A surprising thing happens to a young man after he’s been out of college and working for a few years. All of a sudden he starts yearning for things he never, ever thought he’d want to spend money on. The once hurried young man, desperate to grab the cheap essentials from Ikea and get out of there, now longs for a nicer, more intentional apartment.
It begins slowly, as so many transitions do. Perhaps you start noticing how homey your female friends' apartments feel; or for the first time, you find yourself in awe during a summer bar-be-que at your well-off bachelor boss’s place. Whatever it is, with a look around our apartments, we all have that one, despairing moment: Our place sucks.
And just like starting a new exciting relationship after a bad break-up, your next, new place is going to be different. But how? Where do you start? The catch-22 about being in this transition phase – from first apartment after college to your first, real adult place – is it feels overwhelmingly expensive. You see photos in magazines and on Pinterest of these glorious, masculine dwellings, with their matching accent tables, massive wall art, and designer furniture and think, “love it – can’t afford it.”
But that’s because you’re not thinking tactically.
As a Primer reader you’re already familiar with the idea of being strategically stylish – our style articles all revolve around calculated choices to get a great look effortlessly and affordably. The addition of a tie in an otherwise casual outfit or the pairing of a casual grey crewneck sweatshirt to alter the mood of a business getup.
And perhaps the most tactical way to adjust, alter, and enhance an outfit – the nuclear option – is, simply, a change of footwear. Wearing a pair of Red Wings, a pair of Allen Edmonds wingtips, or plain white canvas sneakers will all completely transform the feel of the rest of the outfit. They say women can tell a lot about a guy by the shoes he wears; you can tell a lot about a guy by the sofa in his apartment.
Like a great pair of boots, your sofa defines the room. It’s the anchor that sets the tone for the entire place. Modern art? Vintage art? No art? Doesn’t matter, it’s your sofa that controls the character of the room. Consider, for example: If you have a lot of cool things on your walls, expertly placed and meticulously curated, with a crappy sofa – you’re a guy with great design and a crappy sofa. If you have a great sofa and sparse walls, you have great design and a minimalist aesthetic.
Your living room’s sofa is the essential foundation that the rest of the room is built upon.
Now really take a look at these before and after photos of my living room with my old Ikea couch and the Logan couch from Apt2B. Isn’t it crazy how different the room feels with just one change?
The scariest and saddest thing is, though, I didn’t realize just how crappy my Ikea couch was until I took the before photos. You may be thinking, “Well sure, he didn’t straighten the cushions or flatten out the wrinkles, of course it looks bad.” The thing is, I DID, and apparently this is what it still looks like. Now I’m looking back to all the times I’ve had guests come over thinking I had a nice place and they’re seeing this sad, slouchy curb-looking couch.
I turned 30 last July. You’ll come across a lot of articles on the internet about “things I wish I knew while I was in my 20’s” (including an upcoming post on Primer). These lists always include things like, “don’t let your diet and exercise slip away from you,” or “don’t wait to start contributing to your retirement,” or “cut out toxic relationships.”
You know what I wish I had read on that list 6 years ago? “Don’t buy an Ikea couch, ever, ever, ever, ever.”
I’m a fan of certain Ikea things, I enjoy taking some of their pieces and using them as foundations for DIY projects in a sort of Steve Rogers/Captain America kind of super upgrade. The problem is, their couches just don’t perform. I bought the couch you see above only 5 years ago. I had gotten to the place where I was ready to spend some money on a nice, new couch so I started perusing stores like Ashley Furniture and local furniture stores with names like “Giant Uncle Eddy’s!” or whatever, and just being disappointed in the design style versus the prices they were asking.
Above that, for a lot of these places it takes 8+ weeks to get your furniture because it’s manufactured in China and it takes that long to get it over here. It just wasn’t what I was looking for. So, I settled on Ikea and found one and brought it home.
Within weeks I started regretting it immediately. The back cushions would bend in the middle and fold over looking junky, the black cover marked easily, and the bottom cushions were allergic to staying in place, always hanging over the edge. And this couch cost me $800. It seemed like a deal because the couch was only $600 but if you wanted anything other than a white cover it was another $200. At this price, you’re getting into “real” couch price territory. And real couches, these are not. Speak nothing of the crappy cushions, I had to assemble it myself and, I kid you not, it is literally held together with cheap wood and door hinges. This was a poor investment, and at that price I could start browsing legit, well-made sofas.
This was the exact issue Mat Herman and Alex Back had, inspiring them to found Apt2B. How is it that we’re stuck choosing between the modern aesthetic offered by Ikea or the build quality but outdated styles of furniture from places like department stores?
“We want people to know that style is attainable and affordable,” says Mat, a second generation furniture veteran, describing Apt2B’s mission as a bridge between Ikea and Crate & Barrel.
Unlike most other furniture in this price range, Apt2B’s sofas are made right here in the USA. Specifically Los Angeles, where not only is Apt2B a household name among the young design-forward set, their line has overtaken brands like West Elm, Pottery Barn, and Pier 1 for most coveted apartment brand.
This is due thanks to their commitment to design, price, free shipping, and American manufacturing, but also because they develop their products with the “second apartment” customer in mind. Apt2B has a whole line of apartment-sized sofas, a concept missing from most other retailers who only offer sofa and loveseat options. This was perhaps my biggest realization after getting the Logan in place in my own living room: My previous couch was way too big for the space. The Logan is a full 15 inches shorter, which isn’t missed in terms of seating, but has really opened up the room and allows the space to breathe.
If Apt2B’s style feels on point, it’s because it’s rooted in some of the 20th century’s best design styles. Mid-Century modern, Scandinavian design, Bauhaus, and Danish modern all make appearances. And if that doesn’t mean anything to you, you probably recognize the feel as being decidedly “Mad Men”; with all of those design movements appearing between the 1920’s and 1970’s.
Here are some of my favorites
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