by

Aaron Wong

2021-01-04

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an everyday couch you can buy affordably at IKEA

Cheap sofas – people love to hate on them. If you’ve been asking around for recommendations for a “cheap sofa”, you’ve heard the familiar advice of saving up for one that is more expensive.

The sofa is an investment piece that’s meant to last, and grabbing the most affordable option available may mean you’ll need to replace it soon.

Well, yes and no. For one, there will always be a market for budget furniture among the students and renters planning on staying temporarily.

But it’s more than that. In the first place, expensive does not mean good – not by a long shot. You’d be abhorred with some of the materials and construction used by some of the most expensive commercial sofa brands.

Instead, play your cards right and you can walk away with an incredible sofa to last the ages, all without breaking the bank.

Want to find out how? Stick around and learn:

What to look out for when picking cheap couches.


How cheap is cheap?:

There comes a point when paying too little for a sofa is a bad idea. How long can you really expect it to last?

IKEA is probably as close to that point as you’d want to get. They may get a lot of flak for being the cheapo brand that doesn’t make “real sofas” like Room & Board or Crate & Barrel does but they don’t deserve the poor reputation. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Believe it or not, IKEA is competitive and provides quality furniture for the money. In fact, we have over 10  IKEA sofas in our office have seen… things, and have lasted years without any signs of breaking whatsoever.

Above all, there’s an obvious reason why IKEA is the biggest in the business. They have the scale to manufacture affordable couches that won’t immediately die on you.

So if you’re hoping to find a good couch that’s far cheaper than IKEA, then you might want to consider a thrift store search instead. Chances are that any sofa from an unknown brand selling at that price is not going to last.

It may look and even feel like a great couch at first, but even less than a year down the line you can – and should, expect it to break on you.


Value for money:

More important than the price of the sofa is what you’re getting for the money. That’s when the advice of saving for something more expensive starts to make sense.

There are cheap couches and there are cheap couches. The difference between them boils down to the construction and quality of the materials used. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find some really long lasting couches that are comfortably priced under the $1000 mark. 

These factors will be covered when reviewing the couches in this list. So, unless you are already absolutely set on a budget for your new sofa, consider topping it up a little if it means getting the couch that’s right for you.


Alternatives:

Not many consider the option of repairing their old couch rather than buying new, which is a shame especially since older couches tend to have better construction compared to the ones you get now. 

So what can be done to give your sofa the pick-up it needs? Well, if the frame and cushions are in good condition but the outside of the couch looks worn-out, consider using a tailor-made slipcover to revive it. This way, you only pay for the fabric instead of an entirely new sofa and upcycle what you already have. 

On the other hand, if both the cushions and the couch fabric aren’t up to snuff, then going the upholstery route might be the only option. Of course, upholstery is very expensive but can be worth it to restore well-built couches.

That means at the very least your couch should have a hardwood frame with good joints and quality cushions. There’s no easy way to tell this at a glance but if the couch and cushions are generally very heavy, then these are indicators that hardwood and high-density foam were used in the construction.


Brand:

So where do you start looking for a well made and affordable sofa? Start with the brand. Checking out their reviews as well as the hows and the whys they are able to sell at a low cost will tell you what you’re getting into.

Are their sofas priced cheaply because of poor quality internal components or because they are able to save costs elsewhere? Like by cutting out middlemen. 

Having a well-known brand behind your sofa is also the sure way to have some peace of mind after spending a rather hefty amount. The delivery process, warranties and customer support do play a part post-sale since things can easily turn ugly without them.

Once you find a brand that gives you the goodies without the extra markup on “brand premium”, you’ll be able to choose your own sofa from their catalogue, even if the sofa isn’t listed here!

Speaking of lists, let’s finally get into it. Naturally, we’re kicking off with the overall best cheap sofa. Can you guess which it is?

Best Overall Cheap Sofa : IKEA Karlstad

grey karlstad sofa from IKEA

When it comes to the king of commercial budget furniture manufacturers, it’s gotta be IKEA. Was there ever any doubt?

Even within IKEA’s vast catalogue, there’s been a couch that has been the staple cheap sofa for years on end. And rightfully so as well.

Of course, it’s the Karlstad sofa. The same one that was discontinued years ago and brought back by popular demand.

