Published on January 16, 2020

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

From the moment my boyfriend and I moved into a new apartment nearly six months ago, we knew one thing. The five-foot love seat I had once managed to squeeze between my bed and the kitchen island in my old studio had to go. It felt too tiny in our cavernous new living room, and stains from rambunctious game nights and exploding soup dumplings put it on the wrong side of “well-loved.” We both agreed: It was time to shop for a new sofa. 

But that’s where our overlapping vision stopped. I imagined a plush velvet sectional with tailored lines. He wished for an extra-deep seat on which to unfold his long legs (he’s 6-feet-5; I’m 5-feet-4). I wanted the liberty of browsing the endless options available online. He had one request: to sit on the sofa, in person, before purchasing it.  

So for weekends on end, we ventured out like Goldilocks in search of a sofa that would fit us juuust right. Some were too large, others too expensive. Some sat too low, and some had fabric that felt like cardboard. We eventually found our happy middle, but it was a journey. Here are the questions that should be asked along the way:

What are your lounging habits?

My boyfriend likes to sit upright when watching TV; I curl up sideways in a corner. When I suggested a sofa that wouldn’t face the TV directly, he laughed at the absurdity. This severely limited the size and type of couch we could fit in our new awkwardly laid-out space. Traditional three-seaters were out of the question, and anything over seven feet long would be a stretch. 

But we wanted friends to come over for Bachelor marathons and game nights, and space for out-of-towners to crash whenever they visited. A deep corner sectional—where the long end would run along the wall—ended up being the best solution. 

What size can you actually fit in your space?

Here’s where things got a bit complicated. Most major retailers offer sectionals in only one set of dimensions, say 120-by-120 inches, which eliminated most of our viable options. What we needed was a custom sofa with a shorter end and a long return, preferably 84-by-108 inches (or 7-by-9 feet), a size we determined by measuring and taping the shape of a sectional to our floor with painter’s tape. I also knew it would have to sit inside an 8-by-10-foot rug, so we set out to find retailers that offered custom sizing.

What do you want to spend?

Restoration Hardware came highly recommended by a few designer friends for its personalization options. For example, you can pick the depth, height, width, and length of your sofa, as well as the fill (down or synthetic) and the fabric, where the options are nearly endless—as long as you want a variation on griege or cream. One of its models had a sleek one-seat cushion (my dream!) and sloping tailored arms that felt just the right amount of classic. We were finally on the right path.

What’s your perfect fabric match?

We browsed the fabric samples and brought a few home—mostly dark grays with undertones of brown and navy. We learned the difference between performance and classic velvet. The former could sustain most spills and it was less shiny than the alternative, so…bingo! We entered all our data into the sofa builder, and then we saw the price: $8,000! To go in a rental! Sure, we could keep it for decades and take it with us to our next home, but that’s the thing with sectionals—they’re usually chosen to fit in one particular space, and making them work in a new one can be tricky. 

What’s your timeline?

Most custom sofas have a 12- to 14-week lead time. This I already knew, but my boyfriend was convinced we could pick up a perfectly sized sample somewhere if we looked hard enough. (Spoiler: We didn’t.) At this stage, something had to give. Would we compromise on style to get something cheaper and quicker? Or should we stick to the custom look we wanted, but try to find a less high-end alternative?

I had one last trick up my sleeve: a sectional from Interior Define I had originally written off because I thought it was armless. But a last-ditch trip to the SoHo showroom revealed that the arms were actually an optional addition! 

The moment we sat in the Jasper sofa, we knew it was the one. The size was perfect. We could get half of it with a deep seat (at the request of my S.O.) and the other with a regular depth to fit our petite space. It could accommodate overnight visitors. It was half the price of the Restoration Hardware alternative! The performance velvet options were so good, we had trouble choosing between a calming slate gray and a rich rust hue (we opted for the latter).

It took months of research to find, but everything we learned along the way led us to the best solution for us. And in the end, it was truly worth the wait.

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