Saturday, December 31, 2016

Review: Joybird Soto Cushion Review & Mid-Century Chair Restoration


Because I know you're wondering - I was not compensated in any way, shape or form by Joybird or any of the other brands mentioned in this post. I have virtually no readership, so how the heck do you think I'd snag a sponsorship? Pfft.

You know, just another unexplained 9 month break in posts. No big deal. Carry on.

I started drafting this post back in April, but decided to revive it based on the popularity of my West Elm Jackson Sofa review. It would appear that there's a dearth of sincere mid-century inspired upholstery reviews in the dark and dangerous world known as the Interwebs, and over 2,000 curious sofa shoppers found their way to my last post. 

So, let's do it again, shall we? BAM! THE SEQUEL!

(Why, yes! That was a reference to a LSFYL from RuPaul's Drag Race. Thank you for noticing. Admit it, Sharon totally dominated that song.)

The Chair 

This all started with a humble, simple wish - I desperately wanted a wood-framed, mid-century modern living room chair. At that point in time, I could care less whether it was truly vintage or a replica. It just needed to look and feel right. I searched high and low, but couldn't find a thing that I liked for less than $600. West Elm's Mid-Century Show Wood Upholstered Chair seemed way overpriced at $800+ for any decent color options, and even Craigslist was failing me. It would seem that scoping out antiques in the Sacramento area is an increasingly tough game.

(Note: This was several months prior to the release of Cost Plus World Market's Xander armchair. It comes in a wide variety of colors and the price is right, so if you're still on the hunt for one of these - you're welcome.)

Luckily, the baby didn't roll off the sofa while I took this photo.
And so, I made a concession. I purchased an abused wood chair from an oblivious guy on Craigslist for about $300. I wish I'd snapped a decent photo, but I was (and remain) a busy working mom and in the holiday season while purchasing our first house. So this lousy shot will have to suffice...

See it? You probably notice is dull, deflated, depressingly taupe cushions. What you can't really make out in this photo is that the previous owner not only painted over the original wood grain, but coated it in glossy black lacquer. Not a good look. Oh, and pardon the baby. Getting him to nap back then was a chore and when it happened it called for a photo.

Shortly after we got settled into the new house, I decided to get to work. Luckily, the cushions weren't attached to the chair, so it was simply a matter of taking them off, popping out the support bands in the seat...

The naked chair. Not a good look.
...and then stripping, and then sanding, and then stripping and then sanding. Getting the poly coating off alone took several rounds of Citristrip and scraping. The gunk that resulted was absolutely foul and destroyed a tarp or two. After I got the bulk of the varnish off, I invested in a small sander and went to town. I think I went a little overboard in a few spots, most notably the arms, but the finished product still boasts a fair amount of the wood's original grain. 

I'd originally wanted to just finish the wood with teak oil, but the black varnish left a few irreparable stains. After quite a bit of hemming and hawing, I opted for Minwax's wood stain in Gunstock. In retrospect, I wish I'd chosen a slightly cooler tone, as it almost matches my floors, which are finished in Minwax's Colonial Maple. Nevertheless, the finished product was such a huge improvement upon where it had been just a few weeks before that it was impossible for me to be anything but satisfied.

Fifteen steps down. One to go.
But...those cushions. Yeah, they had to go. 

Which brought me to Joybird. I'd spent many an hour ogling their gorgeous furniture, both in my quest for the perfect sofa and for the perfect chair. My sofa purchase experience with West Elm turned out to be such a disappointment that I'd wished I'd just opted for the extra cost and gone with Joybird. (If I could do it all over again, I'd snag the Hopson Apartment Sectional in Dawson Brindle. Sigh.)

Since purchasing the chair, I'd honed in on the Soto Cushions & Covers but had been hesitating for number of reasons. Primarily the price. $200 for cushions seemed awfully steep, and I was still recovering from my sofa burn, which made me extra-skeptical of the "pet-friendly fabric" claim. Also, I wasn't sure the cushions would fit my chair correctly. After all, the cushions were designed to fit their products, not rescued and refurbished chair. 

So I passed the buck and asked my husband to get them for me for Valentine's Day. I figured that if I hated them, I could always pass some of the blame and shame onto him. 

