blog furnishings

The Elusive Organic Sofa

While finding organic beds these days is getting easier, at least on-line, finding a truly organic, chemical-free sofa or armchair is a veritable challenge.

What’s wrong with a “normal” sofa in the first place? Well “normal” in this case means the foam used to fill the cushions is petroleum-based, and then flame retardants are added to the highly flammable polyurethane foam. (A petroleum-based product flammable? Weird, huh?)  The health hazard: as the synthetic foam in the cushions breaks down, it sends fire-retardant laden dust into your air. Flame retardants are environmental toxins and are found in wildlife, breastmilk and other human body fluids. Low level exposure to flame retardants has been linked with all manner of illnesses we’d all like to avoid. You can read more about flame retardants in this NY Times article.

So why is it so hard to find a healthy, eco-friendly sofa? One of the reasons for this is because of some gooey greenwashing in our midst. Googling “organic sofa” brings up regular sofas that happen to have organic cotton upholstery (while nothing else is healthy about them), but mostly it brings up sofas made with soy foam. What’s wrong with soy foam? “Soy” and “foam.” The lovely ladies at O Ecotextiles have written a great article on the issues, summed up succinctly in the statement that soy foam is actually “polyurethane based foam with a touch of soy added for marketing purposes.”

The biggest challenge, though for an informed buyer, comes on the purse strings. There are few truly organic couches out there, and what’s rare dears, is cher. As more of us demand sustainable and healthy furniture for our homes, there will be more options and gentler prices. In the meantime, those of us who don’t want to settle for the chemical couch will either have to invent ourselves a sofa hack or sit on the floor. If you, however, are feeling splurgy there are here are some healthy, sustainable choices in sofas and such.

rowan sofa by eco-terric

eco-terric – Ecoterric has 7 style lines, including sofas, chaises, chairs, ottomans, benches, and beds.  All items in the collection use FSC-certified hardwoods, chemical free natural upholstery, non-toxic rubber latex, organic cotton, sustainable wool, vegetable or low impact dyes. Fabrics have been laundered with chemical-free detergent. A building biologist helped designed this collection, so both environmental impact and health impact were upheld as criteria. Sofas around $3000 and up.

alfred sofa by furnature

furnature – Furnature has been making organic sofas since the early 1990’s so it seems like a good bet that they know what they are doing! Their styles and fabric selection look rather traditional, but they do offer custom designs as well. Quoting from their website, Furnature offers “the worlds only complete line of mattresses, bedding, fabrics, and furniture specifically designed for individuals with multiple chemical sensitivities.” The sofas are made with natural rubber, organic textiles, FSC and non-aromatic woods and water based glue. Prices on request. 

camille sofa by eklahome

eklahome – Nine smashing models to choose from, the materials include FSC and reclaimed wood, organic natural latex, organic wool, zero or low-VOC wood stains, non-toxic adhesives, organic cotton, recycled steel springs and staples. I appreciate that they have their price list on-line. $2000-$6500 for sofas.

cleo sofa by ecobalanza

ecobalanza – Here’s a design-focused company with high standards in health and ecology. Eight models to choose from, EcoBalanza offers seating made with FSC certified wood, natural latex foam, recycled polyester – hemp – organic cotton – or organic wool, and no-VOC adhesives. These sofas are made with steel coils. Pricing not yet available. Bummer!

If you know of another company not listed here that makes ecologically sound, non-toxic upholstered furniture, speak up! We’d love to hear from you! Or if you already have one of these and want to brag, well, that’s ok too!

• • •

Additional tips for lowering your exposure to flame retardants

13 comments on “The Elusive Organic Sofa

  1. great info, Thanks!!!

