Ask the grumpies: Ideas for a pet friendly couch?

Chelsea asks:

I need a recommendation for a new couch. Right now we have a 12-year-old, tan, fabric-covered 3-cushion sleeper sofa from Ashley furniture. I would describe the style as “normal couch”. It has served us well but – after daily hard use by three children – it is pretty nasty. To the point that, despite replacing the cushions once and washing the cushion covers (and spraying them with pee-neutralizing spray) I really don’t like to sit or lay on it anymore. Even my mother, who never replaces anything until it is absolutely worn out, says “couches don’t last forever…” in reference to ours.

We are looking for something durable and reasonably priced. We don’t want a sleeper this time. We are trying to decide if the ease of care that would come with a “leather” sofa is worth the extra expense. I wish I liked the Ikea Ektorp because it seems perfect for us, but I feel like it always looks very “rumpled” in the showroom and like it might not hold up well. But I could be convinced otherwise. I do not like the “overstuffed” look but don’t care much about the styling otherwise. I would love to spend less than $1k but could do between $1k and $2k for something really great that would last.

I would love to hear readers’ suggestions for a family/pet friendly couch. Thanks!

We are not good people for this question… #1 has overstuffed black “leather” graduate school couches that have lots of scratches from cats and one of the pillows seems to have melted a little from before Nice Kitty got on Prozac (this is why I’m not sure it’s *actually* leather, especially since we were able to afford them in graduate school).  We will not be changing anything until our kids are in college.  #2 has a kind of standard wooden futon kind of thing.

So we asked a friend who is good at interior design.  Here’s what she says:

I have had an Ektorp for 15 years and I love it. Mine has held up great with 2 cats and a small dog (but no kids). With pets, I will never have a couch that is not slipcovered. The trick to not having the Ektorp look rumpled is to dry the slipcovers on low until they are just slightly damp and then immediately put them back on the couch – the end result is no wrinkles (this is NOT what Ikea recommends – they say their covers are air dry only – but the internet convinced me to try this). My slipcover is white and I use bleach on it with no issues. It has been peed on and puked on and looks (and smells) no worse for the wear. The Ektorp was recently discontinued, but was replaced by a similar-looking couch called the Uppland – I hope the slipcovers perform similarly.

I do hear leather is also good for dogs, I am just not personally into that look.
Hope that helps!  Grumpy Nation, what has been your experience with couches and animals?  What do you recommend?

14 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Ideas for a pet friendly couch?”

  1. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    We have a (discontinued) 2 seat ektorp and a microfiber giant couch from Cold State. They have both held up well. The small sofa has denim covers which are too heavy to be wrinkly. They have faded in the bright sun but that’s not really Ikea’s fault. It’s held up to 3 kids for 6 years and it’s still in good shape.

  2. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    I was advised to get naugahyde sofas when the kids came along. It’s apparently really durable but I didn’t look further into them because PiC has definite aesthetic tastes that I don’t understand.

  3. Alice Says:

    I’m offering no useful advice whatsoever.

    But here is my couch knowledge and thinking:
    We have a Crate and Barrel sectional that was above your price range at purchase. I like it well enough and it’s holding up decently given the ways in which it’s being used now… but I expect it’s going to have a shortened lifespan due to lockdown activities. (My kid routinely takes the couch apart to construct cushion structures and then leaps all over them.) It’s solid brown, microfiber, and allegedly easy-clean, but has distinct visible fade patterns due to uneven sun exposure in our family room. It’s not terribly easy to clean, I find, as well: the cushion covers are obnoxious to remove/put back on, and the body of the couch has covers that are not removable. I suspect that the easy-clean description requires that you’re able to wipe up immediately after a spill. When I’m left to discover the damage after the fact or when my hands are too full to deal right away, it has a chance to set in a bit more than I’d like.

