Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: West Elm Jackson Sectional Sofa

I want to preface this post by pointing out that I rarely make purchasing mistakes. I conduct my research before making any major purchases, and I thought I did my due diligence before purchasing the Jackson Sofa from West Elm.

Unfortunately, in this case, I think made a mistake. And who can blame me? There are so few comprehensive West Elm furniture reviews out there. So I thought I'd contribute mine so that others don't make a similar mistake.

Let's rewind a bit, shall we?

The Quest for the Perfect Sofa

The Macy's Ava Metro Sofa after five years of heavy use.

Back in 2009, I purchased the Ava Metro Sofa from Macy's. Actually, my parents purchased it for me as a Christmas present, but I digress. At $699, it was my priciest piece of furniture, and would continue to hold that honor until June 2015, when I purchased the sofa that's the subject of this post. I prefer to buy vintage pieces, but sofas kinda need to be new.

Ava wasn't the most beautiful of couches, but she had one major thing going for her - durability.  She was structured and was constructed of that kind of strange microfiber fabric that showed every brush of a hand but could survive the nuclear holocaust. And considering we had two cats that exhibited rare but aggravating periods of destructiveness, we were grateful for her high performance and vowed to continue opting for non-woven microfiber or velvet fabrics in the future.

Okay, let's jump forward. Picture this - Sacramento, 2015. I'm nine months pregnant and in full-blown nesting mode. I just want a place to put up my feet during my maternity leave, and the chaise sectionals at West Elm, Crate and Barrel, Joybird, and CB2 are looking positively dreamy.

And then, it happens. West Elm has a sale.

I'd been eyeing the Peggy sectional for quite awhile, but with a price point of nearly $2,300 (pre-tax) in my fabric of choice, I was understandably hesitant. So when I saw that the the similarly-styled Jackson Sectional was listed at a mere $1,279 and was in available in the "high-performance" marled microfiber fabric, I just had to jump.

A family nap on Teddy's first full day home. The last time this has ever happened.

My son and the sofa were delivered within hours of each other on the hottest day of the year.  Needless to say, we definitely got some good use out of our new sofa in those first few months.  Now that both Teddy and the couch are over eight months old, I've had some time to compile my thoughts.

West Elm Jackson Sectional - Pros
  • Aesthetics -  3.5 / 5 I have to admit, this couch is pretty darn cute. It's got a slight mid-century vibe, but doesn't veer into kitsch territory, so it works well within a variety of decorating styles. The tufted pillows are surprisingly structured, and can be flipped and rotated easily. The seat and chaise cushions are not reversible, which causes some uneven wear, but this is due largely to the fact that the chaise itself can be configured to sit on the left or the right.
  • Comfort -  3.5 / 5 Pretty cushy. In fact, maybe a touch too cushy. I think it could use a tad more cushion structure. My only real complaint is that the chaise is about a foot too short. Notice how I had to curl up in the picture above?

  • Adaptability - 5 / 5 Holy moly is this ever a cool feature!  We had in configured in one direction in the old house, and then flipped it in the other direction once we moved.  Great for people like me who like to rearrange their living room every once in awhile.

  • Price - 3 / 5 Again, this ran (and continues to run) a lot cheaper than the Peggy.  And, to be honest, I think it's more comfortable. Would I say it's affordable? No. But it's at least somewhat comparable to similar chaise sectionals I've seen at Macy's or even Ikea.

    I'm glad I went with the cheaper sofa, because my issues are mainly with the fabric, which I'll get into in a second...

West Elm Jackson Sectional - Cons
West Elm's "high-performance" Marled Microfiber fabric.
  • Durability - 2/5 West Elm describes their Marled Microfiber fabric as follows:

    "High performance, low maintenance. As hardworking as it is welcoming, this light, heathered gray microfiber not only has a great marled texture, it also resists stains."
    So you'd expect such a high performance, hardworking fabric to be able to endure daily use, right?  Not so much. Though the marled microfiber is definitely stain resistant, it's less of a traditional microfiber and more of a tight weave. According to my research, microfiber typically consists of fibers less than 1/5 the diameter of a human hair. The fibers in West Elm's Marled Microfiber fabric are considerably thicker. If I were to guess by eyeing one of the frayed threads that have popped up, I would say it's close to 2 times the diameter of a human hair.

  • And guess what happens to weaves when exposed to high traffic? You guessed it - fraying and pilling.  Almost immediately.  And forget about having pets.  Anyone who knows cats knows that weaves, even tight ones, are cat claw magnets.  Hell, they make cat toys out of weaves. Had I known that West Elm's Marled Microfiber consisted of such thick fibers, I would have shelled out the extra dough for the Performance Velvet.

    Also, the seat cushion covers are already getting a big baggy.  They get pushed toward the front of the cushion, making the seam uneven.
  • Value and Longevity - 2.5 /5 Yes, I just listed the price as a pro. But value is the perceived benefits received divided by the perceived price paid. If I'm honest with myself, I can't see this sofa working for my family for more than another couple of years, and so what originally seemed like a reasonable price now feels exorbitant.  Remember, my $799 couch lasted me five years. For me, the value of the Jackson Sectional falls short.
Aftermath and Conclusion

I ended up contacting West Elm about the problem, and they provided me with a small amount of compensation for our trouble.  Still, I'm feeling a little down about the whole ordeal.

Sofas are tricky.  There are so many factors to consider when purchasing the bedrock of your living room. In the case of this purchase, I think I went against my better judgement and prioritized aesthetics and comfort over durability. Next time, I'll be sure to put a little more thought into the potential lifespan of a piece before shelling out the dough.

I'm not going to tell you that the Jackson Sectional isn't worth the money, because for you, it might be. Your lifestyle and needs might be vastly different from mine. But, in my case, the purchase was a dud.

May the upholstery fabric odds be ever in your favor.


  1. Yup, it’s a nice couch, but I think if we’d seen the fabric ahead of time, we would have avoided that woven “microfiber.” Like you say, it’s just not cat-friendly.

  2. Thanks for the review! You're is really hard to find in-dept reviews on West Elm furniture but this helps tremendously. We were deciding between the Jackson and the District at CB2, which is pricier. We don't have cats, but we do have a 3 year old and an 18 month old who are hell on everything! Fraying and pilling would never do! Thanks again!

  3. Thanks very much. Unlike Crate and Barrel, West Elm and parent Pottery Barn do NOT allow consumer reviews on their site, which sent up a big red flag. So in looking for user reviews I found your review. And it confirms my fears. So no WE or PB for me. They can't allow user reviews apparently because quality sucks. Thanks for your help!

    1. I'd say the quality is hit and miss. I've been very happy with their wood pieces, but their upholstery seems very overpriced given the quality level.

  4. We too have experienced severe pilling on our brand new West Elm sectional. The problem started about 10 days after it was delivered and has spread and grown worse with each week/month. West Elm has been terrible with their customer response: first claiming that it is normal and will go away which to my wife who works in the textile field is laughable. They then suggested, even after sending a sofa medic who also reported the pilling as severe, that there is nothing wrong with the fabric and that "natural" fibers do that. In fact it is the synthetic fibers that are the culprit but far be it from a customer service rep to know that. In any event we're stuck with a $3000+ sectional which already looks like it needs to be replaced and we've only had it for 5 months. Time to find a consumer lawyer?

  5. May I recommend reading this sofa saga as well?

    I ended up getting them to issue a refund two full years after my purchase because of very well-documented complaints. Twitter tends to attract their attention.