Annals of Bad Design: Extra Deep ‘Luxe’ Sofas

Recently, we checked out a nice-looking sofa on sale at Restoration Hardware.  It came in two depths: 37″ deep Classic and the 43″ Luxe. Try sitting on the Luxe and you’ll find you’re listing way back at an awkward angle because the back pillows are too far away to support your back. It’s part of a trend the past several years to make sofas deeper so that they appear more luxurious, as in the photo above. (Hence, Restoration Hardware naming it’s sofa Luxe.)

For us, it’s bad design in the name of the illusion of affluence and style. Here’s our thinking:

Restoration Hardware

Restoration Hardware

The average distance between the bend in your knee to the back of a human torso is roughly 18 to 20 inches, which is what you want the depth of the sitting area of a sofa to be. Any deeper than that moves the backrest too far back to support a normal human back. If you sit all the way back on one of these deep sofas, you often find your legs sticking straight out in a rather awkward and unflattering position (that has something of the same feeling as sitting on a doctor’s examining table). The Luxe sofa’s specs show that the inside seat depth without the back cushion is 35 inches. Even if the back cushion were 10 inches deep (which is doubtful), that would make a 25 inch span, WAY too deep for comfortable sitting.

To avoid this, many people find themselves sitting on the edge of the sofa.

Restoration Hardware

Restoration Hardware

Why have a chic upholstered sofa if you have to sit on the edge of it?

Top image via You Have Been Here Sometime

10 Responses to Annals of Bad Design: Extra Deep ‘Luxe’ Sofas

  1. Helen S. 01.17.2014 at 6:28am #

    The “luxe” sofa may possibly be good for an extra bed in a guest room.

  2. Catbird Farm 01.17.2014 at 1:47pm #

    Sally, I agree completely. I would add, however, that it depends how and where you plan to use the sofa. In our TV room, I wanted low, deep seating that would accommodate my tendency towards half laying, half lounging, i.e., utter slothfulness! With neither Restoration’s Luxe nor Classic being in my budget, I improvised with two twin mattresses placed in an L-shape in one corner of the room. My husband built platforms with legs, we slipcovered everything in white duck for a clean unified look. Along the back (against the walls) are foam wedges (also slipcovered) and in front of that plenty of 18″ down pillows, enough that if anybody should want to sit “properly” they can put extra pillows behind them. But most of the time, you will see us nested into place, curled up, feet up and very cozy. That said, that’s in our TV room. The RH sofa is surely being sold as a sofa for reception rooms and I agree, even at nearly 6′ tall, I don’t like to visit somebody and find I have to sit perched on the edge with my (bad) back unsupported.

    Also, not to be pedantic (ok, maybe a little but in support of your facts!) – your analysis says it is for the Luxe but in fact, the numbers you used in your breakdown were for the Classic, which is the 35″ deep one. For the Luxe (43″) you’d need 23-25″ of pillow behind you to sit upright and supported! It’s a bed! Oh, and BTW, my own improvised solution of twin mattresses as deep sectional happily provided us with overflow accommodations when we have more overnight guests than the guest rooms can handle. :-) I call that improvising with happy results. :-)

    Love your posts, as always.
    –RC, Catbird Farm

  3. dr 01.18.2014 at 12:27pm #

    Also wanted to rally in support of deep sofas for those of us folk who use couches for more than just sitting upright. i love to snuggle up with my back into the corner of the sofa or lean against the arm w my head and lie down….but i want to be able to do that with other(s) on the couch; the only way that is possible is with a deeper sofa. otherwise it’s just a tangle of limbs that don’t fit, and almost having to fight with each other for space for legs and feet on the couch. with a nice deep sofa, everyone fits, and there’s even room for sitters if it’s a long enough sofa. i’ve had narrower sofas, but there just isnt enough room for any more than one person to lie in comfortably. i measured ours and it’s 29″ inches for the depth of the seat cushions to the upholstered back of the sofa, 25″ to the back pillows that come with the couch, and 21″ with the decorative pillows that we added. Deep enough for us snugglers, and still some accommodations for the sitters.

  4. Sally 01.18.2014 at 6:09pm #

    Yeah, of course, the use entirely determines whether these sofas work or not. And I should have clarified that. If it’s for lounging, tv watching, napping then FINE. But for sitting and having a glass of wine and meeting new people, naaah. Extra pillows can be a way to make these deep sofa’s accomplish both purposes, but they have to be the right pillows i.e. the right size and firmness to do that job.

    I LOVE the conversations the Annals of Bad Design ignites.

  5. Sally 01.18.2014 at 6:12pm #

    How nice to have some one that totally gets with the thinking, and even LOOKS at the specs (which blinded me a bit). But you got the gist.

    I really like your formular for your improvised one. It sounds great. I’ve been meaning to post an Ikea sofa I hacked. Seeing that the cushions were way out of proportion, I just bought the frame and had my own pillows made, to give it modern lines and still work as a sofa bed…

  6. Mary 09.03.2014 at 8:09am #

    The reason I was looking for an extra deep couch is so that me and my husband can comfortably spoon and hold our toddler. Not to appear ‘luxe’.

  7. Sally 09.03.2014 at 12:29pm #

    Makes great sense. I will put that in the hopper. There are ALWAYS other rationale besides the ones I critique, and I appreciate hearing them.

  8. Michele 11.26.2014 at 12:40pm #

    Purchasing a deep sofa was, for me, a terrible mistake. It’s actually a set, with love seat and arm chair, all too deep for 5″5′ me. It works great for my 6 foot friends. I’ve developed back problems as a result of trying to use it, and now have to figure a way to resell it to some taller, longer-legged folk.

  9. Mark 02.16.2015 at 12:50am #

    I wish I had seen your post a few weeks ago. At 6’3″ tall, I thought a deeper sofa would be perfect for my longer legs. I went with Crate & Barrel’s Axis-II sofa with a 25″ seat depth. But after sitting on it a few times, I realized it’s way too deep and it puts tremendous pressure on my lower back if I try to sit upright. I actually dread sitting on my new couch.

    I guess most people curl up their legs on these deeper sofa (and I’ve noticed my short friends always curling up their legs on sofas of all sizes… now I understand why). I’ve never been much of a curler myself, and I’m having a tough time getting used to it. The solution might be finding the right throw pillow to support my lower back.

  10. Sally 02.16.2015 at 3:38pm #

    Really sorry you didn’t see the post…Most people see these big sofas everywhere and think they must be great. Only a few people I know really like them. Now that you have it, a solution would be to support the back cushion with another cushion, or use good size throw cushions. Small ones don’t do much… Good luck!

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