Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Hunt for a GOOD Sleeper Sofa 

If you live in The City, you are familiar with this problem. Our second bedroom serves as office, guest room and occasionally when we have more than five people eating dinner, it becomes the dining room.

This is obviously not an ideal situation. It means that furniture must do double duty, i.e., sofa+bed and desk+dining table. I really want to swap out the futon sofa bed because I think it's not incredibly comfortable as a sofa - which is what it is 99% of the time. And I'm not really crazy about our our desk/dining table because it's a desk 99% of the time and a) it's not a very good one and b) I'm not sure since we use wireless laptops how necessary it actually is.

So we began to reconceptualize what the room might be. I decided to start with the idea of eliminating one of the functions (dining, sleeping, working) and see what the pros and cons were.

Eliminating the sleeping function got an immediate veto from K. Where would our friends/family stay?

Eliminating the dining function is an option since when we convert it into a dining room, it doesn't work particularly well anyway. It's cramped and the table legs get in the way if you have enough people to actually warrant the hassle of putting the leaves on the desk and making it a dining table.

Eliminating the working function created some interesting side effects. Does that mean that you lose the table? If so, have you lost two functions, i.e., working and dining?

I decided to reconceptualize what it meant to work. We don't need a desk, after all. It's a LAPtop. Why not put it on your lap? Then what do you get? Well, the table could become a coffee table and the sofa would become a nicer, more comfortable sofa.

So far, so good. But then again, one of the virtues of the futon is that it's a very comfortable bed. How to find a comfortable sleeper sofa?

It turns out that you have four choices. (Or at least, I was able to find four choices after quite a bit of legwork.)

Choice #1 - Traditional sleeper sofa
This is NOT an option we were willing to consider. We had one of these years ago and we were mortified to ask anyone to sleep on it. You know the problem. It has that thin mattress that all sleeper sofas seem to have and those nasty bars underneath it dig right into you as the mattress (inevitably) bows under your weight. Add a second guest in the bed and then it turns into a human salad bowl. YUCK.

Choice #2 - American Leather Comfort Sleeper(R)
American Leather has patented a fantastic sleeper sofa mechanism. It is hands down the most comfortable option I have ever found. The sofa is essentially chunks of mattress that fold up. No bars. And it folds and unfolds quite easily. Great! Problem solved, you say.

Well, there is a hitch. American Leather's design sensibility in sleeper sofas is rather...conventional. It doesn't make for much excitement in the couch department. And remember, that's primarily what a sleeper sofa is.

Choice #3 - New & Groovy Folding Couchs
There are a number of companies doing these now. I particularly liked Bo Concept's version. It's remarkably inexpensive and comfortable as a couch and a mattress. If there's a downside, it's that you have to shift it around a bit to make it into a bed. There are legs hidden in the back that you reveal and then fold it down. All in all, a pretty great option all around.

Choice #4 - Commission a Carlyle
I knew there had to be a place like this. I just can't believe it took so long to find it. Carlyle is the place that can build your sleeper sofa pretty much to spec. You tell them what arms, what fabric, how big and they make it happen. Their designs run the gamut and it's hard to tell from the photos on their website, but you can really get some great sofas designed there. AND their patented sleeper mechanism is pretty darn good. It's not up to par with American Leather's, but it's remarkably good, especially considering the relatively close relationship between the design of their mechanism and a traditional one. They've made several improvements however, that make all the difference. Moved the bars away, beefed up the mattress a lot, and created a better web mechanism to support the mattress. Makes a tremendous difference.

The catch? A Carlyle will set you back a pretty penny. Several thousand dollars in all likelihood.

The question you're asking now is probably which route we've decided to go. The answer is...I don't know yet. Once we started talking about refurnishing the guest room/office/dining room, we began to "wander off the reservation". Now we're considering doing some construction in our apartment. And we're also examining other apartments in the neighborhood...

P.S. - Yes, we're in Bar Harbor. Yes, the weather has been FANTASTIC. On to Toronto tomorrow.
I'm selling my American Leather Kaden queen sleeper. Mushroom/taupe leather, still 3 years left on the leather insurance. It's been great! Not so exciting, maybe, but less than half the price of a new one.

Selling it this week via eBay and Craig's List. And I'm in the book.
Slept on a comfort sleeper at a friend's house in Philadelphia. Hands down, the most comfortable sleeper sofa I have ever slept on! Plan on getting one for our basement/family room/guest bedroom. That is if I can find one in Toronto!
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