When I met my husband, I had just purchased a new sofa and loveseat the month prior. I had graduated college a couple years before and was slowly buying grownup furniture.
We used those for eight years. They were still in excellent condition when we sold them to some friends (who are still using them, last I knew). We only got rid of them because 1)they had rolled arms and 2)I wanted a sectional. I didn’t really know my style at the time that I bought them. They were nice, but I later figured out that I loved clean lines and a more modern look.
I just wanted a sectional. Plain and simple. I wanted lots of seating and I loved the idea of a modern sectional. I figured eight years of use was justifiable to get something new, especially since I was able to sell them to someone who loved the style. I got a decent price for them since they were still in great shape. We put a little bit of money with it and bought a sectional.
A microfiber sectional. We used it for nearly four years, which was about three years too long. Have you ever owned microfiber? I don’t really need to explain, right? I thought that stuff was supposed to be miraculous or something?? It was miraculously horrible. Who knew any fabric could be so awful?
I hated it almost right away. But it was definitely love/hate. That thing was so comfy! And large enough for the entire family. We dealt with it for a while, because I mean you can’t just get a new sofa every year, y’know?
A couple of years ago, I had enough. It was still “decent” but only because I worked my butt off caring for that dumb sofa. I was constantly cleaning it. Sofas shouldn’t require as much care as a child. Plus, we had moved a couple times and it wasn’t exactly the type of furniture that fits everywhere. It wasn’t modular. It only went together one way, which is sometimes problematic if you move to a new house and doors/windows/fireplaces aren’t in the right spots for it to work well.
The hubs kinda had to be convinced. He was almost to the point of thinking that we might as well just wait until our kids were grown. Which kinda makes sense. Unless you like nice things.
I may have promised to use our next sofa for a minimum of ten years. And I bet I will…which brings me to the review.
In May of 2012 we bought a Karlstad sofa and chaise add-on in Isunda Gray. It would have been $998 at the time, but it has since been dropped to $849. (IKEA is famous for price drops after the first year of an item that they plan to keep stocking for the long haul.) We bought the cover for the sofa part from the As-is section, though. So it’s like buying the chaise and Isunda cover, but the sofa part was purchased sans cover for $350. ($399 with the basic white cover, but we didn’t get that part.) That might make zero sense if you don’t understand how IKEA prices everything based on options. Pretty much the sofa was $349, the chaise was $250, the chaise cover was $150.
We purchased the sofa cover from the As-is section. We spent about an hour digging through the textiles bins to find all the right pieces. It would have been $250 new, but it was ~$25 total. The pieces were priced separately, some were $3 and some were $5. There were seven pieces (two seat cushions, two back cushions, two arms, and the sofa base). I think an hourly wage of $225 would be pretty great, so I don’t mind “working” an hour to save that much.
About thirty-eight trillion people go through IKEA on a weekly basis, give or take a kajillion. They don’t want their textiles to look nasty in the showroom, so they change them out frequently. I highly recommend checking the as-is textiles before purchasing new. Unless you’re the type of person who would rather pay any price for new than dig for cheaper. In which case, I don’t know why you’re reading this blog. But I get it. Time is money. Some of us have more of one than the other.
So, all that to say that we purchased a Karlstad sofa in Isunda gray for ~$775. The retail price was $998.
I looked at several options (including used) while searching for the sofa that I’d have to use for a decade. I pretty much knew in the back of my head that I’d go with IKEA and most likely Karlstad, but I did my due diligence in researching everything. Because that’s just how I roll.
IKEA isn’t all bad. Some people hate it. Many people love it. It pretty much comes back to that time and money thing. IKEA has some really great quality items (and some cheap crap, of course), but you get what you pay for. The Karlstad is well-loved and has been around for years. It’s a quality piece of furniture. Sure, it’s full of plywood, but so are some of the most expensive sofas. That’s just how they make furniture.
It cost much less because of flat packaging and self-assembly, but it really isn’t junk. It’s not down filled. It doesn’t have eight-way hand-tied springs. It doesn’t have walnut legs. But it’s good. It really is.
The best part about IKEA sofas is the removable covers. Who doesn’t love the idea of throwing a cover in the wash? Or getting a completely new color in a few years? Many are machine washable, and some are dry-clean only. Our is actually supposed to be dry cleaned. But when we bought all of those separate pieces from the As-is section, I picked up a pillow cover for $1 to use as my test piece.
I brought it home and washed it and dried it. If it fell apart, I was going to take all my cover pieces to be dry cleaned and then we’d probably never remove them again. But since it didn’t seem to be a problem, I washed and dried it again just to make sure that the fabric wouldn’t shrink too much or unravel anywhere. It didn’t. (I googled a lot about what would happen if you washed dry-clean only fabric, and I’ve had years of experience not dry cleaning my dry-clean only clothing. Do your own research, and don’t blame me if something doesn’t work out. Don’t wash and dry wool. Obviously.)
