers and consumers to be conscious of the larger implications of their work - I think it is good business and good citizenry.

Just as important as talking about the aesthetic and maintenance issues of these products are the ethical issues here - it is important for people to not think of leather, suede, fur, shearling, and down as fabric or mere stuffing options but as animal products that need to be harvested with an expense.

Thanks to KO for sharing the info on down.

Quatorze said...

All-down furniture is for another time and place, when people had rafts of servants who would unobtrusively move into a room and tidy it up when the family and guests left it. I wager that today, no one would find staff willing or able to accomplish the feats of Edwardian manor houses and their armies of staff, nor would we want to live the regimented lives that would require us to leave one room at a certain time of day so these feats of household legerdemain could be accomplished.

All down is actually not comfortable for long periods of time; it mashes down and even allows the sitter to feel structural members of the sofa if not filled properly or extensively enough. It does not provide support either, which can be a real problem for older people and children trying to later rise from the seat. If one likes the English Country look, a polite way of excusing the look the English nobility were forced to endure when the era of servants went out with the war, but were stuck with the high-maintenance furnishings, then down alone is OK, just OK. The best choice is a well-padded, down-wrapped foam cushion. The down shifts with the body and is soft and luxurious, the foam maintains the cushion shape and helps the down to re-fluff itself. The REAL key to a comfortable, long-lasting sofa is getting one that is bench-made, with eight-way hand tied springs and webbing as the deck. This method of construction allows for the subtle independent movement of the deck, together with the down and foam cushions providing for the greatest amount of comfort and support, as opposed to the less comfortable industrial zigzag spring construction.

A hand-made sofa is a very expensive item, but if you stick to a classic shape and use a more neutral fabric that you will not tire of, it will last a lifetime; it's an investment. After many years, it can be re-upholstered to last for yet another generation - which is the real secret of the English manor house look and the longevity of its furnishings, that and the fact that in a house that large, the furnishings are not subjected to the constant and daily use and abuse of the average home...

Quatorze said...

All-down furniture is for another time and place, when people had rafts of servants who would unobtrusively move into a room and tidy it up when the family and guests left it. I wager that today, no one would find staff willing or able to accomplish the feats of Edwardian manor houses and their armies of staff, nor would we want to live the regimented lives that would require us to leave one room at a certain time of day so these feats of household legerdemain could be accomplished.

All down is actually not comfortable for long periods of time; it mashes down and even allows the sitter to feel structural members of the sofa if not filled properly or extensively enough. It does not provide support either, which can be a real problem for older people and children trying to later rise from the seat. If one likes the English Country look, a polite way of excusing the look the English nobility were forced to endure when the era of servants went out with the war, but were stuck with the high-maintenance furnishings, then down alone is OK, just OK. The best choice is a well-padded, down-wrapped foam cushion. The down shifts with the body and is soft and luxurious, the foam maintains the cushion shape and helps the down to re-fluff itself. The REAL key to a comfortable, long-lasting sofa is getting one that is bench-made, with eight-way hand tied springs and webbing as the deck. This method of construction allows for the subtle independent movement of the deck, together with the down and foam cushions providing for the greatest amount of comfort and support, as opposed to the less comfortable industrial zigzag spring construction.

A hand-made sofa is a very expensive item, but if you stick to a classic shape and use a more neutral fabric that you will not tire of, it will last a lifetime; it's an investment. After many years, it can be re-upholstered to last for yet another generation - which is the real secret of the English manor house look and the longevity of its furnishings, that and the fact that in a house that large, the furnishings are not subjected to the constant and daily use and abuse of the average home...

Eleanor said...

I have down back cushions on matching two- and three-seater sofas. They constantly need fluffing and they look terrible as soon as someone sits down on them. The feathers poke out as well. I will not choose down-only for cushions again!

Pam @ bibbidi-bobbidi-beautiful said...

I have an O. Henry House (via CL) sofa that is filled with down only. When it's fluffed it is gorgeous, but I find that every time we're having guests I'm instructing my family not to sit on that sofa until after the guests arrive. After that, butt prints are allowed! I've actually been considering have it restuffed with foam and down...

lavitapetite said...

I covered my sofa in a Lulu DK look-alike pattern. I am a sucker for patterned sofa's. but now< ai have to admit that it is difficult to change the look and i feel married to it. I have two kids and now i let them be kids and not be so gentle, so that we NEED a new sofa. i think i'd still choose a pattern tho. I think pillows work well if they are all down. But the seat would drive carzy if it was deflated. maybe if I had sevants :)

lavitapetite.wordpress.com

Lisa said...