Everybody knows that a sofa from IKEA isn’t meant to last decades but if there was a couch from their lineup that could do it, it would be this one. Heck, even our own Karlstad in the office has stood up to many years of faithful service (since 2017 and counting) – it still even looks good enough for our slipcover photoshoots.

karlstad sofa in white linen slipcovers
Comfort Works’ Karlstad (dressed in pure linen slipcovers)

Best part is that you can have it for $399, or just $349 during some of IKEA’s periodic sales, and boy do you get a great couch for what you pay.

Without turning this into a university lecture, what you need to know is that the number one reason couches wear out, break, or get thrown away is because of the cushions. Nobody wants to sit on saggy cushions and feel the hard, unfeeling frame against the butt.

With the Karlstad this is hardly an issue as the cushions last insanely long. Karlstad cushions use 2.5lbs/cu.ft high-resilience foam, which is crazy considering it is higher than many other more expensive commercial brands which typically use foam around the 1.8 density mark.

Coincidentally not many other brands openly announce their foam density and just state that it is “high”.

Pair that with the fact you can readily change the slipcovers if they wear out from IKEA itself or from third-parties (us) and you’ve got the makings of a couch that will last a very long time.

All while being decently comfy too. It’s got an attentive sit, firm-ish cushions, wide armrests to lean against and lots of space to sprawl out on.

Sure, it’s not plush and “cloudlike” like an overstuffed couch but if you prefer these types of sofas then IKEA’s Ektorp/Uppland might be a better IKEA choice for you.

The only part of the Karlstad that may give out and can’t be fixed is the frame. Like other IKEA couches, the frame is mainly plywood and particleboard, which understandably is what you get on a couch this cheap.

Just keep that in mind not to let your kids use the couch as a trampoline or do anything to put it under unnecessary stress and all will be good with the Karlstad. It could well make it to over a decade or more.

So if you’re looking for quality at basement prices, the Karlstad sofa is the choice for just about anyone – that’s no exaggeration. 

Quite literally anyone can get their hands on one considering IKEA is the most international sofa brand and their sofas come flat packed in a box which allows anyone to bring it into the home and set it up.

But if you aren’t feeling the Karlstad, remember that IKEA have many other great couches as well. Just please don’t go for the IKEA Klippan even if it is even cheaper and save yourself from an uncomfortable and quite frankly, fugly couch.

Best Cheap Sectional Sofa : Rivet Revolve Modern Upholstered Sofa

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are only so few companies who can build good furniture and sell it for cheap. Can as in, are able to.

There are the companies that take advantage of massive scale; or the ones who don’t use showrooms and salespeople so that the savings can be passed onto you. Amazon has both.

If you didn’t know Amazon has their own furniture line then, here’s something you’ll learn today! Their furniture brand line is called Rivet and they make riveting furniture (ok, that was bad).

Anyway, when it comes to affordable sectionals, the Rivet Revolve is one of the best. It’s not the cheapest, but at the $900 price mark, you don’t normally find a couch of this quality.

Remember those particleboard and plywood IKEA sofa frames we talked about? Well, the Rivet Revolve has a solid wood frame so you won’t need to hold your plop-downs on it like what would be wise to do with the Karlstad.

And no, that doesn’t mean it’s ok to treat it like a prop in Wrestlemania.

Comfort levels on this sofa score highly as well. The cushions have this medium-firmness that you can sink into but still get out of easily.

One small caveat is that it doesn’t come with slipcovers which adds another component of the sofa which can be worn out. 

That being said, a mid-century piece wouldn’t come with a slipcover on the frame anyway, though they could have included functional zippers on the cushions, which they don’t. Therefore, don’t drop the spaghetti on it or prepare for lots of scrubbing. Though, at the very least least the cushions are reversible to hide these mishaps…

To somewhat make up for the lack of slipcovers, the upholstery on the sofa is a thick polyester fabric which lasts for a very long time (as synthetic materials tend to). On the comfort scale, polyester is not the most comfortable to be sure but is by no means uncomfortable either. 

The main “issue” with the Rivet Revolve that might be very particular to some sofa shoppers is that you don’t get to test it out. Amazon doesn’t have showrooms which is why this couch can be found at such a bargain in the first place.

