Our New Ikea Karlstad Sectional: A Love Story


Here’s what I wrote nearly two years ago about wanting a Karlstad sectional:

Yes, I know….EVERYONE has a Karlstad sofa from Ikea. But you know what? Sometimes everyone is right. Because where else am I going to find an attractive sectional, with a cover that I can replace if/when the evil cats destroy the first one, for $900?

Since then, there has been some waffling about what sofa we wanted in this room and whether a sectional was really the best for the space, but we always came back to the Karlstad. I feel like our family and the Karlstad were meant to be together.

Like I said two years ago, I realize that we bought the same sofa as everyone else. I can think of half a dozen other bloggers with this sectional without trying hard at all. But, seriously, this thing is such a good deal in the world of sectionals that it’s nearly impossible to pass up.

To back up, until a few weeks ago, the sofa situation in our den was…..well, ugly:

Big, brown, poufy, AND uncomfortable! We bought these cheap at Goodwill a few years ago, and we were more than ready to be done with them.

And yet, with one thing and another, it took us until 2 1/2 years after moving in to this house to actually BE done with them.

The nice thing about this kind of procrastination is that you’re able to get a really good grasp on exactly what you want and what would work best in your space. By the time we were finally ready to buy something new, we knew that we wanted:

1. A sectional and as much seating as we could reasonably fit into the space available

2. something comfortable

3. a low profile: the giant old couches were actually a little less intrusive in our old house, but in this house there’s a large arched opening between the den and the library, but the high back of the loveseat destroyed any sense of openness between the two rooms.

4. something that would hold up to our chaotic household and not fall apart in a year (A few months ago I wrote a post about my top picks for types of sofas that go well with cats, kids, and dogs. One of my picks was slipcovered, and I mentioned that this was the only one we hadn’t personally tried yet)

5. not a million dollars

And, at last, we were ready to commit to the Karlstad. We were planning to make an Ikea trip sometime this month to get one, but I kept doing searches on Craigslist every few days in hopes that one would show up and save us some money. One night, a little after Christmas, I was doing one of these searches…and there it was! A Karlstad sectional, with a gray sivik cover, a few minutes away from us.

The only issue was that it included not just the longer and shorter sofa sides, but a chaise lounge. We hadn’t been considering getting the chaiseΒ  at all; we didn’t think it would fit into our space. The sofa in the listing was, in fact, exactly the same sofa that John and Sherry from Young House Love bought for the massive family room in their old house, and I remember looking at that and thinking it would be fabulous to have such a huge sofa and wasn’t it too bad we didn’t have room for it.

But then we measured! Visual aids might be helpful here. This is the Karlstad we were planning to buy–the 2+3; it’s basically a longer side, a shorter side, and a corner piece:


We were planning to put the longer side against the back wall of the den, opposite the fireplace.

This is what was listed on Craigslist:



We’d never thought about getting the chaise, because we knew that the long side plus the chaise wouldn’t fit against the back wall. BUT! The Karlstad comes in a million interchangeable pieces so that you can configure it any way you want to. And we figured out that we could put the short side plus the chaise against the wall and have the longer side coming out toward the fireplace and it would work fine (and not stick out as far as that big poufy loveseat did, even). The only other concern was that the chaise would stick out too far and block the door to the sunroom, but it turned out not to be an issue at all.

The guy was asking $650, and we didn’t negotiate at all since it was the first day it was listed (and we thought the price was fair). The sofa itself is five years old (it was in storage for 2 of those years), but they bought a new cover just a few months ago. The whole thing is in great shape and looks pretty much brand new, which bodes well for the long term prospects of our new to us sofa. So, basically, we saved $250 (plus tax) over what we were planning to spend AND got a bonus chaise. Or we saved $550 plus tax over the retail price of the sofa we actually bought. Either way, we’re very excited with our unexpected savings and with having an even bigger sofa than we’d hoped for.

Dave borrowed a friend’s small truck and managed to fit the whole thing into the back of it, which was quite a feat of engineering. Hundreds of hours of his childhood spent playing Tetris for the win!

