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Interior design and home decor is a multi-billion dollar industry. But many of its practices are less than environmentally friendly — with more than 12 million tons of furniture thrown out annually.
Sabai is trying to change things.
The New York-based brand makes sustainable sofas at an affordable price point. And as an interior designer who puts sustainability at the heart of everything I do, I jumped at the chance to review its Essential Sectional.
Could Sabai’s sofa meet my expectations for sustainability and also provide the perfect space to sit back, relax and watch a movie? Let’s find out.
The Essential Sofa is featured in our best sectional sofas and best couches of 2023 guides. To create our "best of 2023" guides, we shipped more than 20 sofas to Living Cozy contributors across the U.S. for thorough at-home tests and reviews.
First impressions go a long way and Sabai’s website is beautifully designed, and user-friendly. So navigating and customizing your sofa is a breeze.
The Essential Sectional comes in a variety of colors and materials (upcycled poly and recycled velvet), with a choice of dark brown or natural colored legs made from maple. You can make your customization choices in just a few clicks — I went for Moon Upcycled Poly and Natural legs.
As a designer with a strong focus on sustainability, I was so happy to see Sabai’s focus on circularity through its use of recycled fibers as well as the ability to replace sofa pieces as needed or trade-in your entire sofa at the end of its time with you via the Sabai Revive program. This is a big move in the sustainability world and is not common in the world of direct-to-consumer furniture.
Sabai aims to deliver its sofas to customers around four weeks after they hit purchase (though lead times can vary depending on supply chains). Shipping to the continental US is also free on orders over $100.
Sabai uses curbside delivery via FedEx Home Delivery and all of its products are shipped in recycled cardboard boxes without the use of any plastic. They also didn’t send printed instructions. Instead, Sabai pointed us towards online instructions to build the sofa — which makes a ton of sense for a sofa ordered online.
The Essential Sectional is delivered in six boxes of varying sizes and weights, though most people should be able to move each box into the right spot in their home somewhat easily.
In terms of construction, the Essential Sectional wasn’t the most difficult piece of furniture I’ve ever built. But it also wasn’t the easiest. I needed a little bit of help to get the sofa’s backrest fitted as it slides into place between the side sections of the sofa in a precise way that needed two sets of hands to line up.
Once the back of the sofa was in place, the rest of the construction was super simple and Sabai’s screwdriver tool is much, much easier on the hands than the equivalent Ikea Allan wrench.
Once constructed, the Sabai Essential Sectional is comfortable to sit on and lay on — great for spending a few hours watching the latest Netflix blockbuster. The sofa cushions have a light feel and conform nicely to the body.
The sofa is quite low profile, though, so if you’re tall you might not find it offers the back and neck support you might like (I’m 5’5” I have to scoot low to get neck support).
The Essential Sectional comes at an affordable price point ($1,845 for a sectional is very good) and it’s made well for its price — especially when you consider all of the extra work Sabai puts in to ensure the sofa’s environmental standards. Each Sabai sofa is made from non-toxic, sustainable materials and crafted in a family-owned factory in High Point, North Carolina that’s committed to quality, safety, and a living wage.
It feels fairly light and has a compositional feel that’s comparable to an Ikea sofa model at the same kind of price point. The Essential Sofa would be well suited for apartment living in its size and its mobility — you won’t have to work too hard to move it from room-to-room or across town to a new home.
Where Sabai really stands out over the competition is its policy to replace single pieces of the sofa as needed.
Where Sabai really stands out over the competition is its policy to replace single pieces of the sofa as needed. This could solve huge amounts of hassle, not to mention waste, for those of us with pups and kids should things get damaged beyond basic repair.
Sabai has an industry-leading Repair Don’t Replace program that enables customers to pick up replacement parts for their sofas.
Sabai has an industry-leading Repair Don’t Replace program that enables customers to pick up replacement parts for their sofas. Teething puppy got to your sofa legs? You can get replacement legs starting at just $35. Need a new cushion cover? You can replace those too. You can even get a bundle to convert your standard sofa into a sectional.
I wouldn’t be too surprised if the cushions ended up with a little bit of give over time due to the density and level of tautness of the fabric. Sometimes sofa makers will overstuff cushions to accommodate for some of this wear. The back cushions look good in this regard but I wonder how long the seat cushions could maintain their new feel and form. Due to Sabai’s Repair Don’t Replace program you can pick up new seat cushions starting at $95, which is a great solution if your seats do give a little too much after a year or two’s wear and tear.
The Sabai Essential Sectional is comfortable to sit and lay on — which is very important to me as I loved to snuggle up and watch movies on the sofa. The cushions aren’t overstuffed and conform to your body.
Sabai offers its sofas in eight colors across two upcycled and recycled materials:
You can also choose between two leg colors: Natural and Dark Brown. All Sabai sofas are made-to-order at a family-owned factory in High Point, North Carolina, and the brand aims to get them shipped to consumers within four weeks, which is pretty quick compared to most made-to-order, large pieces.
Sustainability is important to Sabai and every aspect of its sofas is scrutinized to ensure the best practices are followed. Sabai uses no toxic flame retardants or formaldehydes in any of its sofas.
Sabai also uses FSC-certified wood frames, locally-sourced maple for the sofa legs, CertiPUR-US certified high resiliency foam, and 100% recycled fiber fill pillows.
With a mission to make beautifully designed, affordable furniture, Sabai uses sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing to create every piece in its collection. The brand's journey started as its founders were setting up their first apartment after finishing college and struggling to find furniture that was sustainable, and suitable for their budget.
The Sabai Essential Sectional is a good-looking sofa that could work with a number of different interior design styles. It comes with multiple color options and two leg colors. As a conscious consumer, its versatility, plus the fact that Sabai has made great leaps forward in sustainability would make me choose this brand over another in a heartbeat. The Sabai Essential sectional is perfect for the right space and client needing something this size and budget-friendly.
As a conscious consumer, its versatility, plus the fact that Sabai has made great leaps forward in sustainability would make me choose this brand over another in a heartbeat.
Sustainability has been largely ignored by the furniture industry. Many furniture makers rapidly use natural resources, carcinogenic chemicals that impact workers, habitats, and end-users, as well as unethical labor practices. Brands like Sabai are leading the change. And as consumers, collectively, we can continue to build more awareness of sustainability in the industry and redirect the billions of dollars spent on furniture annually to vendors and companies doing a cleaner and greener job.
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