But other than that there’s not much not to like. It’s nifty, compact and overall a great looking sectional with the build quality to match. Plus, it’s even got that mid-century design which is all the rage lately and is versatile enough to fit into many different living spaces.

Plus, Rivet themselves specialize in mid-century furniture in case you ever want to design a mid-century living room around this sofa.

Best Cheap Sleeper Sofa : IKEA Friheten

IKEA Friheten in custom orange slipcovers

As you may have found out the hard way – sofa beds are difficult to sleep on. Expensive too, especially if you want a proper sleeper sofa as opposed to a klick klak or futon.

Not to say those don’t work, but they aren’t a permanent solution unless you rarely need to use them.

To make things even worse, the majority of full-sized sofa beds suck! Lots of metal bars jamming themselves into the back is not my idea of comfort. It shouldn’t be anyones!

But, that’s the thing. Unless you can fork out $3k or more from the likes of Room & Board or American Leather, don’t even bother with a sofa bed if you’re looking for something comfy. Good thing there is an alternative! 

Introducing the Friheten sofa bed from IKEA – which is not by any means super comfortable to sleep on but is pretty decent with a mattress topper. I’d recommend gel…

And if that small sentence completely puts you off the Friheten then allow me to try justify this.

First off, the Friheten is just $600 – there’s no arguing with that. Being IKEA, you can get it almost anywhere in the world flat packed and bring it home without hassle. A sleeper sofa from more expensive brands will run you hundreds if not thousands more, and you’ll need to deal with the logistics of it all.

As a sleeper sofa, the Friheten is actually better than the vast majority of competitors at that price range. Not just because it doesn’t rely on metal bar support, but also has some thoughtful additions you didn’t know you wanted in a sofa bed.

For instance, the storage chaise that allows you to store any bedding (and that mattress topper I talked about) inside. That way you have the convenience of turning it into bed-mode anytime you want.

Speaking of convenience, the mechanism this sofa uses to transform into bed-mode is as simple as pulling out the trundle at the side, which is spring loaded for maximum ease. Seriously, a child could operate this and turn it from sofa to bed in under 15 seconds.

When you’re not sprawled out on the sofa for sleeping, that trundle compartment can double up as a convenient footstool as well. It really is versatile.

As for the negatives, the Friheten is not as comfortable as a standalone sofa, which is normal since sofa beds rarely are. The cushions are a little firm and take time to break in too.

And that’s all there is for negatives. Overall, you can’t beat how good the Friheten is for an entry level sofa bed. IKEA has been testing iterations of the sleeper sofa since before 2007 and have discontinued so many models, yet the Friheten still remains the same till today.

Coincidence? I think not!

Best Cheap Leather Sofa : Article Timber

“Oh no… not another IKEA sofa” is what you’d probably say if the best cheap leather sofa was another IKEA couch – and by the way, IKEA does have a pretty good candidate for this (Landskrona/Morabo). 

An IKEA sofa here would even make a lot of sense, considering that “leather sofa” and “cheap” pretty much never belong in the same sentence together. That’s why it was a big surprise to find that there’s another brand that deserves your attention. One that sells a real leather couch at a reasonable price

Reasonable as in $1800, which isn’t “cheap” but is as cheap as you want to go for a leather couch that isn’t faux leather or constructed from leather scraps. That’s where Article’s Timber sofa comes in.

This sofa boasts the some of the classiest looks you would find even among the leather sofas from far bigger brands with its classic mid-century looks and a gorgeous wooden panel to accent the front of the couch.

Not only is it an ace in the looks department, but also has the best leather to match. If full-grain aniline leather means anything to you, you’ll know that this is pretty much the best leather seen on sofas.

That’s the type of leather that doesn’t flake, gets more comfortable over time, and gets even better looking as it patinas. Just make sure you know how to care for it since caring for a full aniline leather sofa is akin to taking care of a white sofa.

For some reason, Article doesn’t offer their Oxford semi-aniline leather on the Timber sofa anymore which would be the far easier option to maintain. 

Anyway, if the prospect of amazing leather wasn’t enough to convince you to splurge a little more on a leather sofa, know that it is also really comfy to boot. Down-filled back cushions and firm but slightly squishy seat cushions make it suitable for all your long sitting sessions and couch hangouts.

