Cost Of Living: Made-to-order sofas

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The Independent Online

In an episode of Friends, the group attempt to carry Ross's new sofa up the stairs to his apartment – and get stuck. Sitcoms the world over are littered with such furniture moving-inspired calamities and most homeowners can offer similar tales of these uncompromising beasts.

The problem of importing one into your home is, however, the least of your worries. Finding one is a loathsome task – traipsing from store to store, because you can't tell what they feel like in a catalogue, matching colours and measuring each one, only to discover a friend has the same piece, and they bought theirs in the sales.

Imagine the annoyance felt on encountering someone dressed in an identical piece of clothing and multiply it by a thousand – because that's likely to represent the difference in cost – and you may have some idea of how infuriating it can be.

A made-to-order sofa is therefore an enticing prospect and fortunately there are companies who will design one to match a room in size, colour and style.

The standard practice is to send in your preferred dimensions and materials, some companies will even provide interior designers to take measurements and offer advice, and they will build it.

Bespoke sofa specialist, John Alan Designs, sends out a catalogue containing different fabrics to choose from but will also use any fabrics you already have, providing they meet fire and safety regulations. The wooden frame, though usually beech, can be made of any wood as long as it's available, and they will match the finish to your flooring or other furniture.

A two- to three-person sofa costs in the region of £2,000 and takes around eight weeks to make, once you have decided on your fabric fabric. If it seems expensive, remember these sofas are not merely about aesthetics, they are going to be far more comfortable than the mass-produced variety.

The company has also recently designed a sofa with detachable back and arms – making it easy to negotiate awkward staircases and hallways.

What it costs: A two- to three-person sofa (including all material and labour) costs £2,000 to £3,000.

Figures supplied by John Allan Designs: 0113-258 6596;