Where to Shop

Where Do Interior Designers Shop for Couches?

When it comes to furnishing your home, the decision between custom-made and retail sofas can be daunting. We asked a top interior designer where she shops.

Are you struggling to decide between the unique appeal of custom-made sofas and the cost-effective convenience of retail options for your home?

When it comes to furnishing your home, the decision between custom-made and retail sofas can be daunting. I recently sat down with Rebecca Hay, founder and CEO of Rebecca Hay Designs and host of the popular podcast "Resilient by Design," to discuss the ins and outs of sofa shopping. Rebecca shared her expertise on both custom and retail options, providing valuable insights for anyone looking to make an informed choice.


In this article, we’ll explore the main points of their conversation, covering the benefits and drawbacks of custom furniture, the viability of retail options, and tips for making the best decision based on your needs and budget.

Custom vs. Retail Sofa Shopping

Custom Furniture Design

Custom furniture design is often the go-to approach for many interior designers, including Rebecca. This method allows for tailored pieces that fit specific design aesthetics and functional needs. However, custom furniture comes with its limitations and higher costs, especially when unique design elements like curved metal details or show wood bases are involved. For example, a custom-made sofa with specific design features can cost significantly more than a similar retail option. Custom design involves selecting fabrics and having the couch made to order, ensuring a unique and personalized piece.

Retail Furniture Options

While custom furniture has its perks, retail shopping is a viable and sometimes necessary alternative. Retail options can provide high-quality, well-designed pieces without the hefty price tag of custom furniture. Rebecca highlighted the vast array of choices available to American shoppers compared to Canadian shoppers, mentioning popular retail stores like Crate & Barrel and local regional stores as sources for quality furniture. Retail shopping offers accessibility and cost-effectiveness, making it an attractive option for many.

High Point Furniture Market Experience

High Point Furniture Market Overview

Rebecca shared her experience at the High Point Furniture Market, a key event for retailers and designers. This market showcases a wide range of wholesale and retail options, highlighting the diversity of choices available to American consumers. Rebecca expressed her appreciation for the extensive selection, contrasting it with the more limited options available in Canada. The High Point Furniture Market underscored the dizzying array of options in the U.S., making it both exciting and overwhelming for designers.

Considerations for Sofa Shopping

Pros and Cons of Custom Furniture

Custom furniture offers several benefits, including tailored design and unique elements. However, it also has drawbacks such as higher costs, limited volume production, and potentially longer lead times. Custom pieces are ideal for those looking for something specific and willing to invest in unique design features.

Advantages of Retail Furniture

Retail furniture is accessible and cost-effective, providing high-quality pieces at a fraction of the custom furniture cost. Rebecca encouraged exploring retail options, especially for those on a budget or needing quicker solutions. Retail furniture allows homeowners to find well-designed, comfortable sofas without the wait and expense of custom pieces.

For more advice check out our other articles featuring Rebecca Hay!

Sofa Style 101

The Ultimate Guide to Picking a Perfectly Shaped Sofa You’ll Love

What You Need to Know About Picking the Perfect Sofa Size For your Space

Fabric Frenzy: The Best Fabrics to Consider for your New Couch

Colorful Comfort: Uncovering Your Ideal Sofa Fabric and Hues 

Full Transcript: Where do interior designers shop for couches? (featuring Rebecca Hay)

Rebecca: There are certain things that I see like a curved metal detail or a show wood base or certain aspects or maybe it's just the shape of the sofa back. In order to get that made custom, it is going to cost so much more money than if I just buy that sectional or that couch that I saw at the retailer.

Alex: Hey everyone, it's Alex with Couch.com, and I'm here with my new friend Rebecca Hay from Rebecca Hay Design. She is the founder and Chief Rebecca Officer, CEO. Love it, I just came up with a new title. And also a popular podcast host of Resilient by Design. I was a guest recently, and thank you so much again for having me there. Amazing, ladies and gentlemen, Rebecca Hay! Here she is, woohoo!

Rebecca: Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for having me, Alex.