I'm a horrible person. I know. And you've been waiting for a review. So here we go.

Look, Ma! New Joybird cushions!

Joybird Soto Cushions & Covers - Pros

Aesthetics -  4 out of 5

Yaaaaaaaas! So full, so plump, so well-formed. They truly transformed the chair. Though my refinishing helped, the cushions really made it scream "I was manufactured hella long ago!" once more. I do wish that the color were just a smidge more mustard rather than marigold. (In case you're wondering, I went with the Bentley Daisy fabric - more on that later.

Comfort -  4 out of 5 

The Joybird site says, "The well-stuffed cushion features an unbeatable blend of high density polyurethane foam that allows the seat to keep its shape through daily use, plus layers of fiber for added comfort." And yes, it's comfortable. It it the first place I want to sit when I walk into the room? Meh. Granted, that says more about the height of the chair than the cushions themselves. 

Durability -  5 out of 5 

In case you missed it, I opted for the Bentley fabric in Daisy. This fabric is described as "Bentley is a superior plush chenille-like fabric with a deeply striated texture. Yarn-dyed and densely woven to give a rich and substantial texture, Bentley provides the soft comfort of Chenille with exceptional durability." Now, if you'll recall, I've been burned on supposed "pet friendly" fabrics before, but Joybird does it right. Nine months later and there's not a cat scratch or a stain to be seen, which is remarkable as I was worried the textured fabric would be a magnet for cat claws. Also, the cushions have completely kept their shape. That polyurethane foam? Legit. I'm really, really impressed.

Joybird Soto Cushions & Covers - Cons

Price -  2.5 out of 5 

I'll admit it - $200 is steep for just cushions. While I definitely think that in this case the value lives up to the price, it may not by do-able for the average Millennial consumer. The entire Xander chair at Cost Plus is currently going for $249 - not a big jump from the cost of Joybird cushions. (It's also worth noting that the Soto cushions are currently on sale for $160 at Joybird.) If your scales are more tipped to short-term aesthetics vs. quality and durability, you might be better off seeking a cheaper alternative. For me, having cushions that could stand up to my upholstery-hungry cats was well worth the extra cost.

Time -  2 out of 5 

If you're used to waiting for custom-made pieces, 10 weeks is nothing. But in the age of Amazon Prime, the cost of craftsmanship can feel like a ridiculously long and painful wait. Order well in advance. Try to forget about it and then you'll be super surprised when they show up on your doorstep. And remember...

Aftermath and Conclusion

I'm pretty sure that my next sofa will be from Joybird.  Expensive? Kind of. But you know what's more expensive? Buying poor quality sofas from the usual suspects every three to five years when your seat cushions are pancakes and your cats have dug a hole into the lining in the bottom and built a cat kingdom inside your couch and are inviting the squirrels inside for diplomatic meetings. True story. The cat kingdom, not the squirrels. That I know of. 

Do your thing. Buy your cushions. Or don't. 


  1. Thank you so much for the review of our Soto cushions! We're thrilled they fit your vintage chair (great job restoring it to its former glory, also)! The breakdown you gave is really helpful for anyone considering our Soto chair or its cushions, and we always appreciate feedback from our customers. When it comes time to replace your sofa, please let us know! We'd love to help you pick out a perfect piece for your home. Thanks so much for being part of our family!

    1. Aw, thanks Joybird Fam! And commenting on New Year's Day? That's dedication! I look forward to purchasing more of your pieces in the future.

  2. Thanks for this review Elizabeth! I'm considering the Soto chair myself right now, and this was exactly the kind of super thorough rundown I was looking for :)

    1. Glad to be of service. We're coming up on a year and a half with the cushions and still have no complaints. We event doubled-down with Joybird and purchased their Hughes sofa earlier this year. Check out my review here:

  3. Nice review, and the restored chair looks just lovely! Where did you get your black & white rug (shown in your first living room photo)?

    1. Hey Jules! That's an indoor/outdoor rug we picked up from Target awhile back. Super durable (has lived in multiple locations in three different houses now), though it's more of a dark navy and white than black and white.