"The Condo Column"


Susan O’Brien bought a couple LofaBeds for her condo in Québec City back in the summer of 2007.  These days she resides in North Conway, NH, and writes a newspaper column about condominium living called, The Condo Column.  This past Saturday (February 6) she published an article in the Real Estate section of the Conway Sun entitled, Furnishing Your Condo.  She has given me permission to reprint some of it here:

Furnishing Your Condo
By Susan O’Brien

There was a big problem with small space.  Into 560 square feet of studio condo, I had to fit furniture to accommodate dining, living, and sleeping.  Never had I faced a greater challenge in furnishing a home.  To make matters more difficult, the condominium was located on the fourth floor of a very old building in Place Royale, Quebec City.  Delivering furniture down the narrow street and up to the unit was going to require some dedicated customer service.

Although a Murphy bed was already installed, it was uncomfortable for more than one person.  The white cabinetry limited design and color.  I started by making a list of what the furniture had to do.  It was clear the space demanded multi-functional pieces that would provide much more than simple seating.  And that wasn’t easy to find, in my experience.

I turned to the big box of multi-functional, IKEA.  The company has any number of dissatisfied customers who’ve expressed their complaints on various Internet sites, so if you’re considering IKEA furniture you should do some research.  In my experience with the company, it depends on the use you intend to put to the furniture; if you are going to rent out your unit and your pieces will get hard use, obviously you don’t want lower construction values.  But if your condo is a second home sans full-time use, IKEA could offer some low-cost solutions with great design and color.

I found an IKEA double gate-legged table in a light butcher block that was perfect for our tiny dining space.  It could be pulled out to seat eight, used for additional food preparation space if needed, offered a series of drawers for storage, then folded back into a small oblong side table.  In fact, this table is a miracle of multi-functional design; I can say that after four years of use.

Following several more frustrating months of trying out blocky, heavily upholstered, one-function living room furniture in a variety of retail stores, I turned—in desperation—to the Internet.  In the past I had refused to buy anything without being able to see it in person.  Typing in “sleep sofas,” I found a company in Montreal that makes multi-functional furniture under the name of LofaSofa, but only by special order.  I could not view it in any retail outlet.  The owner, Mitch Wapen, was willing to work with my insecurities.

Each piece is custom made to the customer’s specifications; Wapen mailed me several swatches of fabric, then worked patiently with me on selecting the right style for our condo décor.  Dealing directly with him was an entirely different experience from the frustrations of IKEA’s several-layered ordering process.  Closing my eyes for courage, I ordered a couch, chair and ottoman.

The furniture was delivered quickly, considering it was made to order, and was navigated through the narrow halls and doorways of the historic building by experienced movers Wapen arranged.  Minimal setup steps were easy to follow, and Wapen also called to ask if we had any setup questions.

It looked beautiful and, frankly, more expensive than it was, with its tawny beige micro-fiber upholstery and sleek design.  The big, comfortable sofa flipped easily into a bed with a full-sized, 8-inch futon mattress of thick foam, unlike the typical torturous “sleep sofas” with their stick-in-your-ribs coils. Upholstered buttons presented a comfort issue for sleep, and Wapen had warned me about this, but a foam mattress cover took care of that.  The chair also opened into a twin bed, increasing the number of people that could sleep in the unit from one to three. Sofa, chair and ottoman provide a very large storage unit underneath, generous enough for several sets of sheets and blankets, very significantly adding to the in-unit storage space.

After three years, the Lofas still look brand new, although use is not heavy.  The upholstery did not fade.  The company ships to the United States at a cost that is the same as furniture I have ordered from U.S. stores.  Delivery is free on a second Lofa delivered to the same address.  There are no taxes involved, and the cost of the furniture is lower than retail, because shipping is direct from Canada with no U.S. presence.

Susan O’Brien wrote to say,
“Get into condos right away!
It’s a market untapped…..
While nicely gift-wrapped,
For LofaBeds to show the way.”

Mitch Wapen