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Non-toxic Sofa Ideas for < $2000?

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

So, here is my dilemma...

Our family's couch needs to be replaced due to damage from our dog chewing through the cushions to exposed foam.

After diligently saving up a maximum budget of $2000 for a new one, I started researching furniture safety and quality, and discovered that nearly all upholstered furniture is filled with large quantities of flame retardants known to cause cancer, reproductive problems, et cetera, et cetera. (See here for an overview of the topic if not yet familiar with the issue: http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/meetings/mtg08/chemicals11_13.pdf)


The options I have found thus far:

1. Retailer in a neighboring state that sells organic sofas for $6000+. (not unless we hit the lottery)

2. Buy an organic sofa sight unseen from across the country for about $2000 - 2500 + shipping.

3. Buy a sofa from a local store that offers latex foam as a custom option but will not answer my emails inquiring if this is pure, FR-free latex, and hope for the best (quoted $2300)

4. Get a futon frame + latex mattress + upholstery materials, and make my own sofa ($1500+?).

5. Find a pre-1960 vintage sofa in good condition, or fixable condition & reupholster. (Nothing yet fitting this description in the various antique stores, flea markets, thrift stores, CL listings I have been scouring; slim pickings around here; heard reupholstery can be expensive especially with latex foam)


Is there some obvious, affordable solution I am missing here, or am I not looking in the right place? The futon DIY sounds tempting, but I had a futon sofa ten-odd years ago and still remember how uncomfortable it was. The antique sofa route would be ideal (and more in line with my taste), but I have yet to find anything this old that would warrant the cost of being rebuilt from the frame up. I have spent so many hours this month researching this that I am ready to give in and buy an otherwise perfect, flame retardant-filled one on sale down the street. Sometimes I think that would be better, as I'd free up more time to vacuum up all the flame retardant filled dust piling up as I over-analyze yet another decision.


My goal this year is to declutter and detoxify my home on a tight budget. How do you all prioritize your time and allocate your budget in creating a healthy home? Would my money be better spent on more organic food, or a less-toxic home environment?


Please help me make a decision!


Thank you.














post #2 of 30


post #3 of 30

Oh, my, I have been there.  I tried to figure out how i could keep my cushion covers but just stuff them with something else that would be non-toxic.  I spend SO much of my time researching ad calling places. I feel ya.  We didnt come to any resolutiopn and still have the same couch cushions.  I dont think an option is ouit there other than the futon idea.  So, we have made sure that anyting we have to buy for the home is solid wood  - no particle board or antyning and we buy only organic food.  We use only glass plates that are clear due to the lead presene in some of the paint on some dishes/clayware, organic body care items.  We buy organic cotton undies, clean with vinegar.  We function on a pretty tight budget, too.  But, that is thebest we could do.  We still have the crummy couches, but I dont see that changing anytime, soon. 

post #4 of 30

We ended up going the futon route and wrote about it on our website




I have soooo many customers looking for a non toxic couch they can afford and so far I have never found a solution. Our futon is not nearly as comfy as a couch but non-toxic was our first priority (knowing what we do in our line of work) Recently I came across this company that seems affordable and has good reviews. I have not checked them out yet but you may want to...



post #5 of 30

We are having our sofa reupholstered right now.  Have you looked into that?  They will replace any foam that is missing, and you could probably order the fabric and foam separately from vendors that carry nontoxic items. 

post #6 of 30
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone for all of your advice. Oh how I wish I could just go into a furniture store and be able to buy something like a normal person, life would be so much easier. Am waiting to hear back from an upholstery shop for a quote on a custom sofa, with me providing the latex foam and fabric... But am afraid of jumping into a project that I will not be able to afford to complete. Analyzing various latex price scenarios is giving me a headache, let alone costs of 'affordable', easy to clean, untreated fabric - AAAAHHHH! Nothing too promising yet on CL that is cheap enough for rebuilding from foam up, but checking daily. Have been tempted by one antique that looks like the original fabric/stuffing (pre-polyurethane) is in good condition, but then I worry that someone akin to my MIL has doused it with 5 lb. of Scotchguard.


Talia Rose - I love your website and have been deliberating doing something like your futon - though am concerned about a futon being uncomfortable for my husband. He's only home a couple days a week, and really looks forward to plopping down in front of the tv when he returns to de-stress from his job. (Maybe if it's not too comfy he will stop watching tv. winky.gif)  It does seem like something I could do myself though, and I did see an allegedly organic/pure talalay latex mattress on CL that would work...