    When I replace it, I’ll be looking for a fade-resistant fabric and maybe a pattern that would work to conceal fades/stains better. I’ll also want to have something that’s high enough off the floor that hands and vacuums could fit underneath it, because 2 cm is high enough for so many things to slide under there and be difficult to get out. Something with at least 5-6 inches of clearance would work better for our lives. I doubt I’ll manage to get that full combination, but– that’s the wish list.

  4. teresa Says:

    I can’t offer a specific recommendation since we bought our couch off craigslist something like 8.5 years ago and I have no idea where it originally came from. But I will say that my experience is leather is totally worth it and I wouldn’t even consider a fabric couch if we were to replace this one. I don’t have kids but in the past 8 years it’s experienced every kind of pet accident, (mostly human) spills, wrestling dogs, and filthy paws with no visible (or smellable) wear. Everything wipes off. The only maintenance I do is wipe it down ~weekly with a leather cleaning spray. (To be fair it originally had supposed italian leather that I think may have been “leather” and that was scuff prone; it pretty quickly got reupholstered with- I’m pretty sure- full grain leather).
    The other best thing about it is that it has wide and low (14″ across and 5″ high- I just measured to see) armrests which are ideal tables for laptops and plates and pillows for napping. Every time I think about replacing it with something that might fit better in my tiny living room I change my mind bc I don’t want to give up the armrests. But the one thing I wish it had was more clearance – I also would like to be able to vacuum under it and not need to fish for pet toys and treats that inevitably manage to get caught underneath.

  5. middle_class Says:

    I honestly think that no fabric couch can withstand hard use, spills, kids, and pets for long. Or it may just be my inexperience with cleaning up spills properly.

    We use a dark, fitted slipcover and our couch fabric has pattern so it hides stains better. When we had pets, we didn’t let them sit on the couch.

    Ours was custom built based on a Room and Board design.

  6. Chelsea Says:

    Thanks everyone for your recommendations! I appreciate it.

  7. Katherine Says:

    We got a new couch this past summer. We had very similar considerations to you (budget, kids, pets). We would have gone the Ikea route, but the nearest one is 2 hours away. Instead we ordered one from Wayfair, and we’ve been very happy with it so far. It was very easy to search their website with price and size criteria, and it is super comfortable! My mom also has a sofa from Wayfair and has been very happy with it for about 3 years.

  8. wallis Says:

    I have a joybird couch (this one in turquoise: https://joybird.com/sofas/eliot-sofa/) and am super happy with it. They have pet-friendly fabrics. I didn’t get one of those, and wish I had. I have heard that velvet is good with cats as they don’t like clawing it as much and doesn’t show wear as much.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Revanche at agaishanlife recently had a huge amount of trouble with joybird. If you google the company and limit to the past year there’s a ton of awful stuff. They are not the company they used to be. (And the company they used to be stole designs without compensating the companies they stole from.)

  9. CG Says:

    We used to have an Ektorp and we’re not happy with it at all (and we are generally big IKEA fans). The slip covers held up great, but the cushions themselves quickly grew saggy and uncomfortable. They also slid out all the time so we were continually shoving them back in. We replaced that with a “distressed” leather sofa from a local store made by American Leather. We bought the floor model on sale so it was under 2k (10 years ago). It’s been indestructible. The cushions have held up great and are still firm and stay in place. The leather can take any insult because it was already distressed so new scratches blend in. We have a dog but she is not allowed on the sofa so I’m not sure how claws would affect it. You do have to condition it every couple of months. So I guess I would say, also consider whether you like a firmer or squishier sofa and how long you expect to keep it. A good quality leather sofa will usually feel firmer and it will definitely last longer. I would even buy a used leather sofa from a brand like Mitchell Gold on Craigslist if I could find one. Let us know what you decide!

  10. Omdg Says:

    We have a 10 year old Raymour and Flannigan that was $1300 I think? We cover it with a couch cover to protect it, and try to wash the cover when it starts to smell. I thought briefly last summer that we would need to get rid of it because it smelled so bad, but all that really needed to happen was a new cover. I hope this helps!


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