Where to Shop

Couch Hunters: Sofa Shopping in New York City

"The online hunt is one thing, but to feel the textures, inspect the craftsmanship and experience each company’s standards first hand requires boots on the ground."

"The online hunt is one thing, but to feel the textures, inspect the craftsmanship and experience each company’s standards first hand requires boots on the ground" -Jason Forbach, Real Person Hunting for Great Couches 

Any Manhattanite will tell you that running errands in New York City is not fun. It’s actually a nightmare. Even grocery shopping will turn any sunny disposition into Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy.

“I’m walkin’ here!”

So, when it comes to furniture shopping, specifically couch shopping, such a massive task can seem overwhelming. A couch is a large investment, a large commitment, and quite literally a friggin’ ginormous thing you have to deliver through crowded streets, assemble in cramped square footage and squeeze through hallways, doorways and elevators.

I should know.

For 20 years, I have resided in Queens basements, Hell's Kitchen walk ups and everything in between. I currently own a one bedroom in a co-op in the beautiful Hudson Heights neighborhood of Washington Heights with my partner. Getting a large sectional through our apartment’s side gate and into the basement during moving hours was just the beginning*. Once inside, into a wooden elevator built in 1932, then through narrow hallways and a tricky front door angle, it nearly ended our marriage.

(*Be sure to check your building rules and regulations regarding moving and deliveries. I guarantee they are specific. You don’t want to be stuck with a couch on the street at 8pm unable to move in and have to beg your board members to bend the rules a ‘lil bit. Not like that happened to us or anything.)

Now that we are looking to replace our sectional after 10 wonderful years, I’ve decided to share my discoveries and rate my findings so that your sanity can remain intact. I’ve consulted friends in the design industry, but mostly I trusted my bumbling instinct to discover a wide range of options while also considering reviews, customer service, style, comfort, value, customization, warranty benefits and delivery.

Of course, you could scour the mega stores of Paramus or the Outlets at Industry City, but I am strictly looking at The Empire City. The online hunt is one thing, but to feel the textures, inspect the craftsmanship and experience each company’s standards first hand requires boots on the ground.

I will break down some favs and flops in various burrows to help you find that perfect cush to rest your tush. Let's go! 

What couch shops should you check out in Washington Heights?

The Heights is known for its streets filled with Bachata, killer Dominican food and Lin Manuel Miranda. It is not necessarily considered a mecca for furniture retail. Despite that, I decided to give love to my hood and start my journey uptown.

Alexandro Gallery Furniture

Don’t let the inflatable dancing tube man outside Alexandro Gallery Furniture on 181st St. fool you. Their two levels of sprawling showroom floors display a wide range of styles at affordable prices. Once you get past the obscenely tufted, chrome-lined “Vegas Princess” couches that tend to trend in the area, more traditional options can be found.

Everything in New York is expensive, so considering pocket book ease above all else, Alexandro’s is worth consideration. They had pieces for a quarter of the price compared to comps I found at other high-end brand name retail stores. The customer service was attentive and kind. We were presented with extensive information about financing options and were offered a local deal on delivery. A pillowy, creamy linen sectional, sold in customizable sections, is still calling to me days later.

jason lounging on sectional sofa

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Exotic Furniture

To keep perspective, we bopped a few blocks over to Exotic Furniture…because I couldn’t pass it up. I decided to keep an open mind and let me tell you it lived up to its name. Filthy showroom pieces that looked as if they were attacked by a flock of toddlers, couches that looked more like used sex devices and a bedazzled jaguar met every “exotic” expectation. When inquiring about pricing, the woman on the showroom floor told us to check out their Instagram page. I don’t think I will bother rating this one, mostly to avoid having a hit put out on my head, but it was a thrilling detour.


bedazzled black jaguar statue decor

What couch shops should you check out on the upper west side?

A sunny September stroll up from Columbus Circle toward Lincoln Center placed me within a several block radius of some of the biggest brand name furniture retailers in the market. I decided against the stalwart Raymore & Flanigan and the hyper-stylized Roche Bobois, to visit two of the most reliable brands in the industry; West Elm and Pottery Barn.

West Elm

West Elm has an enticing, ever-rotating seasonal color palette of bold upholstery options, a stark contrast to the current trend of washed-out neutrals. This is the primary reason this brand stands apart. From their range of Vegan leathers to rich tones like dijon in astor velvet or a silver chenille tweed, I found all of their pieces to have a sumptuous, unique mid-century nod for a fairly reasonable price. Their Laurent 2-Piece Wedge Chaise Sectional feels fresh and unique, adding movement to any space.

From their design station you can plan all of your customizations needs with a designer. They tend to garner less than favorable reviews for their delivery online, but as a New Yorker, this is a common problem that would never fully deter me. These pieces feel modern and unique yet classic no matter the season.

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Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn, just a few gallops north on Broadway, is a similar experience to West Elm, considering they are both under the Williams Sonoma umbrella. The taste level and tones offer a more mature sensibility here, all refinement and traditional styling. 

