Karlstad Review

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.

Stock photo: American Furniture Warehouse

Stock photo: American Furniture Warehouse

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.

karlstad

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.

as is

textiles

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.

sofas

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!

karlstad sofa

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. 🙂

velcro

The best way to go about this is to tip it over on its back.

sofa on back

The legs need to be removed because the cover goes right under the edge of the legs.

upholstery leg

If you keep the long allen wrench that IKEA provides for assembly, this is super easy.

long allen wrench

You should also keep the bolt tool provided.

bolt tool

The arms have to be removed from the sofa base before the covers can be removed.

sofa arm

arm bolts

Or, if you have the chaise option, that needs to be unbolted also.

chaise bolts

Then remove the sofa base cover.

unassembled

20140611_205441

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.

gap

As the bolts get tighter, the pieces are pulled tight.

tight

Then replace the legs and flip it over.

sofa after chaise after

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.

cushion velcro

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.

 

35 Comments

  1. How lucky am I? I just stumbled across this marvelous information! I bought my karlstad on Sunday 2nd hand. Was horrified to see how filthy it was when I got it home, I didn’t know where to start with cleaning it, so I’ve just been sulking for days!!! I just need to borrow another set of hands now! Thank you so much Avone!

    • No. I let them air dry and put them back on the cushions when they are just very slightly damp. That seems to make them easier to go on, as they’re a very tight fit.

  2. You are a lifesaver. Thanks for posting information about washing the dry clean only cover. I’m wondering if you remember how well the color held on your test pillow cover. Did it fade drastically? A sippy cup of cranberry juice leaked on my chaise cover and I’m sort of hoping not to have to wash the whole couch.

    • The color didn’t fade at all. I’ve been washing mine one or two times a year (three boys!) and still no fading. I did, however, try to get away with washing just the cushion covers once because I was being lazy. The arms were noticeably dingier when I put the clean cushion covers back on. So, you might end up washing everything if you’re very particular about it like I am. But no fading whatsoever! Good luck with the cranberry juice. Eek!

  3. Great review!
    I own the Karlstad in white and I love it! Especially the feel of the fabric, it’s a cotton canvas feeling fabric and it stays cool on warm days. I’m moving across the country and selling my couch, but I’m going to repurchase it in gray when I move to Ohio. The site says the fabric is 100% polyester as opposed to cotton. What does this feel like? Is it itchy at all?

    Thanks!

    • Thanks! I’d love to have a white cover someday…maybe when my boys are grown.
      The gray is almost like a tweed, but not as knubby. It’s not at all itchy like a real wool would be. I’m still very pleased with it!

    • Don’t do it!!! The Karl sectional has been discontinued– if you love it, ship it, because you won’t be able to replace it after you move!!

        • Yep. At least you have yours. I only started hearing all the raves about “Karl the couch” when I started shopping sectionals a week or so ago… just in time to miss out. Aaaaaaaaaagh is right!

  4. Dear Avone, thank you very much! I was going to buy a KIVIK sofa, which was very comfortable but too heavy for me and for the room in which it has to be used in, difficult to clean underneath since it reaches the floor, and also higher than my budget… then I unexpectadly saw the KARLSTAD which was cheaper and nice. When i arrived home, i realised that the cover is meant to be dry-cleaned only (somehow at the shop I did not realize that!!) and was frustrated because i don’t like dry cleaning…. Reading your blog assured me that it would be ok to wash the covers every spring 🙂 thanks again !!!

  5. HI! Thanks for posting such an informative article! I had just tossed all my Isunda gray covers in the wash on delicate with Woolite since the cat puked all over it, and was hoping for the best, but worried since it said dry clean only. After reading this I’m more hopeful that it will all turn out ok!

