The Paralyzing Fear of Purchasing a New Couch

Let’s start this post off by talking about personal strengths. Mine fall along the lines of 1.) tearing apart a house I’m living in, 2.) doing shit someone told me I couldn’t, 3.) building random things while drinking wine, and 4.) hugging chickens.



Things that are not on that list? Decorating a house.

I mean, I’m decent at replicating something I see and like… a super expensive bathroom vanity, for example? No problem, I can build one on the cheap. But the more I’ve seen really talented people put rooms together, the more I realized how much I don’t know (and, frankly, don’t want to take the time to learn) about space planning, the best way to arrange furniture, and just plain making a room look good.

This hasn’t been an actual issue in my life because all of the houses I’ve lived in for the last 8 years have been in a perpetual state of getting torn apart and being put back together. So, you know, my biggest concerns have always been things like whether or not I have a functioning kitchen sink, and less about aesthetics.

But this week marks five whole years since I bought this big, old farmhouse, and in that time I’ve only purchased 4 pieces of furniture to go inside of it.

  1. A bookshelf to hold all of my books.*
  2. A bookshelf to hold all of my farm gear.
  3. A craigslist kitchen table.
  4. A bed. (Wait, actually, two beds.)

Everything else in this house is either a hand-me-down or something I built myself, like the office desk and indoor workbench, or my console table for the TV, or this old chicken crate I use for a coffee table. Which suits me. I don’t need a house full of expensive furniture because, let’s be honest, if I’m going to spend money somewhere I’d rather have a barn full of expensive tools and tractor implements… clearly.

But there is one thing I’ve wanted in this house for quite some time…

A nice big couch.

What I’ve had for the last five years is this small-ish leather couch that I’m pretty sure is actually made out of teflon.


I’m telling you, it is fucking indestructible. Also probably bullet proof. Kingdoms could rise and fall around this couch and it would remain unscathed. All in all, it is the perfect piece of furniture for someone like me.

Except, of course, it can “comfortably” sit about one-and-a-half people, which is basically just me and the cat (and only if neither one of us is that concerned about actually being comfortable.) This couch is meant to survive a nuclear blast, not to lounge and read books on.

It seems like, if nothing else, in this great big house with great big rooms I should at least be able to fit a great big couch. Right?

Yeah, actually, I have no idea. About once every six months for the last five years I’ve decided to finally buy a new couch. So I look up a bunch of couches online, get my measuring tape out, come thisclose to buying one, and then the paralyzing fear takes over. Mostly because I have no idea how to arrange furniture, so I have no idea if my chosen couch will fit. Or which way it should face. Or what color it should be. Or if my TV is in the right spot. Or, or, or, or, or…

My eye is twitching just thinking about it.

You know ten years ago all I wanted was to do ALL of the things, ALL by myself. Now I just want to have time to drink wine and build shit, and hug my chickens, and maybe have a comfy couch to sprawl out on at the end of a hard day working around the farm. I want to have comfortable, functional spaces in this house, but I also want to spend exactly zero minutes agonizing over furniture and curtains and rugs. (Seriously don’t even get me started on curtains. I literally have a bath towel nailed over one of my bedroom windows right now, and the last time I went online to buy a curtain for that room I somehow ended up with 18 grapevines instead.)

In the end I have never been able to justify spending money on a piece of furniture that may or may not fit in my space. It wasn’t until just a couple of months ago that– as I was lying dejectedly on my uncomfortable, indestructible, teflon couch, with no reprieve in sight– I realized there was a solution. I could just, uh, ask for help.

Specifically, I could ask my friend Krista, who is both the kind of person I’ll jump into a pool with–fully clothed– on New Years Eve (that happened) and also happens to be one of the talented designers behind Cloth + Kind. I mean, I spend most of my time on Instagram liking pictures of the rooms she’s put together, which is to say I like her as a person and I also like the work she does.

So I did. I hired Krista and her partner Tami for a 5-hour session (they call it a “Virtual Vibe“) to help me make a whole bunch of design decisions I did not want to spend the next eternity agonizing over.

The nice thing about the way the session worked was that I was able to do all the legwork up front, providing dimensions and elevations for my rooms…


As you can see, the cat “helped” with the corner of this one…


And then Krista and Tami were able to put some floor plan options together before we even got together.

Here are a couple…



And the one we decided to start with:


Then, as we worked together and I said things like, “hey, it would be nice to have a sectional where more than one person can lounge at a time”, and they would update the plan real-time to something like this…


And, as we chose rugs and furniture, like this…


And this…


They would continually adjust the floor plan to the exact dimensions of what we’d chosen so that we were 100% sure everything would fit space-wise.

Which was such a relief to me I can’t even tell you.

They also were able to work with the fact that I’ll probably build some of the furniture myself. So they’d say something like “you should put a 42″ round coffee table here” and give me a few examples, with the understanding that now that I know the shape and dimensions I can build something myself that I know will fit the space.

And, of course, the biggest thing of all…


I bought a couch.

