We do a lot to make sure our dogs and cats are happy and healthy. One of the things we don’t often talk about, though, is just how much they factor into major purchases. Buying a house? It needs a fenced-in yard for the dogs. Need a new car? It must have room for everyone to ride safely. For me, the most recent big purchase that my dog had a say in was a sofa.
When I bought my house in 2011, I wanted to do two things: adopt a dog and get a sofa. I brought Maybelle home after two months, but until just recently I’d been sitting on one sofa in a series of many with dubious origins.
Choosing a new sofa is hard. It’s a big purchase that we must live with for years. And as anyone with furry family members knows, choosing the right sofa involves more than just the firmness of cushions and the style of arms.
For a long time, I had my heart set on a sofa with a chaise. Then a friend gave me an ottoman, and I set up a mock chaise at the end of my existing sofa. I quickly realized this wouldn’t work long-term. Not only did the “chaise” take up too much floor space in my small living room, but also my boyfriend and I crammed onto it while the dog stretched out on the rest of the sofa. And when the sun streamed in through the window and hit the ottoman, Maybelle claimed it as her spot.
I knew a sofa and loveseat combo wouldn’t work, either. The limitations of the room make two sofas a little awkward, and Maybelle likes to be where the people are. So, we would all end up stuffed onto the bigger sofa anyway. I decided that an L-shaped corner sectional was the way to go.
I have a few pet peeves when it comes to sofa pillows. Many back pillows are too bulky, or they are too high and force shorter people — like me — into a sort of constant neck gymnastics. Awful. My favorite sofa of the many secondhand ones I’ve owned has a fixed-back with no pillows. In fact, the sofa is still in my mudroom/sunroom, where the cats have made it their own. The matching loveseat is in my bedroom, and Maybelle sleeps there at night. But newer fixed-back sofas tend to be a bit formal, and I highly doubt there is a sectional version anywhere on this earth. My new sectional would need to have pillows that were not too bulky or too tall.
The upholstery of a new sofa can either lead to years of buyer’s remorse or free up hours in the weekly cleaning schedule. It may be the most important part of this purchase. Will fur get embedded in the fabric? Will cat throw-up leave behind a stain? What color strikes the right balance between not showing all the fur and not showing every speck of dirt? Leather seems like the perfect fabric for anyone sick of defurring their furniture, but then there are the claws and nails to think of because of the scratches they will leave behind.
For years, I had been leaning toward a neutral microfiber. As I drove all over the county looking at sofas, testing out pillows, and inspecting fabrics, I just became more confused. Maybe I wasn’t as set on microfiber as I thought. So I turned to the Internet to see what other pet parents thought was the best fabric for pet-friendly furniture.
I found posts with titles such as “I Live in a House Filled with Animals and Children, and I Have a White Sofa — Here’s How,” and almost every one of them was about an Ikea sofa (though some mentioned their pricier Pottery Barn counterparts). Its washable cotton slipcovers (and the ability to use bleach) were the key.
As it turns out, I have an Ikea chair with a white slipcover in my bedroom, so I carted it downstairs where it would get more use. It was too small for the dog to get comfortable in, but the cats quickly made themselves at home — leaving dirty paw prints and plenty of fur behind. Once it was good and dirty I got the vacuum out and went to town. The fur came off easily, but it was clear that if I had white furniture in the living room, I would be forced into a never-ending wash cycle. I was sold on the slipcover concept, but not the color.
At this point in my decision-making process, I was set on the Ikea Ektorp corner sectional with cotton slipcovers. I liked knowing that if I didn’t end up loving the color, I could just head back to the store and buy a different slipcover.
I knew white wasn’t for me — bleach or no bleach. I thought neutral beige/tan was the next best choice — not as apt to show dirt as white, but also not so dark that every white cat hair will be a glaring sign of how long it’s been since I’ve vacuumed.
However, my local Ikea is about 45 minutes away so I’d been doing a lot of my research online. The beiges looked pretty light — as in, they may show just as much dirt as the white slipcovers. The Nordvalla Gray caught my eye, but on my computer monitor it looked too dark. So when I went to the store to order and pick up my sofa, I made one last trip upstairs to look at the colors in person — and I made the last-minute decisions to go gray! It was much lighter in person, but still dark enough to hide all manner of sins (including my penchant for spilling).
I love this thing! I hated the old sofa so much that I probably would have loved anything, but so far it has totally lived up to my expectations. It’s comfortable and roomy but not so huge that it takes over my entire living room, and it wasn’t even that hard to put together. (I did it all by myself, though I do have a few suspicious “extra” parts!) My only complaint is that it has inspired me to change just about everything else in the room. Most importantly, it is SUPER easy to clean.
I went out and bought a handheld vacuum specifically designed to remove pet hair. I did this because I don’t always feel like hauling the big vacuum out just to rid a single cushion of cat hair, and it was worth it. Each night before I sit down at the end of the day, I get out the little vacuum and do a quick pass over the cushions, and you would never know a dog and two cats have been calling it home all day.
Do you consider your pets before you buy furniture? Tell us why in the comments!
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About the author: Theresa Cramer is a journalist and editor by trade, an NPR addict, and an avid gardener. She blogs at Writer on the Prowl, where you will find pictures of her garden, her pets, and musings about whatever is on her mind. She is working on a book about content marketing and how to make the transition from journalist to brand journalist.