MariesMama - Are you using latex foam? I can't really figure out how much is required for a sofa. If so, was it expensive?


I have emailed and called so many people....Time to make a decision. Waiting to hear back from the upholstery shop, and if that is cost prohibitive will likely go the daybed/futon route. 



post #7 of 30

Hi, we are in the same boat. I keep looking for a affordable non-toxic couch but have a futon right now. We took an older cotton batting futon that was non-toxic but not comfortable and added two, two-inch natural latex toppers from overstock.com. I am told that toppers don't need to have flame retardants like mattresses and called the manufacturer of overstocks's supply a few times until I was as comfortable as I was going to be about it being 100% natural latex without any additives, so this was the most affordable natural latex i could find. The futon is now comfortable, but far from beautiful. When I have called around, it was hard figuring out which upholstery fabrics have been treated and with what. The fabric issue I what made me give up with looking into  a custom one from "The Sofa Company".  I would love to know what type of fabric you go with if you find something. Oh, I think you need to go pre 1950's to avoid brominated (spelling?) flame retardants with antiques.  It seems most couches from the 1940's or older are not in good enough shape to be sold on craigslist in my area. 

post #8 of 30

Could you please tell me the place you found "across" the country that could provide you with a sofa for $2,000-$2,500?  I am in the same situation, and trust me, buying a futon is a huge mistake.  I did it, and it is completely uncomfortable, we're stuck with it, and back to square one, looking for a sofa.  Please tell me that place!!!

post #9 of 30
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by hannahtoe7 View Post

Could you please tell me the place you found "across" the country that could provide you with a sofa for $2,000-$2,500?  I am in the same situation, and trust me, buying a futon is a huge mistake.  I did it, and it is completely uncomfortable, we're stuck with it, and back to square one, looking for a sofa.  Please tell me that place!!!

Well, there were two eco-friendly sofa providers I found (with organic options) on the West coast.


My top choice if I had more money to work with (more traditional style):


(You'll have to email her for a current price list, which I must say is extremely reasonable after getting quotes for similar items from local upholsterers)


And for a little less money (doesn't seem to be as heirloom-quality as the first choice, but good I'd say for getting in at a lower price point or if you prefer modern style pieces):



Or if you know a good, cheap upholsterer and source of latex...



I've been meaning to update this with what I have found thus far. 


I almost bought a new rattan sofa since they have loose cushions, thinking I could simplify my life by just ordering some latex and cutting it to fit. Still looking at $1300-2000 depending on whether I bought the basic one that looked like patio furniture, or a nicer frame with some hardwood in it. I must say the ones I tried out in the store were very comfortable. Tried contacting the two main companies making these for info on whether the polyfill in the back cushions were treated with any flame retardants, thinking I could save on some latex; got either no response after two emails(http://www.southsearattan.com/), or the runaround about how PBDE is banned so everything else is perfectly safe, without ever answering my question (http://www.braxtonculler.net/).


Almost purchased an antique, all down-filled sofa and chair set in need of reupholstering, but was going to end up costing too much unless I wanted to risk reusing the 100 yr old down stuffing - figured I should just go back to the futon idea...


Almost gave up, then found a nice antique cane-back sofa with matching chair on craigslist, only $200! Just got it home and cleaned it. Has original cotton-filled spring cushions, which I am tempted to reuse instead of shelling out for latex, but they do have an ever so subtle musty odor (which of course I am the only one who notices), so will probably end up ordering latex soon from foamorder.com (estimate $300-600). Also need some organic cotton batting around these (the one area where cotton must be organic, since batting unlike fabric doesn't have any attempt at washing the pesticides out of it), unless I can figure out whether I can get by with the polyfill/batting whatever it is called < is this treated with flame retardants???


Which brings me to finding some fabric. Having to go to all this trouble, figured I might as well get something I really like. Found some good deals on mohair velvet on ebay, but every time I look them up on the manufacturer's website to see what the "finish" is, they are all treated with mothproofing (all the ones I can afford that is). Been to Joann's fabric twice, and thinking of settling for a heavy but non-upholstery grade cotton twill, non-organic (they've never heard of organic or "low-impact dyes" there, everyone looks at me as if I have two heads), since I think only upholstery-grade are more likely to have stain repellant, etc. finishes?