Alex: My pleasure. You have agreed to come to Couch.com and tell our users about certain things that they may be curious about. They may want to hire an interior designer to discuss these things, but maybe they could think about these things first prior to doing that or prior to going couch shopping. Certainly, we've armed users with some ideas of how to define what they want before they go shopping. I wonder, what are some places that you like to send your clients to go shopping or where you will shop for your clients?

Rebecca: I think a lot of interior designers, at least in our world in the industry, like there's a stigma attached where designers work with custom furniture only. But maybe there are some large retailers or even small mom-and-pop retailers that you work with. If these are regional people, maybe it doesn't make sense to name names, but what kinds of places do you send your clients and where do you shop for them for couches?

Rebecca: This is a great question. Like many interior designers, we do design a lot of custom furniture. I'm also located in Canada, so it's a little bit different. We don't have the same access to the retailers that you do down south of the border, so we do a lot of custom. That is our go-to: to design a custom couch and have it made with customers' own materials. We will select the fabric and then we will have the couch made. That said, there are times when it doesn't make sense to do custom or the budget isn't there. It's funny, I was just at High Point Market, which is High Point Furniture Market. It's where a lot of retailers and designers go to see all the different wholesalers and companies. It was really neat to see that there's such an incredible amount of resources.

Rebecca: And that's what you share, like you share all the resources way more than I do, where you can go shopping for a couch. For me, I can say that what I would do is I would go to Crate & Barrel. To be honest, in Canada, we don't have a ton of options. Maybe a Crate & Barrel or other local regional stores here that will bring some of those wholesale products to their stores. But when I was down at High Point, I realized there's so much choice for Americans when it comes to couch shopping, which is why I love what you're doing. It's dizzying, to be honest, all the options. I don't even know if I had the beauty and the wonder and the opportunity to be designing homes in the US, I would just be overwhelmed with choices. I would be so excited. Oh my gosh, I get to shop. I get to go to this place and that place, and oh, that wasn't even an option before.

Rebecca: The other thing that I will say so that people don't think, "Oh, she's a designer, she's custom," it can be limiting sometimes to do custom. Our custom suppliers in the city of Toronto, where I live, they are not doing volume. Any custom house is not doing volume. So there are certain things that I see, like a curved metal detail or a show wood base or certain aspects, or maybe it's just the shape of the sofa back. In order to get that made custom, it is going to cost so much more money than if I just buy that sectional or that couch that I saw at the retailer. So there is a lot to be said for finding great suppliers that do sell direct to the public because sometimes you can get really great design that, if you were to have it made custom, would be three or four times the price.

Alex: Wow, that's a really interesting point. I like what you said about the myriad of options available in the US. It can be very dizzying, and that is why Couch.com exists. It's like analysis paralysis. You just don't know where to start; you don't know where to go. Whereas in Canada, all you have to do is start walking with your snowshoes and as far as they take you, you'll probably only get to one store, is what you're saying. I think that's what I heard.

Rebecca: Basically, when I leave my igloo in the morning, I usually find one furniture store, and that's after hiking for miles—or kilometers, as we say up here.

Alex: Yeah, kilometers. I don't know anything about kilometers, but it sounds pretty far. Rebecca, thank you so much for being with us and sharing your insight. This is just incredibly valuable. We hit all of our marks, and I genuinely appreciate it.

Rebecca: Thank you for having me.

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Alex Back is the founder and CEO of Couch.com. Previously, he was the co-founder and COO of the popular furniture brand, Apt2B, which was acquired by a large US retail furniture chain in 2018. He worked to integrate Apt2B, one of the very first online furniture retailers on the Shopify platform, into the operations of the 100 year old larger business entity and was deeply immersed in the business operations of both online and brick and mortar retail for 4 years before leaving in 2023 to start Couch.com. Working in various parts of the furniture industry since 2004, he has 20 years experience in retail sales, e-commerce, marketing, operations, logistics and wholesale manufacturing and distribution. He has worked extensively with partners such as Costco, Bed Bath and Beyond and Amazon and his work has been highlighted in many publications such as Forbes, CNN and HGTV, among others. Alex is delighted to bring his experience and authority on couches and the furniture industry to this platform, along with many of his industry colleagues who are helping him keep the Couch.com audience informed and engaged on a daily basis.
Alex Back
Couch.com CEO & Founder