Albany Park
CNN —  

When most NFL players decide to retire from the game, they don’t head into the online furniture business for a second career. Darryl Sharpton, however, is not like most. Five years after going pro, the 34-year-old former linebacker found himself faced with injury after injury, and opted to pivot into e-commerce, launching the direct-to-consumer furnishing brand Albany Park with his wife, Jessica.

While shopping for a sofa back in 2017, the Sharptons couldn’t believe how much the process “sucked” and were inspired to reinvent the wheel. The couple wanted to streamline the couch-shopping process for consumers, and disrupt the sofa marketplace as we know it.

Albany Park Ottoman
Albany Park
Albany Park Ottoman

“Jessica and I noticed that there was a ridiculous amount of redundancy in most stores’ sofa offerings,” Sharpton says. “Shoppers were faced with hundreds of options, without any clear distinctions between them and a lot of overlap. Albany Park was created to provide shoppers a simple way to find a beautiful, comfortable sofa to anchor their homes.”

What makes Albany Park special

By eliminating the plethora of options, the Sharptons were also eliminating a lot of the anxiety consumers face when trying to buy a couch. Unlike other brands, Albany Park offers only three furniture models — the Albany, the Park and the Kova — in a variety of modern fabrics and sizes (from armchairs and ottomans to sofas and sectionals). The highly curated collections were created to collectively satisfy the needs of everyone, and we have to say, the resultant shopping experience is utterly refreshing. Because there are fewer choices, you don’t find yourself stressing out — or worse, second-guessing your final purchase.

Albany Park Albany Collection
Albany Park
Albany Park Albany Collection

Once they tackled the “decision fatigue” problem consumers face, the Sharptons then went about focusing on size. “Traditional sofas are huge, unwieldy and difficult to get in and out of spaces,” Sharpton says. “These size issues cause headaches for customers looking to get their new sofa up to their fifth floor apartment and also causes logistics and delivery headaches for carriers. This results in long wait times and expensive freight costs that get passed on to shoppers.”

To combat the problem, Darryl and Jessica ensured that each Albany Park piece is shipped in apartment-friendly boxes that can easily be maneuvered through tight spaces, narrow hallways, steep stairwells and more. And fear not, you don’t need to be an ex-NFL linebacker to be able to carry the boxes into your home! Having tested a few pieces ourselves, we can confirm that a regular 5-foot, 4-inch-tall woman was able to bring all the boxes into the home with ease in a matter of minutes.

Albany Park Kova Collection
Albany Park
Albany Park Kova Collection

Beyond that, all the Albany Park furniture can be assembled and disassembled, making the brand a great choice for apartment dwellers or anyone who is often moving around. More about that assembly process: It’s a breeze. We tested three items and each piece took less than 15 minutes to put together and once built, they were sturdy.

How Albany Park holds up

What really sold us on this brand, though, is the quality and style. First of all, these pieces get noticed. We opted to try out the Albany loveseat ($895, originally $999; albanypark.com), the Albany Armchair ($595, originally $699; albanypark.com) and the Albany Ottoman ($295, originally $399; albanypark.com) in blue velvet with gold legs, and to say the set is a showstopper would be an understatement. But unlike a lot of super-chic furnishings out there, this set is also — wait it for it — cozy!

Buttery soft, all three pieces are curl-up-and-take-a-nap-level comfy, but they’re also structured and design-minded enough to look stylish when hosting friends for cocktails. The chair is ultra roomy; with 28 inches of seat cushion space it can easily accommodate an adult, plus a kiddo or two, making it the ultimate reading nook. And we’re definitely not mad at the ottoman’s twofer status, which lends itself to extending the chair into a chaise, or adding additional seating to your overall space.

Albany Park Park Collection
Albany Park
Albany Park Park Collection

Considering that Albany Park’s core audience is young adults and families, the brand has come to the rescue with durable fabric options that can even withstand a household chock-full of kids. “Our fabrics are 100% polyester fiber, which is soft, durable and provides long-lasting color,” Sharpton says. “These high-quality fabrics are easy to clean and low-maintenance, making them a great choice for children and pets.”

The pieces we tested were not only under the scrutiny of adult reviewers, but also tested 24/7 by four kiddos ages 3 to 10, jumping, napping, snacking and even spilling on the furniture. The result a couple of months later? A sofa, chair and ottoman that look exactly as they did when they came out of the boxes — pristine!

Albany Park
CNN/Courtney Thompson
Albany Park

In terms of shipping, the brand was known for fast delivery within days of purchase pre-pandemic, but Covid-related delays have created major stopgaps industry-wide, with pieces now arriving between one and six weeks. While Jessica Sharpton is hopeful they can return to their super-fast shipping model, she told us, “I don’t know if this will happen overnight. During the pandemic e-commerce experienced 10 years’ worth of growth, so we have been anxiously waiting for our third-party shipping partners to adapt to this growth. We are doing our part by opening up additional fulfillment warehouses.”

More to know: All Albany Park pieces feature reversible cushions, a 30-day return window and a lifetime warranty. The brand offers about a dozen fabrics — from a distressed vegan leather and a pretty pink velvet to a creamy white boucle — and two leg finish options (gold metal or brown wood), making each piece truly customizable.

Bottom line

Point being, if you’re looking for a stylish, well-made sofa (or chair, ottoman or whatever else) that doesn’t break the bank, Albany Park is not going to disappoint. We’ve tested the goods IRL and continue to be impressed by how chic, comfortable and sturdy each and every piece is, especially at their current prices.

Shop all of the Albany Park furnishings, and if you want to compare each of the three collections, go here.