While we were carrying it in, I decided that we are never again going to buy a couch that you don’t have to put together yourself. It was so light and easy to carry compared to pre-assembled sofas! And, compared to most anything else you can buy from Ikea, it was super easy to assemble. We had the whole thing together and were sitting on it watching TV within an hour, I’d say.

karlstad01s karlstad03s karlstad04s

We’re a couple of weeks in to life with the Karlstad now, and we’re very still very much smitten. It fits in the room like we designed it for that space. It’s HUGE, with tons of space for all of us and then some, but it’s still visually much less weighty than our old sofa and loveseat. It’s really comfortable (I hear tell that the cushions are unpleasantly firm when new, but we avoided that whole breaking in period by buying it used). I love the fabric and the way it looks with our red rug. Despite the price tag, it doesn’t feel like a cheap sofa, and it seems well made. I love that we can switch out the covers in a few years if we need or want to.

Downsides? My sister-in-law has a smaller version of the Karlstad with the same cover, and she’d already warned me that hair sticks to and shows up on the fabric. Yes. We’re trying to keep dogs and cats off or at least confined to a throw, but it’s an uphill battle. We’re keeping a lint roller handy, though, and it hasn’t really been too much of a headache.

And no one really loves the legs that come with the Karlstad. We may wind up switching them out for some prettier ones down the road (it will probably depend on how the rest of this room shapes up), but I’m not really minding them as much as I thought I would at the moment. They’re pretty basic and unobtrusive, so I’m not sure it’d be worth the cost to me to put something prettier on, particularly since we’d need a ton of legs.

I was thinking of adding a bunch of stuff about our other plans for the den, but I knew I’d want to go on and on and on about my love for the sofa for so long that there really wouldn’t be time. For now, know that you should ignore the yellow walls, because they’re not staying. Also the rest of the room is a big disaster right now because we’re moving stuff around. So I craftily shot just the sofa pictures instead for today. But we have big, big plans for the rest of this room, and I’m getting excited about them. More on that….next week? Probably next week!

As for the ugly brown sofa and loveseat? We thought about selling them cheap on Craigslist, but I didn’t really want to deal with it. Craigslist and dealing with e-mails and no-shows and all that is a pain under the best of circumstances; it’s an even bigger pain when you’re selling something that’s far from perfect and trying to describe every little flaw so people aren’t angry/disappointed when they come out to look. So we hauled them off and donated them to the thrift store instead; we had them out of there the very next morning, before we returned the truck. I went by the thrift store the next day and they were there with a sold sign on them already ($80….apparently they found the price for which they’d go fast).

Abe approves of the new sofa, too:


A review of Ikea's Karlstad sectional in sivik gray


Our New Ikea Karlstad Sectional: A Love Story — 37 Comments

  1. i feel like hair on furniture, clothes, and well pretty much everything else is just par for the course with dogs….. but i’ll take it to have their love! πŸ™‚ and i love it in that blue…. dreamy! love at first sit. see what i did there?

    • Yeah, I would gladly accept all the dog and cat hair if I could just find a magic trick to make the cats uninterested in scratching! Also, will you please make a fun pun every time you comment on my blog? Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  2. Everyone IS right! Ever since I found our Karlstad in the as-is section a little over a month ago, my love for our sofa has only grown stronger! It’s such a perfect solution for a family with kids, pets, and style. I hate admitting this out loud, but we almost did a custom sectional from West Elm… and it was going to cost very similar to a small car. Can you imagine if we had?! DOGS. BABIES. HUSBANDS! messy messy creatures… I would never have let anyone actually sit on it haha. I’m so so so glad we did the Karlstad because I’m never a paranoid wreck about it. I welcome you to the Karlstad club with a hug awkward hug.

    • It’s CRAZY how much sectionals cost, isn’t it?! Except at Ikea. Thanks so much for the warm Karlstad Klub welcome πŸ™‚

  3. This is so timely, as I am in dire need of new living room furniture that can withstand 10 kids (6 of whom are boys, ) at least for a few years. I’ve drooled over other bloggers’ new Karlstad purchases, but wondered how they held up in real life. I even sat on the sofa in the IKEA store, and was worried about the firmness, too. Good to know they soften up a bit! Thanks for the honest review! πŸ™‚

    • Wow–ten kids?! I’m looking at my sofa right now and trying to figure out if 10 kids would fit ;). I know the people we bought ours from had one toddler (don’t know about pets), so we’ll be giving it a more challenging home than they did, but I still feel pretty good about it seeing how well it’s held up so far πŸ™‚

  4. We have matching sofas again! Yay! Now we will all feel right at home when we visit each other. How much do you like the chaise? I LOVE my chaise SO MUCH. I’m happy you have a sofa you love, and it fits perfectly. I think the karlstad is magic the way it always fits perfectly. One of my favorite things about this sofa is that the arms don’t waste any space. So you get more space to sit in. Which is, after all, its main function.