  6. Best couches ever! We have the 2 seater and the 2 seater with the chaise add-on, but unfortunately we only have the white cover for the chaise add-on, so it looks a little funny at the moment. We got both the couches and the chaise from gumtree (craigslist equivalent). The arm of our three seater broke pretty quickly and I eventually pulled everything off it and screwed it all back together again, good as new. Then I saw the 2 seater for $25aud (yes including the Isunda grey cover) and the arm was broken in the same way, took about an hour to pull it apart again and use a metal bracket and some screws to make it solid again, good as new 🙂

    Now all we have to do is find the isunda grey cover for the chaise, but we can’t find one anywhere as ikea has discontinued them and they are ridiculously expensive on ebay. Please, let me know if you know where we might be able to find one.

  7. I’ve just bought a Karlstad armchair (without cover) from Ikea for $60. Apparently they’d run out of covers so were selling them cheap in the outles section! Having taken yours apart and washed the covers, how easy do you think it would be for me to make my own covers. Most online sellers of covers are asking about $150 for new covers and I don’t really want to spend twice as much on a new cover as I have on the chair. Love your house by the way.

    • I would say it definitely depends upon your upholstery and sewing skill level. Since it’s all straight lines and no funny bumps or rounded arms, I would attempt it. Maybe you could use some old sheets and try a mock up before you waste money on fabric? Please send me pics if you do it. I’m curious. Good luck.

  8. Thank you for this information. It was very informative and helpful! What setting did you wash your couch covers on and approximately how much detergent did you use? I’ve never washed dry clean only product and I rarely buy dry clean only stuff.

    • I used the delicate cycle (lowest agitation) and used the same amount of detergent I’d use for regular laundry. I used the measuring cup that came with my detergent and measured it according to the size of the load. Hope that helps. Good luck!

  9. Thanks so much for this! I just bought a new cover for my Karlstad and had no idea how to take it apart to put it back together.

  10. Searching for information about the Karlstad I found your commentary, it is definitely the most complete l saw during hours of reading reviews. Thanks!

  11. I bought my 80″ karlstad sofa a couple of years ago in sivik dark grey, and really love it. But I need more seating and was thinking of adding a chaise to it. Here’s my random question: Do I need to purchase a whole new karlstad sofa with the chaise, or can I just purchase the chaise part? If I buy the chaise part separately, will it still be able to bolt into my existing sofa properly?

    Same question goes for a 2+3 sofa. Can I transform my existing 80″ karlstad into a 2+3 karlstad? Or do I need to buy a whole new one?

    Lastly, which do you recommend between the 80″ sofa + the chaise OR the 2+3 sectional karlstad? Any help or advice would be most appreciated!!!

    • You can add a chaise to your existing sofa; just remove one arm and attach the chaise in its place. You can’t turn the existing sofa into a 2+3 because of how the corner is. If you are willing to spend the money, I’d personally prefer the 2+3 if your room can accommodate it. I like our chaise, but it doesn’t provide as much functional seating as a sectional would. Hope that helps!

  12. I’m thinking of getting the sectional with the chaise attached. I really like the idea of changeable covers. And the style is perfect! I see from above that yours is holding up well. Do you have any complaints about it at all? Even in the slightest? (Besides the height of the back, I already know it’s shorter).

    • We’re still very pleased with it. The seat cushion covers kind of scoot down a bit so that the seams don’t exactly line up with the edge of the cushions all the time. We have to wrestle with them occasionally to get them back in place. I’m not sure that it wouldn’t happen with any sofa, though. We have three boys and they slouch down on them, so that might be the cause? Good luck in your sofa search!

  13. How is your Karlstad holding up? I’m considering getting one, but the reviews I’ve read are pretty back and forth about it’s durability. Have the cushions lost their shape?

    • Our cushions haven’t lost their shape. It’s holding up very well. We do have one of the “tighter” fabric options, though, so that might be why. I could definitely see the cotton covers loosening up and therefore not holding the cushions as tightly. I can’t speak for all of the covers, but we love ours! Hope that helps.

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