Compact seating falls into four general categories: nesting, compacting, stacking and folding. A few notes on the most space efficient options for small spaces, as well as a note on couch seating:
Nesting: The Cubista is one of the most elegant nesting chairs available. Five stools compact into a singe unit. They are quite comfortable for sitting for hours at a time, are quite easy to unpack/repack, and are very well made in Italy. Available from Resource Furniture, around $1100. [On display in Minim House]
Compacting: the most innovative and compact seating is from Molo Design. Designed from expanding honeycomb kraft paper, the seats unfold from very thin compressed state into 4-6′ benches, or can also be connected together to form stools. [On display in Studio Shed]
Folding: Life Edited has also covered a wide range of folding chairs available. There is a case to be made for folding chairs that are equally at home out outdoors or in, so they may serve double duty. The French bistro chairs found in Bryant Park and Luxembourg Gardens are a charming option we’ve used happily used for years at the Micro Showcase. With either wood (but particularly metal) slats they fold up very compactly. One other notable folding chair can also hang out of the way- the Hangar Chair, available online. [Bistro chairs on display in Micro Showcase garden]
Sofas: We advocate not buying any off-the-shelf sofa for your small home for three reasons: a) it is quite likely to be as much or less expensive to build your own with a decent carpenter and upholstery shop, b) a custom built sofa will precisely fit your space needs, and c) a custom sofa is likely much better for your health.
On the third point, furniture cushions and mattresses are almost always made of polyurethane foam, which is highly flammable, and are mandated to use a variety of flame retardants, which end up in household dust, and include penta-BDE’s (for furniture before 2005) and chlorinated tris, TCEP, TDCIPP and other chemicals listed as carcinogens. There are volumes of information available on this (NPR, Scientific American, the My Toxic Couch video, etc) but the simple solution (while we push for new standards) is to not have manufactured furniture and mattresses with treated polyurethane foam in your small home (or any home). Even if you can get untreated polyurethane foam, it’s still made up of a slew of chemicals identified as carcinogenic, and when it’s being sat and slept on daily, the foam oxidizes (the Oecotextiles blog is particularly informative here).
Any upholsterer will sell you non-treated polyurethane foam for cushions (this is typically their default foam unless they are working for commercial clients). Making your own sofa + cushions (even with polyurethane) still beats a purchased couch in terms fire retardent chemicals. But note that the fire hazard of untreated polyurethane still remain, so read up and weigh the cost/benefits. Another option is 100% latex foam- all foam in couches prior to the 1960’s was natural latex until cheaper polyurethane came along (and now they are difficult to find latex sofa cushions- foamsource.com has them). But note that without a natural or chemical resistant barrier natural latex can also be a fire hazard- for latex foam technically the only way to meet fire resistant standards without industrial chemicals is to sheathe it with an all-natural barrier, typically wool (such as in done in bedding). Other economical and safe options for seating: wood bench, leather, wool, futons. [100% organic cotton/natural latex sofa on display in Minim House]