It’s the Shelter 2-Piece Terminal Chaise from West Elm (in Shelter blue fabric.)

I can’t wait. I’m going to read ALL THE BOOKS while lounging on this thing. But first, of course, there’s work to do (there’s always work to do.)

The nice thing about putting together a plan with Krista and Tami is that now I can paint, build, and buy as time and finances allow (without going through the paralyzing fear of will-this-or-won’t-this-work with every single decision.)

I’ll make a few of the bigger changes– like painting the walls and mounting the TV over the fireplace– in the next month or so, before the couch arrives. But I’d guess it will probably take another year until the room really comes together as intended.

But as long as I’ve got a comfy place to sit, I’m really not worried about how long it takes to get the room done. As for the cat…


Apparently he’s found his new comfy place to sit already.

(UPDATE: See how the new couch looks in my living room here.)

27 Responses

  1. Delurking to say I have this couch and I absolutely LOVE it. I spent months searching and am so happy I settled on this one — West Elm sofas get mixed reviews so I was dubious. However, it’s so comfortable and has held up incredibly well after eight months (and I’ve had tons of houseguests sleep on it). I never thought I’d have space in a NYC apartment to have a proper sofa but I finally do and this has been a game changer. So excited for you!

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! lol. I didn’t even write about how much I agonized over making this purchase without being able to test one out (and also read all of the mixed reviews for West Elm couches.) They went 20% off recently and I was just like… I have to just buy this and hope for the best or I’m going to spend the next 5 years still debating about buying a couch. My fingers have been crossed that it’s actually comfy!

  2. Kit, What a wise move. Now you have an overall plan for the big ticket items that you will be happy with in the short and long term.
    Enjoy your lovely new space.
    Spring is around the corner.
    All the best.

  3. Yeah, I agonize over picking out furniture, paint, and curtains. 10.5 years in my house and I just found curtains for the living and dining rooms!

    Love that sofa! Excited to see it all come together!

  4. Hubby and I repainted our livingroom 3 times. We gave up when it looked “good enough”. We struggle with agreeing on a style too. Hiring someone would have saved frustration, time and paint!

    1. Totally agree. On one hand it seemed like such a frivolous thing to spend money on (for someone who would rather buy more “practical” things… like a panel saw. lol) On the other, it was SUCH a relief, I’m so glad I did it.

  5. When I bought my couch and easy chair (both now ruined by children using them as jungle gyms), my wife and the salesman both went to stabilize me because they said all of the blood drained from my face, turning it white. I will definitely go small pieces every so often as well on my next living room.

  6. ‘True size and shape’ is where it’s at!!
    Looks like a cadd program.
    **Much** easier to rearrange the furniture on the tube(guess it’s ‘screen’ now) than IRL.
    Old cadder here has done this for family, friends and self dozens of times.
    Glad you could avail of the technique,
    it’s gonna look great!

  7. what a great idea to hire 5 hours of time which is perfect – not too long to be overwhelming, but just enough time to get everything done. loooooove that couch – looks so comfortable. love the color too. and of course love bubs on his new rug – love how he’s using the roll as a pillow!

  8. Last year my husband and I had finally saved up enough money to buy a new couch. And after visiting half a dozen furniture stores and sitting on every possible couch… We went on a cruise instead because we couldn’t figure out what to buy…

  9. This is such a pretty room and definitely worthy of a loungey, comfortable sectional. Why do you suppose one of the windows is filled with glass block?

    1. It’s actually an old doorway! I think they did the glass block they were hoping to keep some light but maintain privacy from the front porch. I’m planning to change it to a glass faux door at some point.

  10. As I started to read I said to myself – Kit needs to hire an interior designer for a consult! So glad you have a friend in the business that you could hire. Space management and furniture arrangement are difficult even with floor planning software so it helps to have input from someone who can create the 2D floor plan (with adequate walking space) and help you visualize the 3D outcome. Can’t wait to see pictures of you lounging!

  11. LOL!!!! Been here . . . done this . . . and just like you about to do this again over a comfy couch and chairs. You always make me laugh and love you even more!

  12. I’m just now seeing this awesome post, Kit!!! Thank you so much for sharing. I’d jump into a pool fully clothed with you ANY old day! 😉 xxK

  13. Hi! I was searching for West Elm Shelter Couch Review when I saw your blog. If it is not too much trouble, can you share if you still love your couch, how well it has stood up to use and how firm it is? My husband and I prefer our couches to be on the firmer side (local West Elm doesn’t have it for us to try it out). Thanks!

    Jackie Kim

    1. This is fairly firm, but I still find it comfortable and the cushions hold their shape reasonably well. The Shelter Blue fabric is also thick/textured (not super soft) but again, I find it comfortable and durable. I’m glad I made the purchase.

  14. Hello, would you say that your west elm shelter blue couch is accurate to the photo on their website? I love the color but wondering if lighting etc is making the picture misleading? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Yes, it is. I don’t see Shelter Blue on the West Elm website anymore, but you can see pictures of my actual couch here. It’s accurate to the color on the website.

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