Ordered swatches of "eco-friendly" fabrics from www.modern-fabrics.com. I liked the cotton velvet, but can't find anything conclusive yet on it's finish. Husband of course liked the "eco-friendly" polyester, which I double checked on the finish of, only to find out it has a stain repellant chemically similar to PFOA, but it is "built-in" to the fabric so doesn't "degrade as quickly" into our bodies : D  Yay! How I love greenwashing. 


Now awaiting my samples from http://www.nearseanaturals.com/. Sounds like good quality, no greenwashing, and reasonably priced, just wish they had a little more color in them. Only seem to have either various shades of beige & gray or crazy wild colors to choose from, not much in between (at the lower price points). Leaning towards their "colorgrown cotton" fabrics, to answer your earlier question theresa1 - let me know if you come up with any other fabrics, too. Guess I need to stop being so picky before I give up and nothing gets done... Just wish there were some sort of labeling system so we'd know what chemicals and how much are in our furniture, fabric, etc.


On a related note, emailed Tempurpedic recently, asking what kind of flame retardants are used in our mattress we bought two years ago. Here's their response:





"Thank you for contacting Tempur-Pedic®

All Tempur-Pedic® mattresses are manufactured with the safety of our environment and consumers as our first priority. Tempur-Pedic® uses three technologies to create a flame retardant barrier, all three of which are safe and do not pose any hazard to consumers. Unlike some other manufacturers, Tempur-Pedic® does not and has never used polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) or Boric Acid as a flame resistant solution in our mattresses."


>>"Thank you very much, I appreciate you response. Can you please tell me what type of chemicals are used in these "three technologies" you mention?"


"Tempur-Pedic® product formulas are a trade secret; however, the raw materials and processes used in manufacturing Tempur-Pedic® products are similar to those used in the production of a large variety of polyurethane foams used everyday by millions of people in many different applications like furniture, bedding, carpet underlay, packaging and automotive seats.

Rest assured, Tempur-Pedic® products do not contain polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and our products meet fire safety requirements without using PBDEs. All Tempur-Pedic® products are designed and manufactured to meet applicable Federal, State and Local regulations including requirements related to CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) and formaldehyde."
>>"Well, that is disappointing that your company will not tell their paying customers what they are buying. I don't think a specific question about flame retardants constitutes a "trade secret", unless they are in fact dangerous chemicals, then I can see why it would be a secret; or they may not be, but now I guess I will never know. I invested a lot of money in your company's products, I guess I will have to take my future business elsewhere, as I want to make sure my children are sleeping on a safe mattress."

Well, we all know what that is code for. Going to see if I can have a piece tested to see how bad it is, then move on to my next unnecessarily taxing project. 






post #10 of 30

well, there is another option simmilar to the futon option if it's more in line with your tastes, you could build a day bed. I don't know if you sew or construct, but they aren't that difficult, can be adapted to add storage, and have the looks you prefer.  then you could either purchase a twin mattress or make a padding and either pillows or a back pad simmilar to baby bumpers. 

post #11 of 30
Originally Posted by isisandshiva View Post

well, there is another option simmilar to the futon option if it's more in line with your tastes, you could build a day bed. I don't know if you sew or construct, but they aren't that difficult, can be adapted to add storage, and have the looks you prefer.  then you could either purchase a twin mattress or make a padding and either pillows or a back pad simmilar to baby bumpers. 

Possibly, you could even find a used sofa with an all wood frame and just need to make cushions. I have seen them. I've taken apart some oldish furniture cushions to discover they were made of a bunch of metal springs tied together. Then, the springs were covered with muslin. The fabric covered springs were next wrapped with cotton batting. Some had a layer of some kind of natural fiber under the batting, not straw but something like that. You'd want another layer of muslin over all the padding and an outer cover of pretty fabric, ideally with zippers so you can remove and wash.

