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World of Stuart

LOUNGE IN FRONT OF THE MACHINE
WoS furniture review adventure!

WoS isn't big on furniture. WoS International HQ was an unfurnished flat when I moved in a few years ago, and I've done as much as possible to keep it that way. For example, apart from two X-Rocker videogame chairs (for guests) and a TV table, the only piece of furniture in my living room was until recently a giant sofa bean bags. A good 10 years (or more) old, it looked rather like that bit at the end of True Romance when everyone shoots up the hotel room in a cloud of feathers. Ripped in a dozen places, repaired with layers of thick liquid plastic under big fabric patches, refilled several times with fresh beads and covered with old duvets and throws to try to give it a bit of firmness, it would bleed little rivers of squished polystyrene beads all over the floor whenever you tried to move it or sit on it a little too carelessly. It had performed sterling service, but its time was up.

"Doctor, I think the patient is beyond saving."

I had a look around IKEA, reluctantly contemplating a grown-up sofa befitting a man of WoS' advanced age, but after so many years of gaming and movie-watching in luxurious recline, it was hard to summon up enthusiasm for the prospect. But I also didn't really want another beanbag, as they're surprisingly high-maintenance - brilliant for the first couple of weeks, the beads soon get squashed and need regular topping up to prevent sagging. (I spent more than the original cost of the bag over the years on replacement beans.) So what to do?

A few years ago a WoS forum viewer had suggested furniture foam as an excellent alternative beanbag filling, and it was while randomly Googling to see if I could find a local supplier that I fortuitously stumbled across the SumoSacs website. Their foam-filled bags sounded exactly what I was looking for, and while the prices were on the scary side compared to ordinary bean bags, I had a birthday coming up and figured I'd have some spare cash for extravagances, so I dropped them an email enquiring about British stockists. Long story short, they rather kindly sent over a free review sample of the whopping £250 Sultan model. And after an extended and thorough testing period, WoS feels able to offer an official thumbs aloft.

For reference, the pot plant is exactly 5 feet tall.

Now, you might think that putting together a normal flat-pack sofa is a bit of a palaver, but you haven't seen anything until you undertake the epic and death-defying adventure that is installing a SumoSac in your home. You're going to need at least half a day and ideally two people, although WoS heroically managed the entire thing solo. (In my case it took an entire day, as decommissioning the old bean bags. took several hours by itself. Loose polystyrene beads are highly unco-operative.) The Sultan arrives in two huge cardboard boxes, inside which the shredded foam is vacuum-packed to reduce volume. (You'd struggle to get it through the door otherwise.) The heavier of the two weighs a possibly-literal ton, and the simple act of wrestling it up two-and-a-half flights of stairs was an exhausting 20-minute battle.

The next job is to slash your way into the packages. Inside are two rolls of foam, an inner bag and the outer cover. One of the rolls of foam was inside a fabric shell that looked a lot like the inner bag, and it took several minutes of nervous close checking to make sure that you were indeed supposed to rip it open with a knife. (Do NOT rip the inner bag open with a knife, or you're buggered. Anything that doesn't have a zip on it is safe to attack.)

Here you can see the foam bag (rip open) inside the inner bag with zip (do NOT rip open).

When you've opened up both rolls of foam, you'll find that the vacuum-packing leaves it all stuck together into something resembling a couple of futons. This is where the hard work starts, because you're going to have to break it all up by hand. Tearing arm-sized strips off and then pulling them to pieces seems to be the most efficient method, but you can just dive in and start flailing around with scissors if you like. (Do beware, though - even though it's foam, it's packed so tightly that it has some surprisingly sharp edges, and I managed to nick myself a couple of times when going in in too cavalier a fashion.)

As you break up the foam you chuck the pieces into the inner bag, and after a couple of hours you should have most of it in acceptably small chunks. (And a room that looks like there's been a tropical hailstorm in it.) At this point it's pretty hard to resist the temptation to take a flying dive into the zipped-up inner bag, and you've earned it, so go nuts. It's like jumping into a giant cloud made of marshmallows. If you don't giggle at that point, something's wrong with you.

Safe for stunt landings of up to two storeys.

Don't get comfy, though - you've still got a lot of work to do. Firstly, you need to get the inner bag into the outer cover. The outer cover (made of a strong but rather nice machine-washable "microsuede" material) is physically smaller than the inner bag, so it's a bit of a squeeze, and the instructions recommend having two people tackle the job. One person should be able to manage it fairly easily on their own, though, by sitting on the inner bag and zipping the outer cover up around it like a canoe. (Do half of it, then shake it down into the zipped-up end, turn round and do the other half.)

Now you're nearly there. The Sac is comfier the more you separate the foam out, and the manufacturer-sanctioned key to that is extreme violence. With the outer cover safely on, your task is now to beat the Sac to within an inch of its life. Punch it, kick it, whack it with a cricket bat, chuck it around the room (you might need some help with that), throw your pets or children into it, whatever you feel like. Every blow will shake the foam apart more and more, and make the bag fluffier and cosier. So pound the living crap out of it until you have no strength left. Luckily, you're going to have something soft to collapse into at the end of it.

All done!

Once you do, you're not going to want to get up for quite some time, and not just because you're knackered. The Sultan is ridiculously pleasant to sit or lie down in. At three-and-a-half-feet deep, you sink into it like a fat man sinks into quicksand, and it wraps itself around you in a giant foamy cuddle. In fact, the first time you sit in it you might want to have someone with a crane or a forklift truck handy to get you back out.

At four-and-a-half feet wide there's plenty of room for two normal-sized people to lie down side-by-side, but Sumo have made an odd choice with the length, which is also four-and-a-half feet. It "settles" to a bit more than that - maybe another eight inches - but even so anyone of average height or above will find their feet dangling off the end in a mildly unsatisfying way, and it's a shame that the UK store doesn't yet offer the colossal seven-foot-long Gigantor model, which is the same width as a king-size bed and six inches longer. (In the light of getting a freebie, WoS has decided to overlook the obvious trademark issues regarding its own famous shelving unit of the same name.)

Nevertheless it's still so comfortable it's all you can do to stay awake in it, so don't plan on watching any long movies. But where the Sumo really shines over a normal beanbag is in its resilience. After several months of heavy use, WoS' Sultan hasn't sagged one iota. It moulds itself to your shape after you've been in it for a while and becomes firmer and more supportive, but if you want to restore it to its box-fresh fluffy airbag state all you need to do is roll it over a couple of times or give it a few good kicks. Unlike the polystyrene beads in a beanbag, the foam really does seem to retain its shape and springiness as billed.

At more than twice the ticket price of a comparably-sized traditional beanbag, the Sultan is a pretty serious investment in gaming comfort, and those of you with partners to consult when making home-furnishing decisions might find it a hard sell. But bearing in mind that you'll need to keep buying sacks of beans for the former throughout its life, and going through all the messy faff of refilling it, there's a pretty good case to be made that the Sultan (or one of its smaller brothers) is actually the economic choice. Failing that, just make sure you get it delivered and constructed before your other half comes home. Once they've taken a flying leap into it, your troubles are over.

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