‘OK, kids. Time to go to bed!’

Children’s furniture source Nugget Comfort unintentionally finds itself a star of the sex furniture trade

You’re not going to believe me, but I had no intention of writing a column about sex furniture. Hand to heart, this column found me. And like a growing number of romances, it all began online.

A friend who works at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, our alma mater, mentioned to me in passing a fairly new furniture company started up by a trio of fellow Tar Heels, the Butner, North Carolina-based Nugget Comfort. The company makes super-affordable foam “play furniture” in a range of vibrant colors that has proven wildly popular with moms and dads and on social media. 

Microsuede on all-foam cushioning makes for easy shipping, which has helped propel Nugget Comfort into being a darling of e-commerce. Easy manipulability by even tiny hands has made Nugget a darling among darlings, the children who get to configure Nuggets into beds, chairs or sofas, or, if they wish, slides, jungle gyms, castles and forts. 

In short, Nugget offers “toy minimalism for play,” David Baron, one of the three co-founders and CEO, told Axios in September. He said the company is premised on the belief that children’s imaginations don’t need an excess of toys. “A cardboard box or a couch that can change shape is enough,” Baron said. He’s not wrong. 

The $250 Nugget couch, which is really a four-unit set of foam cushions that can be configured for any number of uses. Photo from Nuggetcomfort.com.

As you might expect, the company cashed in big during Covid, selling as many $249 play “couches” as they could make. (I still wince when I see or hear the word “couch,” industry insider that I am, but as my wife reminds me, “That’s what normal people call it!”) Demand was so high that hundreds of thousands of parents entered a Nugget-created lottery to try to score a couch or two for Christmas 2020. Inevitably, some lottery players sold their proverbial place in line or turned to after-market vendors charging two or three times the Nugget-direct price. In short, the dynamics of the sneaker market had come to furniture.

The Nugget couch stacked for play. Photo from Nuggetcomfort.com.

The company is prominent on Facebook (136,000 followers), Instagram (560,000 followers), TikTok (18,000 followers) and Reddit, but from the grass roots up. The company is so popular in social media that several Nugget-specific memes have popped up, such as the trending photos of parents sitting atop their Nugget shipments the moment they arrive.  

‘Baby, let’s put the X in sex’ 

But this is all foreplay because doing research on the company almost immediately led me to a market that I had no idea even existed, which is the apparently “hot” market for sex furniture. Stumbling onto and into this world felt like “discovering” the Mississippi River. De Soto just had to keep walking west, right? “Oh, wow, look at this enormous, millennia-old, 2,300-mile-long waterway that cuts from Canada down to the Gulf!” Of course, there is a huge sex furniture industry and all of the social media content related to it that you might expect. 

One of the first Google hits for a search on Nugget was a Vice Media story from earlier this year on “the best sex furniture for turning your living room into a horny playground.” I know it’s rather icky to think about something intended for children brazenly becoming a staple of what some might regard as kinky sex. It makes me uncomfortable as juxtaposition even writing the sentence. And if I feel this way, I have to think the fine folks at Nugget Comfort are experiencing more than a nugget of discomfort with their wild popularity in the sex furniture sector, however unintended that popularity might be.

‘Oops, I did it again’

To their credit, my fellow Tar Heels are clearly marketing only to parents, making any utility of their couches as sex enhancements purely coincidental and derivative. There is no mention of or connection to the sex furniture market anywhere in Nugget Comfort’s social media content or marketing literature, nor on its website. In this regard, Nugget is a bit like the manufacturers of shipping containers, who make and sell for a singular purpose, but who likely watch with amazement all of the interesting ways of repurposing those once-seaborne boxes. (Repurposed shipping containers is another industry that just hasn’t been on my radar.)

A chair from Nugget competitor Jaxx, as shown at Wayfair. The list price is $235.

Judging by Reddit and the many subreddits devoted to sex furniture, it’s difficult to discern which of the two markets is actually larger — the one for children’s foam furniture or the one for sex furniture. It’s a “wedge issue,” because wedges are one of Nugget Comfort’s biggest sellers, and I don’t think I need to bend over backwards to outline what you can do with a wedge in the boudoir. But, for kids, they are the basic building block of all sorts of superstructures, including bridges, castles and forts, which is why the wedge is a key element of the Nugget play couch.

Nugget Comfort’s popularity, not to mention the simplicity of its product, has not surprisingly engendered knockoffs, and a quick search on Amazon or a visit to either Walmart or Target can tell you who they are. Like Nugget, these alternative brands all are marketing to the play furniture sector, not the one for sex furniture. But, while it feels pretty icky to point out, both sectors value adaptability, smooth design and lightweight modular units at no-brainer price points. 

The yoga market values this same aesthetic, as well, which is why the Avana chaise lounge for yoga aficionados has garnered popularity in the sex furniture sector, as well. One reviewer at Amazon hyperventilated, “If couples ‘yoga’ were an Olympic sport, this piece would have helped my wife and I earn at least a Bronze Medal.” If only. 

The chaise lounge (primarily) for yoga from Avana, as shown at Amazon.com.

“Sex furniture has come a long way from shoving a pillow under your butt,” wrote Vice Media’s Sirin Kale. Yes, the innuendo possibilities are endless. 

Other brands in this business, by accident or by design, include Jaxx, which is available at Wayfair, Pillowfort at Target, Figgy, Foamnasium and Best Master Furniture (check out the high heel shoe chair). 

‘Shake your money maker’

To return to the success story that is Nugget Comfort, the company began in 2014 in Durham, North Carolina, but moved production to a “two-football-fields-long” factory in nearby Butner in 2021. Nugget’s website has a fun section on how the foam furniture is made using big roll-pack machines. To squeeze the air out of the foam for shipping, a ton and a half of actual bricks are lowered onto the bagged foam units.  

The popularity of the Nugget concept has meant that each and every time the company drops a new item or even a new color, an online feeding frenzy snaps up every available piece in short order. Let the backlogs begin! It’s not surprising that the company ranked among the fast-growing companies in North Carolina both for 2020 and 2021, according to the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper. When was the last time the state’s furniture industry could boast that? I imagine the closely held, privately owned company is getting more than a few unsolicited offers to manage an IPO. 

Nugget’s newest offering, the Chunk play ottoman, unveiled earlier this month. The “special intro” price online is $180. Photo from Nuggetcomfort.com.

Newest in the Nugget product lineup is the Nugget Chunk that just dropped about three weeks ago, a $180 circular ottoman set that can be stacked, sat on, rolled or arranged in any number of configurations. One Nugget photo shows the Chunk as wheels on a foam locomotive. Each Chunk set comes with four pieces that nest together to form a storage ottoman, but the number of possible configurations is limited only by kids’ imaginations. Oh, and those relating to more intimate settings.

Editor’s note: The subtitles are musical references to, in order, KISS, Britney Spears and the Sex Machine himself, Mr. James Brown.

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll covered the international home furnishings industry for 15 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He chairs the Department of Communication at Berry College in Northwest Georgia, where he has been a professor since 2003.

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