Where Pottery Barn excels is in customization. They have over 95 fabrics and 30 leathers to choose from. Every detail, from seat width to stitching, is open to personal taste. The price point is fair considering you are creating custom pieces at a high quality. Made to last and in the USA, this trusted option will always be a reliable classic to last a lifetime.

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Where should you go to find a couch in the Flatiron neighborhood?


A tranquil haven worthy of any Nancy Meyers’ Hamptons fever dream, homenature opens before you with a light, easy elegance. With furniture that feels like a Gwyneth Goop fantasy worthy of a Malibu beach home, their focus is on neutral, organic elements, high quality, textured materials, and keen, tasteful design. The staff was warm and welcoming but allowed space, a pleasant surprise in such luxe surroundings.

This is the polar opposite of where our journey began.

If money is of no object for you, (comparing homenature’s cream linen sectional north of $10,000 to a frighteningly similar sectional I found in the Heights for $2600) this is the place for you. Even their vintage pieces have inflated prices. Despite the price, their construction is made to measure and they have a team of designers on staff to help you select the best pieces for your home. Custom upholstery has an incredible 4 week lead time and there is a highly curated (limited) list of maybe a dozen fabrics and finishes for upholstery.

This is clearly a brand catering to its starry Southampton clientele, and should you have a Long Island home worthy of these sprawling pieces in delicious Belgian fabrics and reclaimed birch, the prices will be less of a shock.

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Where should you shop for couches in the Gramercy neighborhood?

Housing Works

Several highly respected designer friends referred Housing Works to me after hearing about my quest. This came as a surprise to me, having never considered the popular New York thrift store for large furniture items, so I figured it was worth checking out. Housing Works provides crucial funding to fight for the legislation to ensure that all people living with HIV/AIDS have access to quality housing, healthcare, HIV prevention, and treatment. There are a wide range of items that vary between their 7 thrift shops within Manhattan. I went to one of their larger locations in Gramercy and was able to find about 5 different couches. The one in the best condition was already sold, waiting to be picked up by its winning bidder. None really appealed to me, but it was still a fun thrifting experience.

As this is a thrift store, product is in constant rotation. Their stock varies widely and is lovingly used. Most of the larger furniture pieces are up for auction either online or at a specific location. If you are aroused by the thrill of the hunt, perusing online to see what is available and how you may bid on each item, this might be for you. For a one-of-a-kind piece at a possibly reduced price benefitting a good cause, Housing Works is the way to go.

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Lovesac storefront NYC

Once I came to terms with the name, this Salt Lake start-up really impressed me. Having begun their enterprise creating oversized bean bag chairs for Limited Too, the company has expanded to such epic heights to include larger furniture items, most importantly, their “sactional”. Yes, that’s what they call their sectionals. Moving on.

Their “sactionals” are truly the most modular, customizable option in the market. Consisting of varying “seat” and “side” pieces, you can construct pretty much any configuration your heart desires. Each section has easily washable slipcovers that are of high quality, wide-ranging fabrics. And, most importantly, they don’t look like slipcovers. Your “sactions” are guaranteed for life and can be limitlessly rearranged once in your home. You can even have a sound system installed INSIDE the couch’s head rest to get that cinematic surround sound feel. They have financing options, it all ships for free and you can try it out risk free for 60 days.

These couches aren’t cheap but, considering you are getting a highly customizable item guaranteed for life, it’s worth it. And all of the pieces break down into easy to move boxes which makes transport in Manhattan a breeze. This seems perfect for young families with children and for homes who value entertaining. It comes as no surprise that something called Lovesac would not provide the most stylish, refined item in your home, but if you are willing to drop some coin, you could host a killer movie night.

And now I can stop saying “sac”.

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What is the best couch you found in New York City?

After a humid trek through Manhattan’s concrete jungle and after much deliberation, we decided to go with West Elm. The inflatable dancing tube man at Alexandro’s nearly won us over with their low prices, but West Elm’s distinct, darker colors, fabric durability (things to consider when you father a feisty dog) and elevated style were more suited to our tastes. Their price point, though not the most affordable option, was attainable. We wanted a statement piece that could anchor the room with quality that could easily endure another ten years. I’ll let you know how the delivery goes.

Thanks for joining me on my search! And if you ever need a bedazzled jaguar, I know a guy.

A man in a white sweater gazes to the side with a thoughtful expression. He has short, dark hair styled neatly and is pictured against a plain, light background. The image has a soft, serene feel.
Jason is a New York City Broadway actor and writer, with creative work ranging from numerous Broadway shows and national tours to his acclaimed writing career. Aside from being an experienced copywriter, he is also a screenwriter. His pilot, BROOKLYN PANSY, won the Grand Prize in the Diverse Voices Lab at WeScreenplay and was an Austin Second Rounder. He also won the DC Shorts Film Festival and the LGBT Toronto Film Festival and was the recipient of the Hidden River Arts Playwriting Award. In 2023, his feature, MEMORY PLAY, was a Nicholl and Finish Line Quarter-Finalist. He is also a published poet.
Jason Forbach
Real Person Hunting for Great Couches