Leather was once a status symbol. Decades ago, wearing a leather jacket either meant that you loved The Ramones or the early-1960s Beatles (before they got soft, SMH), that you actually rode a motorcycle, or that you just had a lot of money; owning a leather couch meant that you were some sort of Don Draper-like figure, or at least that you liked cigars and Scotch (i.e., you were wealthy and cool). These days, however, leather’s pretty accessible to everybody. Whether you’re
crying crushing skulls at the Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service tour in your Doc Martens or reaching for your classic leather wallet so you can invest in some Le Creuset cookware, leather goods have become a pretty normal part of everyday life, even for us 99 percenters. For many, though, leather couches still seem like a final frontier. Are they worth it, or are they simply too nice for normal people like us? Are they actually worthwhile purchases that’ll keep you comfortable on Tinder dates and while binging Law & Order for years to come, or do they wear out too quickly?
When it comes to leather couches, I’ve been burned before. A couple years before the pandemic, my brother was moving away and gave me his weathered, old leather couch (brand unknown). I wasn’t really a leather guy at that point, and begrudgingly took it to help him out. I came to enjoy the couch, finding it comfortable; but when the 2020 stay-at-home orders hit, it quickly became clear that my leather couch wasn’t up to the challenge of supporting a big man working, watching The Sopranos, and looking at, uh… websites… on it for 16 hours a day. It quickly started to wear, and, before long, my beautiful leather couch had become a dilapidated relic. Still, I’ve considered investing in a newer, higher quality one strictly for normal use (i.e. not literally living on it for two years straight). Straight away, I knew I had to look into the legendary Sven sofa by Article, a piece of furniture that had been recommended to me by numerous people, but that I’ve never had the pleasure of sitting on.
The leather version of the Sven (there are also fabric and velvet options) comes either as a full sofa or a loveseat. It has a solid wood frame, two bolster pillows, loose fabric-backed cushions with removable covers, and an overall vintage-MCM look. Its tufted, bench-style seat makes it at least appear pretty comfortable, and its Charme leather comes in four colors: Charme tan, Oxford black, Oxford blue, and Charme “chocolat” (pronounced “shock-o-lahh”). The width of the couch is 88 inches, or just over seven feet long, and Article claims that it takes “approximately five minutes” to put together, which [checks Guinness Book of World Records] would make it the quickest furniture assembly of all time. In any case, on paper, the Sven gives the impression of being a good couch.
The cult status of the couch is still surprisingly strong, however. Somehow, the Sven has somehow topped New York magazine’s list of the overall best sofas, and is constantly named as a favorite of surprisingly prestigious arbiters of taste given its moderate price tag ($1,899, for the leather model). It’s also a frequent topic of discussion on furniture Reddit, with some healthy skepticism about its popularity. “I read a TON of reviews for the Article Sven velvet sectional when I was thinking of buying one. Most of them were sponsored,” one post reads. “Those that weren’t seemed to be split into two categories: glowing reviews after two days, horrible reviews after a year.” Yet, it’s still jocked hard by interior design experts. (In all fairness, the conclusion of that poster’s review is: “I love this sofa!!!!! It’s beautiful, comfortable, durable, spacious, and easy to move. If you’re like me—someone who cares about comfort and style but is also relatively easygoing about your furniture and not too picky about minor stains or the color changing a little with time—this is a really good option for a couch.”) So the question is: Is it really that great?
How do you test out a couch that nobody in your immediate circle owns? It’s an interesting question for an age where, instead of malls and outlet stores, people simply purchase big ticket mattresses, couches, and clothes on the internet, sight unseen. And since you can’t simply take an expensive couch to your closest Kohl’s to have it sent back to Amazon, you should be reasonably sure you want it before smashing that “order” button. I admittedly do own a number of Article… uh, articles (sorry), including the Lenia nightstand, the Nera bed frame, and the Seno media unit—and I love them all. Needing to know more about whether the storied Sven was actually worth adding to my collection, I took to the streets, asking anybody who’d ever owned, sat on, or even been near one about their experiences. Here’s what happened.
First, I heard from the former roommate of our editorial director, Suze W., who owned the couch for several years. “Comfort-wise, it’s good, and good if you have a cat,” she told me. (She and her partner have two cats.) “We had it for like four years before upgrading to a bigger couch. I would say the leather started wearing, but we also sat on it a lot during COVID.” Overall, Suze liked the Sven, but ultimately had the same experience I did with spending too much time on its leather. “But the price was decent for a leather couch and it looks good,” she concluded.
I also consulted our senior staff writer Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp, another former Sven owner. She really liked the couch, finding it versatile and durable. “Yes, it’s a classic MCM design, but I think it can really be styled up or down. It can be Japandi, Frank Lloyd Wright-core, or maximalist with the right pillows and throws,” she pointed out. Francky recalled enjoying napping on the couch, and, though she no longer owns it due to a tragic apartment move in which it was given away, she still thinks about its “good lumbar support” and nice smell. “It smells like crisp leather, without the overwhelming musk scent of some other leathers,” she explained. Satisfied with real, positive reviews from actual colleagues in the shopping game, I decided to ask a bunch of friends and social media acquaintances what they thought of the Sven. Here are some of the highlights.
“We have this one at the studio and it’s very comfortable!!! Bought it four years ago and it has worn in perfectly!!” – Julia C.
“We used to have an Article couch like this. It was really easy to resell, so that was chill.” – Cody N.
“I miss it every day.” – Frank C.
“Comfy, but over time it definitely shows signs of wear. If you like worn leather, that’s fine. I slept on it as well!!!!!” – Mary M.
“I farted on it once. Loud sound, and lots of reverb.” – Kenny E.
As you can see, people praise the Sven’s ubiquity, comfortability, resale value, and the integrity of its leather (as demonstrated by Kenny E.’s review), while noting that it will begin showing signs of wear within a few years. This may explain why it’s so popular, but also why there are those who eventually replace it; its versatile good looks, ease of care, and affordable price point are major components of its allure, but not everyone likes the look of a broken-in leather sofa, or may wish to upgrade to a bigger couch with time since its size is best for apartment living.
TL;DR: People feel that the Sven is definitely a worthwhile investment if you plan to use the sofa as a relaxing seat for reading, watching TV, and chatting rather than as a second bed; people also agree that it’s made of nice leather that wears well and looks attractive. Some said it’s a supportive piece of furniture, meaning it probably won’t give you debilitating back pain if you choose to sit on it for a few hours while working, like some couches do [turns around to glare at current couch]. Does it deserve its status in the pantheon of passionately loved cult products alongside Fly By Jing condiments, the New Balance 990, Vitamixes, and Dyson vacuum cleaners? Kenny E. and thousands of other devotees think so. Maybe you will, too.
The Sven sofa is available for purchase at Article.
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