post #12 of 30
Thread Starter 

Sorry I have been away, busy with some family issues. Anyway, 4evermom, that is exactly the kind of sofa I did end up buying - wood frame with cotton-wrapped spring cushions. (If anyone is looking on craigslist for something similar, search for "cane back", "day bed", or "danish modern" wood sofa to start.) The cushions are actually somewhat comfortable, though a bit firm with the hundred year old well-compressed cotton. After diving back into my research, have decided the old cotton batting definitely needs to go ASAP, as the cotton was doused with even worse pesticides back then than now, and batting doesn't have pesticide residue (semi-)washed out like cotton fabric does. Have been agonizing over sources for ordering organic cotton batting to rewrap them, but as each cushion has about 15-20 lb. of cotton in each bottom cushion alone, never mind the back cushions, the cost for this batting is going to be even worse than the latex prices, costing me several hundred dollars for batting alone. Thinking of shelling out for the latex after ordering some samples, but the latex smell is so irritating just from these 3 x 3" sample cubes that I can only imagine how a whole couch and chair full would smell. If I hit the lottery soon my top choice would be organic wool batting (breathable, naturally flame retardant, and seems more resilient than the hard cotton). Am very close to settling for regular polyester batting, aka PET, polyethylene terephthalate, the plastic used in soda bottles. I've read it can release phthalates, antimony, and other fun stuff with time, but, hey, isn't it worse that I'm drinking acidic beverages sitting around inside that, than sitting on it? Doesn't my daughter already have hundreds of stuffed animals filled with this poly fill?


I miss the good old days when I was more ignorant about all these chemicals. Hope someone finds some insight from all these areas of concern when building their own less-toxic couch. 


p.s.- Anyone want to talk me out of the poly batting? 

post #13 of 30

I think the new natural plant latex smell goes away pretty quickly, I have also stuffed my glider rocker cushions with mattress toppers, two layers for a total of four inches thick. Even my pregnant sensitive nose didn't notice a smell fairly quickly! I've been really happy with our latex and did talk with the manufacturer, twice, months apart and got consistent responses. 


I almost bought a rattan sofa from pottery barn with plans to restuff the cushions until I couldn't get a clear answer about if the finish on the rattan had vocs or phathalates. Something antique sounds like a great choice! I check craigslist a lot! I 'd love to see a picture of you sofa kotapop when it is done!( for some inspiration!)


I am mixed about poly fill, it may be less toxic than a lot of other choices, but I just can never get answers about flame retardants in it. If you can find a source that answers your questions, let us know, I think it can be made without flame retardants, if you can find a source you can trust....


I'm a little lost when it comes to safe fabric. I wish 100% cotton was jut cotton not cotton with any number of chemicals sprayed of or around it.

post #14 of 30

My mother found an amazing antique couch. It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen but she saw the beauty underneath the torn avacado fabric. It had a hard wood frame and horse hair/Wool cushons. She had it recovered kept the horse hair and wool cushon, and its the coolest couch! Acutally she has recovered it twice. I hope to inherit it someday. If you look hard enough things are out there you gotta get past the ugly. New stuff is just so gross unless you can cough up the $$$. I found my DREAM COUCH a while back and looked at the price tag...$10,000!!!! Uh, not going to happen on a teachers salary. :/

post #15 of 30

Has anyone looked at this site? http://greensofas.com/501.html. We are in the same position. Their prices look good... need to read it through to make sure it is definitely non toxic etc

post #16 of 30
Thread Starter 

I never came across this company in my research - they sound pretty interesting and have a great selection of styles. They offer soy foam, which in my research contacting the foam producers, I found still contains unknown flame retardant chemicals blended with polyurethane, so watch out for that. The latex should work as long as it's ~100%, not one of the "blends". If it is pure latex, expect it to bring up the price a bit. Hope you find something good - keep us updated if you do. My DIY reupholstering project fizzled halfway through but am determined to finish it before Thanksgiving, as my dining room has a half-finished sofa wedged into it. Best of luck, let us know what happens!

post #17 of 30
Thread Starter 

To follow up, for my sofa cushions I ended up ordering a new roll of organic cotton batting, plus some natural (not organic) wool batting to wrap over the cotton for a semi- flame and water resistant barrier. Plan on making some pillows with the wool batting if there is any left over, it is nice and plush, plus trying to phase out the polyfill we currently use. For the fabric I purchased colorgrown organic cotton in a medium weight - preshrunk it in the wash successfully, though I hope it holds up to the wear and tear of the kids and dogs. Will post pics when it is finally done.

post #18 of 30
post #19 of 30

I have been facing a similar difficulty, with the added issue that my son and husband both have dust (and other environmental) allergies, so a cotton topped couch would not work. Does anyone know of a less-toxic, allergy-friendly couch?

post #20 of 30
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