Even the sit on the sofa is an in-between of lounging and attentive sitting making it a very balanced (read: safe) choice.

The only caveat in all of this, is that you don’t get to test it out yourself. Article is a direct to consumer business with no showrooms and no commissioned salespeople; which is what makes them so competitively priced – we’ve gone over this.

They do however offer an impeccable return policy and free delivery to somewhat offset the inability to try the sofa before making a decision.

Understandably, this won’t be enough for everyone who would never splurge on a big leather couch purchase sight unseen and feel unfelt. Some consolation can be found in that Article is a very popular and growing brand and that the Timber is their second most popular sofa (behind the Sven).

If all of that street-cred still isn’t enough to convince you to part with $1800, then perhaps consider looking at the $800 IKEA Landskrona instead (called the Morabo in the US).

Whatever your choice, remember to never pick a couch that is upholstered in “genuine leather” or “bonded leather”. Unless you’re ok with your sofa crumbling into a flaky mess in one or two years, that is.

Best Mid-Priced Sofa : Stone & Beam Lauren

Having perused through a whole list of affordably good sofas, you might be wondering what you could get with a small budget boost.

Not like upping it to the Room & Board/Pottery Barn price level, but just slightly above the $1000 mark. At that budget, you might want to acquaint yourself with the Stone & Beam Lauren sofa. 

Surprise, surprise, it’s another Amazon brand!

By now, we’ve gone over what makes Amazon so effective when it comes to selling competitively priced furniture so we can skip past all that. What you should know is that unlike Rivet, Stone & Beam caters to the more contemporary look and offers generally better build quality at slightly higher prices.

Not too much higher though – the Lauren is $1150 at the time of writing. So what do you get by paying a couple of hundred extra for your sofa? A whole lot apparently, both literally and metaphorically.

What that means is that the Lauren is an absolutely ginormous sofa island on its own. The frame is big, the seating is deep, the cushions are plush… and big. Everything is huge! And that’s without getting into how disproportionately massive the ottoman is (it’s practically a daybed).

Certainly, this is not a couch that’s meant for everyone. But for those who enjoy lounging on oversized furniture, you’ll find the Lauren to be a whole lot above in its construction compared to anything that can be found at IKEA.

The frame is made of hardwood and the fabric on the sofa is their own performance fabric that lets you wipe away water-based spills like liquid off a duck’s back.

While the sofa sits slightly on the stiffer end with it’s weirdly plush but firm cushions, it gets more  comfortable  as it breaks in over time. The down wrapping around the cushions is an added bonus that’s there to add a softer touch while that happens. 

Coincidentally, that does mean you need to fluff it occasionally to stop it getting frumpy.

All in all, the question of whether the Lauren is worth $1150 is a no brainer. You don’t get down cushions, performance fabric or a hardwood frame at this price normally. In that sense, Stone & Beam is kind of like Pottery Barn but cheaper and yet somehow even better quality.

So, if your definition of a cheap sofa can be considered to be something over the thousand dollar price range, the Lauren sofa may be just what you’re looking for. And if it’s too big to fit into your living space (let alone through the door), consider checking out some of Stone & Beam’s other couches, which all have rave reviews!

Oh, but don’t forget that you can’t test their sofas out either… which seems to be the recurring theme for the sofas on this list besides the IKEA options. But hey, you win some and lose some when it comes to buying cheap furniture 🙂

Get a “brand new couch” on the cheap


Psst… Want to know how you can get a “brand new” couch that’s even cheaper than the ones on this list? Try working with your existing couch and renewing it with a slipcover!

Cheap couches are great and all, plus you can even find some amazing value for the price. But if you don’t need a new sofa why buy one?

As long as the frame and cushions are holding up on your current sofa, you can take it easy on on your wallet by buying a tailor-made slipcover which will fit right over your couch and make it look like it just rolled out of the shop. 

before and after putting on slipcovers on an IKEA Stocksund couch
This IKEA Stocksund has been brought to life!

Interested to find out what we can do for your sofa? Check out the list of brands we make hand-crafted slipcovers for below!

DISCOVER BESPOKE SLIPCOVERS