If a Sofa Doesn't Fit, They'll Make It Fit


Mr. Gal-On, who is otherwise known as Dr. Sofa, has been in the couch disassembly business in New York for six years. In that time, the demand for his services and those of other disassemblers has increased sharply. But he still remembers each case, each a drama.

“One woman called me crying because her couch did not fit through the front door of her building,” he said. “When I got to her place it was dark out and she was sitting on the sofa in the middle of the sidewalk, weeping hysterically. She jumped up and threw her arms around me and started shouting, ‘The messiah has come!’ We definitely got some interesting looks from people passing by.”

Sofa disassembly has existed as a New York trade since the late 1970s. But in the last few years, major furniture sellers like Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s have begun offering sofas that are 94 inches or more in length and 43 inches or more in depth, compared with maximums of about 86 and 36 a decade ago. The number of desperate calls for help moving such large pieces has also grown, as has the number of businesses offering such help.

“Long, overstuffed sofas are so popular right now, and they’re ideal if you have a McMansion,” said Michelle McKoy, a saleswoman at the Domain Home furnishings store on East 22nd Street in Manhattan. “But here in the city we are constantly running into the problem of people who buy them and then can’t get them into the elevator or through the door.”

Ms. McKoy said the store’s sofas are 86 to 97 inches long and 36 to 41 inches deep, an increase of about five inches in length and depth from a decade ago. “Like most major furniture stores, we are nationwide, and our furniture really caters to large suburban homes,” she said.

Suburban customers have driven the large couch invasion across the board, said Barton Bienenstock, the publisher of Furniture World, a trade magazine. “The furniture industry follows housing trends,” he said. As the size of American houses expanded in this decade, “furniture followed suit, and enormous sofas and high-back chairs have now become the norm.”

Five or 10 years ago, he added, such large furniture was limited to the high end of the market, “but now even the moderately priced pieces are huge.”

As a result, many one-man disassembly services have sprung up in the New York metropolitan area. The four most established furniture service companies — Dr. Sofa, based in the Bronx; Garry Furniture Service, in Queens; M.J.S. Furniture Service, in Massapequa, N.Y.; and Z Brothers, in Thornwood, N.Y. — all report a boom in business, even though none of them advertise. They charge $200 to $400 to get any couch into any space.

“Customers love us because we make it possible for them to get the big couches they want,” said Michael Snow, the founder of M.J.S. He added that his company receives twice as many calls as it did 10 years ago and takes apart an average of six couches a day, six days a week.

His competitors are busy, too. Garry Furniture takes apart up to six couches a day, a third more jobs than it was doing three years ago; Z Brothers has had a spike in calls in recent years and does 60 jobs a week on average; and Dr. Sofa gets nearly twice the number of calls it did three years ago and dismantles over 2,000 sofas a year.

The disassembly process varies from one job to another, but typically a couch is flipped upside down and the fabric is gently peeled back. One arm is removed, then another. Sometimes the back must be taken off or more creative solutions found.

Z Brothers recently removed the back and arms of a new 120-inch couch and it still did not fit in the elevator; workers carried the sofa up 10 flights of stairs in an adjoining building, then laid planks across the roof to move it in from above.

The services have opened up decorating possibilities for those who would otherwise be forced to buy pieces based only on what could fit through the door: a tiny love seat, say, or a pair of armchairs.