    • Sofa twins! I like the chaise…it’s kind of weird because there are two places where one can stretch out like that….in the L and on the chaise….so if Dave and I both want to do that we’re sitting way away from each other, which doesn’t seem very friendly.

  5. We love ours, too–for all the reasons you mention. One of the dogs puked on it recently, and it was no big deal. And you scored a great deal!

    • I look forward to the day when our couch is baptized with dog puke. Okay, I don’t really, but it’s good to know it will survive the inevitable event okay πŸ™‚

  6. It really does look phenomenal in your space. Maybe instead of replacing the legs you could stain/paint them? Just a thought. I had considered this sofa, but I can’t see how it would fit, at all, in our tiny house. But it’s still a contender when we move into that mcmansion that’ll never happen πŸ˜‰ so happy to see you’re happy, even with it being used for 3+ years!

  7. It really looks great in your room – perfect for the space and a great way to get so much seating. And you are totally right – it feels lighter than your old sofa.

    Also, Abe on the sofa? I just died from the cute.

  8. Yep! It is rockstar! It looks amazing in your space and I love the color you chose! Goes so well with the rug as well Gretchen! A great love story indeed! Nicole xo

  9. You have magical CL powers! I just decided we need a sectional and two chairs in our family room instead of the two leather ektorps but I’m not ready to give up the easy cleanup of leather or the $$. Maybe I should do more CL searches for sectional πŸ˜‰

  10. We had a Karlstad sofa for years, and then got the sectional (also used on craigslist!) when we bought our house last fall. We had the sivic cover on our sofa version, and I loved it but just couldn’t take the cat hair anymore so switched to the isunda light gray for our sectional. It seems counterintuitive to go with a light fabric, but it’s holding up really well and the cat hair is invisible — it’s been so totally worth it. We also did an easy spray paint job on the legs to make them a little less “IKEA.” (You can see the cover and legs here: http://www.plasteranddisaster.com/living-room-makeover-goodbye-marsala-hello-gallery-wall/). So those are two easy things to consider down the line. But welcome to the Karlstad club, we’re loving ours!

    • Good to know about the isunda cover! And the legs look great πŸ™‚ So far we’re still in love with the Karlstad…..pet hair and all πŸ™‚

  11. What is the measurement with the chaise on the short end? I’m deciding whether to skip the chaise, even though I really want it, in order to fit the dimensions of my living room. But when I read your blog about how you can put the chaise on the loveseat portion I’ve been dying to know if that will work for me. Can’t wait to get my very own Karlstad!

    • Sorry for the late reply–we’ve been out of town, away from our sofa :). The long side, with the chaise is just under 125″. The shorter side is 112″. HTH!

      • (not sure that was clear….the 125″ is the side against the wall, from the edge of the chaise to the corner by the doorway)

        • Thank you so much! I’ve been saving and saving and am very close now to affording my very own Karl. I really appreciate your response. I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog, thank you again!

          • You’re welcome! Hope you love your Karlstad as much as we love ours πŸ™‚

  12. So I bought my own Karl last summer just in time. He has since been discontinued which saddens me greatly. I am in love with this couch. I cannot say enough positive things about it. Before I finished putting on the legs I decided to spray paint them. I used Rustoleum Metallic Oil Rubbed Bronze and it’s perfection. If I had known how amazing the Karlstad was I would have bought two!
    Thank you for sharing your Karl story and thank you again for giving me the measurements last year. You helped cement my decision to purchase this masterpiece of a sectional.

    • I’m glad you got one in time! The legs sound awesome (mine are still just sitting around being the boring wood color they came in). I can’t believe they discontinued it….I live in fear now of the day when we need a new set of covers and can’t get one!

  13. To all you Karlstad lovers here. We have one for sale. We live in downtown Toronto, Canada. It looks like it is exactly the same as the one in the pictures above. It’s 3 years old and has been in a smoke and pet free home for its entire life.
    Not sure what, if any, rules there are about offering something for sale here. Gretchen, any thoughts or advice. We will list it on Kijiji.ca as well but before we do that I thought I’d let all of you know. It won’t be available until the 18th of September.

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