Sofa Size and the Mid-century Mods

Mod can be modernist or modest, but the sofa has to fit, in so many ways.

By Kristin Belz September 8, 2011


The Retro Renovation website has compiled a useful guide to non-super-sized sofas that fit our modest mid-century houses.

Sofa shopping tends to be fraught with worry. Sofas are a big ticket item. And they’re big. Heck, most of the sofas out there these days are gigantic. They’re overstuffed and over-long. They look like they could fit the entire cast of Modern Family on them at once. Or at least the Kardashian sisters plus spouses.

But what if you live in a small house? Say you’ve sold the McMansion and downsized to a nice little green (read: small) cottage? Or you’ve got a cute 1950s ranch – mid-century houses don’t tend to be the behemoths that today’s homes often are. So what sort of sofa fits into that less than large mid-cen-mod house?

There’s the Eames option – Charles and Ray’s 72” armless icon from 1954, the epitome of simplicity. Hive carries these classics, which require an investment of about $3500. Then there’s the low-tech, poorman’s version of same: the futon on a minimal, armless frame. (It’s amazing how long that solution can be satisfactory compared to the cost of other options!) But beyond those two extremes, what are the possibilities for stylish sofa-sitting that don’t eat up your annual furniture budget and/or your entire living room?

The website Retro-Renovation has done the legwork and compiled a list of options in a recent post about “28 places to shop for an affordable mid-century modern style sofa.” The need for such a list was pointed out the other day on a recent browse through the living room displays of some area stores. It seemed like the sofas on display were also on steroids. They were soft and comfy, but clocked in at as long as 120” and as deep as 47”. Some looked like they were designed for the deck of an aircraft carrier.

But our average Portland Cape Cod or ranch house is not quite built to that scale. And smaller sofas suit the stylish sustainable green-house. The Eames sofa is about 72” wide by 30” deep. It’s a size that leaves room in the living room for more than sitting.

Retro Renovation’s sofa list ranges in price, with most options under $2000. Some Portland stores show up, including Macy’s, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and Castellano Custom Furniture.

The Retro Renovation website is run by Pam Kueber, owner of a 1951 “colonial ranch” house which she terms Mid-century Modest. The website just got a nice write-up in the New York Times (all their articles aren’t about Portland, after all), and offers a fantastic supplement to our local mid-cen-mod resources. Modest or modernist, our locals deserve their own column soon, so please stay tuned.

820 nw glisan street
portland or 97209
toll-free: 1.866.mod.hive

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