When we decided to buy this house, I got on Craigslist to look for another Karlstad sofa because this living room could accommodate two. (Our last living room was decent size, but the fireplace took up an entire wall, there was a huge window overlooking the patio that I didn’t want to block, and the doors and hallways were located such that you just didn’t have room for two sofas. At least not how I wanted them arranged.) I found one within just a few days. A young couple moving cross country just starting their careers who were unloading everything they owned. I paid $70 for the sofa, but had to get a new cover, which had dropped by $100 since the year before. Woohoo!
I recently washed the covers since we had all that tile dust settling everywhere and also just general three-boys-live-here dirtiness. This was the third time in two years that we’ve washed them, but the first time probably shouldn’t count. I didn’t wash the new pieces at that point, only the ones from the As-is section. So that’s about once a year if my math is correct.
I figured while I was washing the covers and putting the couch back together would be a great time to tell you how I feel about the Karlstad.
IKEA’s sofas aren’t slip covered like Pottery Barn’s. Actually, I think some are. But the Karlstad is not. You’re not just unzipping a cushion cover and pulling off a slipcover when you decide to wash these. It’s not as easy as stripping beds, washing sheets, and remaking a bed. Nope. It’s more like building a bed. Or a sofa.
You pretty much have to completely unassemble the sofa, because you’re washing the upholstery, not a slip cover. It velcros on though, so it’s not like you need a staple puller. 🙂
The best way to go about this is to tip it over on its back.
The legs need to be removed because the cover goes right under the edge of the legs.
If you keep the long allen wrench that IKEA provides for assembly, this is super easy.
You should also keep the bolt tool provided.
The arms have to be removed from the sofa base before the covers can be removed.
Or, if you have the chaise option, that needs to be unbolted also.
Then remove the sofa base cover.
The cushions are self explanatory. Just unzip the covers and toss them in the wash. For all the cushion covers, the arm covers, and the base covers, I did three loads of laundry.
Once that’s all dry just velcro it back on or zip the cushion cover back. It will take four hands. These aren’t a sloppy, loose cover. They’re super fitted. One person will have to stretch and pull while the other person zips or velcros.
Then bolt it all back together.
As the bolts get tighter, the pieces are pulled tight.
Then replace the legs and flip it over.
Not as easy as changing sheets. But hey, that’s better than not being able to remove the upholstery at all, right? So yeah. I do love having that option even though it’s not super simple. There are easier slipcovers, but they don’t provide the perfectly tailored look that I prefer. I imagine IKEA could make it easier, but then it wouldn’t look as tailored and it wouldn’t be the style I’m going for. I give the removable upholstery a seven out of ten and the tailored look a ten out of ten.
The chaise cushion has velcro to keep it in place, which is wonderful. I wish all the cushions did. But they’re fully reversible, so they do not. Ten for velcro. Ten for fully reversible. You can’t have it both ways.
The cushions were pretty firm at first (all of my new sofas have been), but they softened up pretty well. I think it would be a bit more comfortable if the back was a bit higher, though. The top of the back hits me at about my shoulder blades, and I prefer the back to hit at the tops of my shoulders for the most comfort. But then again, I like the more modern look of them being a bit lower. I give the seat a seven, the depth a ten (you can really curl up on here and get comfy), and the back a five as far as comfort goes.
The price is definitely a ten out of ten. I wish you could buy sofas for about fifty bucks, but the fact is they aren’t inexpensive. Considering all other similar options, the price can’t be beat.
The legs aren’t my favorite. They are pine blocks. IKEA sells another leg option, but I didn’t love those either. I planned to live with them for a while and then stain them or change them, but I just haven’t crossed that off my list yet. I don’t hate them, though. They’re more my style than something carved or a skirt would be, so I give them a seven. (Uncle Bob’s is a well-known place to get after market replacement legs, if you’re interested. I’ve never ordered from him and he’s not paying me. 🙂 )
I would totally give the assembly a twelve out of ten if that were possible. As far as IKEA assembly goes, these sofas are probably the quickest and easiest items we’ve ever put together.
I’m going to give a ten for flexibility. The chaise can be removed completely or switched to the other end. I can buy an ottoman or a chair to match. I could add a chaise to the other end or to the other sofa that I have. They also have loveseats and true sectionals.
I’m also giving a ten for longevity even though I’ve only had this for two years. Having the ability to purchase new covers is very appealing. I couldn’t find a debut date for the Karlstad, but I know IKEA has been making it for quite a while. It seems to be on its way to Poang status (they’ve been making that for nearly 40 years). Hopefully that means they won’t discontinue this sofa right before I’m ready to purchase new covers.
Given that this style is timeless, with its mid-century vibe and clean lines, I’m betting I’ll like it for many years to come. Hopefully at least the decade that I promised.