  2. Thanks so much. Pricing is still out of my reach but will watch for specials!

  3. I am searching here in Germany now an “organic sofa” with an payable price. Its frustrating me a lot, but i will not give up. I want to say you to just contact the classic producers and tell them ur opinions and ur wishes as a customer. It seems that there is just not enough pressure given from the consumers to the market to produce other things in this section.
    Regards Mark

  4. Is $3500 too much for completely non-toxic brand new 86″ sofa? We finally just got our custom made one and it does NOT work in the space we have! We are in Raleigh, NC, so email me if you want to know more or get pix, etc. It is a beautiful sofa. Thanks Ann aconsmith@aol.com

  5. Last year I bought an organic mattress from Prolana and an organic bedframe from Dormiente. Both companies are based in Germany, although I bought both through http://www.naturalsleep.co.uk. Have been searching for sofas and although very pricey, Dormiente do an all natural/organic sofa range called the Lounge S..the cushions are made to the same standards as their mattresses and hence can be used as guest beds also. Cannot recommend all companies listed highly enough. If you’re based in the UK or Europe Alan at Naturalsleep is beyond helpful. With regards to the above sofas it’s disappointing that all are american based manufacturers/shops and so not practical for someone from Europe to purchase due to high import charges on an already pricey purchase!

  6. Thank you so much for your info! I’m a student and researching organic furniture but finding it so hard to find ANY suppliers of organic cotton sofas. …. Unbelievable!
    Your info will help heaps! Thank you!

  7. I am looking for a toxic free sofa in ireland or the uk, dose anyone have any new ideas.

  8. Why do “green” companies have no design sense whatsoever??!! I have been searching and searching for a stylish, contemporary/modern, comfortable, non-toxic sofa and can not find one. They all look like tofu furniture. Awful.

  9. First I want to thank you for reviewing my Eco-terric furniture line! I should like to invite you to visit my new website http://www.pinestreetinteriors.com, where you will find a whole new selection of Eco-friendly furniture and related items. I completely understand everyone’s frustrations regarding the price points of healthy furnishings and I wish there were a way to improve the situation. However, until more people who can afford it demand healthy and Eco-friendly products for the home and the balance is tipped, the needed changes will not occur. What we all need to do is get out there and talk it up! Educate everyone who will listen about the hazards of main stream household goods. Only then will we reach that point where there is sufficient demand to bring the costs down. I am inviting all of you to join me on this quest and together we will make it happen! Please contact me at Rowena@pinestreetinteriors.com or Rowena@eco-terric.com.
    I look forward to hearing from you soon!
    Rowena

  10. At Savvy Rest, we’ve launched our organic sofas (and loveseats) line. Certified organic fabrics, natural latex, natural jute, organic wool batting, zero-VOC linseed oil or low-VOC stains (for feet) are among the materials. Please visit our web site for details: http://www.savvyrest.com. Thanks!

  11. Cambridge Natural Mattress have developed a material called Cottonsafe(R) which is made from a unique blend of organic cotton and wool, which passes all the UK fire regulations without any chemicals. Unfortunately there are many ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ labelled mattresses which fail to say they are still using the FR chemicals- as organic cotton alone simply will not meet the regulations. As well as our range of affordable bed mattresses we are able to offer sofas, chairs, divan bases and headboards using our Cottonsafe(R) technology. Our website is http://www.cambridgenaturalmattress.co.uk . Don’t hesitate to contact us for more details.

  12. We are D3CO, the first real ecological and natural sofa company based in Italy
    Our contemporary creations have the signature of prestigious designers and are all made with certified materials. We also give names and contacts of our supplier for transparency policy.
    That’s the most important thing: since we’re artisans we guarantee a direct line with the client that can decide which materials he wants in his sofa, and our is a 0miles production, everything comes from our region except some wool textiles and obviously bamboo.

    Davide

  13. Don’t forget about the glues. Wood frames contain tons of glue. Some companies use glue on the latex, the padding and the fabric. Glues contain harmful chemicals and off gas. Any glue used on a natural or organic sofa (wood frame or sofa body) should, at a minimum, be Greenguard certified. If possible, the best would be natural glues on the frame – Hyde glue or fish glue – and no glue on the sofa body (meaning all fabrics and padding attached by staples etc.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s