5 Things That I Have Learnt About Furniture Retailer DFS That Will Surprise You


DFS Peace armchair

AD - This post is part of a paid partnership with DFS, yet all words and opinions are my own.

If I say ‘DFS’ to you, what do you think of? Boxing Day sale bargains? Crushed velvet corner sofas? A large retail presence? All this is true, DFS do cater to mainstream taste and are one of the largest suppliers of furniture in the UK (it’s estimated that a quarter of the UK have owned a DFS sofa at one point in their lives). Yet, if you scratch under the surface, you’ll be surprised to learn that this British company, now celebrating its 50th year of business, is incredibly trend-led and forward-thinking with many of its designs. It also still retains the old-school charm of manufacturing via craftsmanship, with the majority of its products being made, by hand, in the UK.
Have you ever seen a sofa bed look less like a sofa bed? I’m still in love with this burnt-orange DFS number in my guest room.

Have you ever seen a sofa bed look less like a sofa bed? I’m still in love with this burnt-orange DFS number in my guest room.

Two years ago I transformed the guest room in my house by putting this burnt orange, chesterfield sofa bed in it. Yes, that’s right. DFS were offering this chesterfield design as a sofa bed in velvet. When I put it on Instagram, no-one could believe that this design was DFS piece. So, when DFS asked if I fancied taking a trip up north with them to find out what they were all about on this milestone birthday for the company, I was eager to learn all the ins-and-outs of this multifaceted furniture supplier (they were also offering me the chance to upholster my own armchair on the day in the factory, which as you can imagine filled me with giddy DIY excitement.) What I did learn about DFS, I have to say, I was completely shocked and pleasantly surprised by. So, here are five key things about DFS I bet you didn’t know before now…

The ‘Peace’ armchair by DFS, in teal velvet, in my sitting room.

The ‘Peace’ armchair by DFS, in teal velvet, in my sitting room.

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You’d think that a company who do regular sales and offers would be bursting with stock and desperate to get it out the door, but DFS do not make anything unless there has been a direct order for it. All DFS sofas are handmade to order, so unlike furniture suppliers who have their product created offshore and have it shipped into the UK, DFS do not have piles of imported stock sitting around, waiting to be sold. Only once an order has been placed does it start to be created at one of DFS’s three factories in York and Derbyshire. This way, DFS get to keep a good eye on quality control (DFS are the only furniture brand to own the British Standard Kitemark on all its sofas) and they are able to offer a wide range of fabric and colour options for each sofa or chair design they sell.

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This manufacturing process then leads us onto the lack of robots. There was no factory line at the Derbyshire factory that I visited. Instead, I watched a chair designer bring down a computer-aided design drawing of an accent chair from the studio upstairs, before a small team used oriented strand board (OSB) cut from a template, alongside cut birch strip wood, to build a chair frame before it was passed onto the upholstery team to add the foam and fabric. This is where I got the chance to upholster my own Peace Accent Chair in teal velvet. John, the upholsterer who taught me how to add the fabric to the chair, had been working there for 20 years. In fact, most of the people I met in the factory had been there at least a decade, which really highlighted the secure employment DFS provide in the area. Although, I nearly swiftly put an end to John’s long career by almost shooting a tack though his finger with the gun. Sorry about that one, John.
John and I upholster the velvet teal fabric onto the Peace frame, with the finished result sitting pride of place in my sitting room.

John and I upholster the velvet teal fabric onto the Peace frame, with the finished result sitting pride of place in my sitting room.

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DFS is unusual in that they have their own design studio within the working mill. The talented design team, based in the studio, scout the international fairs such as Salone del Mobile and Maison to get inspiration for what will be the forthcoming on-trend colours, details and shapes in furniture design. They then look at how to incorporate these trends into DFS designs and filter it down as an affordable option for the mass market. Trends for this year at the shows included hexagonal cuts on sofa edges and shades of burgundy, so expect to see some of these trends filtering through into new DFS pieces later in the year.