I liked Rita Konig's rooms in Domino and the NYT. In that sofa picture you can also see the pink glass dish (actually an ashtray) of hers which I have always adored. It's on her entry table in the Domino Book of Decorating. One thing, though -- it's a little easier to have fabulous rooms and furniture than it is for the rest of us. Her mother is Nina Campbell, who sources/gives her a lot of great stuff.

Regarding down sofas...

Two years ago I hastily made my most expensive furniture purchase ever when I found a down/feather filled (back cushions) down-wrapped foam (seat cushions) sofa that was a returned custom upholstery order. It was a great deal for the size and materials and quality of the sofa, and I saw it and bought it within the hour. It's the sofa pictured here, but mine is in a charcoal linen. http://rapalloleather.com/catalog/hobley.pdf

I HATE the thing and have regretted the purchase ever since. I am constantly fluffing the back pillows, they always look disheveled, feathers poke out, my kids like to pull the feathers out, my kids put the feathers in their mouths(!), it is very deep and that in combination with the lack of support in the back pillows actually makes it uncomfortable for most people to sit on and impossible for old people (or pregnant me) to rise from. I HATE this sofa! I would definitely do down-wrapped foam again for seat cushions, but never feathers or down in the back pillows. My next sofa will have a tight back or at least cushions that stay looking nice for more than two seconds.

Betty said...

You can tally me as Anti-Down! Previous down sofa was the most expensive, least user friendly sofa I've ever had. I do love down decorative pillows though.

Jan Jessup said...

The best quality seat cushions for both aesthetics and comfort are SPRING DOWN CUSHIONS with a Blend Down wrap. The center of the cushion is made up of little Marshall coil springs, each encased in muslin--then surrounded by layers of dense foam.

The foam/spring core is then encased in a Blend Down wrap, which is a muslin-covered blanket of down, feathers and little clusters of polyester fiberfill. Then it all goes into a down-proof cushion cover so that feathers can't come through.

The springs keep the cushion from going flat or sitting out after a year or two--but you'll never feel them. They're more resilient than an all foam-core cushion.

There is usually an upcharge for Spring Down cushions from furniture manufacturers, but they're standard on most frames at the Calico Corners - Calico Home stores.

And for anyone looking for a bargain, the custom upholstered furniture at the Calico stores will be on sale in early September.

Kate Hearne said...

Hey Jenny,
I have a sofa with down-filled cushions and as fabulous as they look, they are a HUGE pain to have to fluff. Our house is on the market and I will email you the link so you can see.

Lori said...

I second what Jan says- the most comfortable, easy maintenence, long lasting cushions I have owned were "spring-down". Of course there is no such thing as a spring-down back cushion, so outside of a tight-back the back will always need fluffing.

Nest Studio said...

Rita comes from a British family, and I find the brits love that lived in smushed down look. Personally, I go for the foam wrapped down. I just can't deal with fluffing all the time and on a tailored sofa I don't think it works very well.

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Libby said...

the sofa i had before this one was filled with down (it was my grandmother's) and it drove me NUTS fluffing those pillows, especially the back pillows. its one of the biggest reasons that sofa is in our garage now. but...i guess its possible that my couch just might not have had enough down in it? who knows, but what i do know is that i'll never get another down sofa just in case.

Anonymous said...

I am a designer. The "sofa thing" is becoming a HUGE problem. It is a sad fact, that the price of creating a sofa has gone up. Springs, cushioning, foam etc. But manufacturers of even somewhat finer sofas are trying to hold price appeal, and the result is.... junk. I want a crown that holds, comfort, pitch, etc. All are increasingly difficult to achieve, without spending huge bucks. I would do a Baker for every client, but few will choke down the price. But think of this: how long do you want to look at a hideous lumpy sofa? Three thousand dollars does not buy much, and if you want fabulous fabric, do not put that fabric on junk furniture. Ninety percent of what is available at retail is just that. This includes all the most popular catalogue "stars", and most of what you will find even in decent furniture stores. It includes all those chain stores we're all familiar with. So the answer is you can spend ten thousand once, or two thousand FIVE times, and look at ugly all during that time frame of about twelve years in the last case. You're not going to be very comfortable either. I have decided the market has a huge gap, and it is what I call the very "decent, ten year sofa that looks good for nine years, without selling a child." DOES NOT EXIST, until you get to the eight to ten thousand mark in price. Btw.... my own sofa is eighteen years old, and has been slipcovered twice. It looks like the day it was purchased, and is as comfortable. That same not- to -be- mentioned company does not put that quality into their product today, as they must assume nobody will pay. Too bad and way wrong.

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