Blogger   Little Big Bell   had the modular Zania Sofa by DFS upholstered in a blush pink colourway, one of the most on-trend colours within interiors in recent years. Image credit: Little Big Bell

Blogger Little Big Bell had the modular Zania Sofa by DFS upholstered in a blush pink colourway, one of the most on-trend colours within interiors in recent years. Image credit: Little Big Bell

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DFS also told us that they work alongside huge paint brands, such as Dulux, so that they are aware of the ‘key colours of the year’ before the news hits the media and the general public. This enables DFS to source fabric from local suppliers in desirable, trend-led colours to apply to their designs. I actually never thought of the ‘bigger picture’ when it came to ‘colours of the year.’ I thought the paint brands just released them, it created a lot of conversation and then it transformed into paint sales. However, the popularity of the colour actually infiltrates everything such as the furniture we buy. Pictured below is the DFS Zania modular sofa in Dulux’s ‘Spiced Honey', which featured in the 2019 look-book for Dulux. The warm, caramel tones of this shade actually work perfectly on this modular sofa, with it being a beautiful, neutral alternative to a cream or a grey colourway.
The Zania sofa in Spiced Honey, Dulux’s Colour Of The Year. Image credit: Dulux/DFS

The Zania sofa in Spiced Honey, Dulux’s Colour Of The Year. Image credit: Dulux/DFS

This month, in collaboration with family clothing brand Joules, DFS are releasing their Patterdale sofa in a beautiful coral velvet, another popular colour this year. Teamed with country-style prints and blues and tans, you can see the mood board for the forthcoming design below:
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DFS work closely with the British Heart Foundation to make sure that when they deliver you a new sofa, if your old sofa is still in pretty good nick it will be taken away to be sold, with all proceeds going to fight coronary heart disease. So far, 20 million quid has been raised, which is an incredible amount for something that may have ended up at the tip or given away online.

So, that’s 5 key facts about DFS that surprised me - did it surprise you? As a fan of the brand (the orange sofabed and the new Peace armchair are literally the comfiest seats in the house, as attested by the dog who declared the chair his own within 5 minutes of it being delivered), I was delighted to learn about the British brands dedication to craftsmanship, local employment and being abreast of the key colours and trends. Our main, family sofa is very old and needs to be replaced next year, so the first place I’ll be heading to for a new one will be my local DFS store. In fact, I’ve already picked out my current 5 favourite pieces, available to purchase now, below…

DFS armchair
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Ros 3 Seater Sofa in Quartz Blush

DFS do a great range of wool or leather ‘looks’, meaning you get the look and feel of leather or wool, without it being an animal by-product. I love this Ros sofa from the ‘So Simple’ range. It’s chic lines are accentuated in this pretty rose pink colourway.

dfs tub chair

New Lark Tub Chair In Fleck Blue

I love this accent chair that would be a perfect attention-grabber in a bedroom or in a neglected corner. DFS recently worked with young textile graduates and this was one of the bold fabric designs DFS selected. Also see ‘Daubs’ and ‘Dotty’ for a modern, graphic print for this tub chair.

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Long Beach: Left Hand Facing Large Chaise Sofa

This corner unit, a collaboration with House Beautiful, works especially well as it is low backed, making it look very casual. Even though it will obviously take up a lot of floor area, it will not feel like it dominates the space.

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Zinc Weave 4 Seater In Light Grey

Part of the DFS collaboration with French Connection, this mid-century modern style sofa looks best in a Weave fabric, which is more visually interesting due to the texture. A lighter colour shows off its button detailing better than a darker shade.

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Truth Large Lounger In Black Velvet

This flexible lounger is part of DFS ‘Capsule’ range for small spaces. It provides a ‘feet up’ option when you cannot fit in a corner unit. I love the velvet upholstery which keeps it on-trend, and the black looks perfect for a modern, Scandi-style interior scheme.