Steve Jobs’ quest for perfection could make even buying a sofa into decade-long ordeal

“Steve Jobs’s quest for perfection was pursued down to the smallest details. It made him the father of some of the greatest products and interfaces in computer history,” John Brownlee reports for Cult of Mac.

“As Walter Isaacson’s new biography on Steve Jobs makes clear, though, it could also sometimes make him nightmarish to live with… the sort of obsessive who could make even the most mundane seemingly household decisions into maddening, endless debates,” Brownlee reports. “When Steve Jobs wed Laurene Powell and found himself soon to be a father, Jobs had to make some accommodations for married life.”

Brownlee reports, “Choosing simple furniture, however, turned out to be a miserable task, thanks to Steve’s obsession with details. For example, when it came time to decorate their living room, Steve and Laurene couldn’t agree upon a sofa. ‘We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years,” said Powell. ‘We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?””

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We don’t even want to talk about how familiar this sounds. We’ve been doing the same with desks, chairs and other furniture forever. We apologize to those who have to live and deal with us, but, hey, at least we can now claim, when it come to furniture at least, we’re just like Steve!

(And, when the old washers and dryers finally die, we’re going Miele, too!)

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lava_Head_UK” for the heads up.]


  1. I bought my sofa by walking around the store for 5 minutes. Real comfortable it was too. After 7 years you’re about ready to dump the old one for a new set.

  2. Interesting. My wife and I are dickering over wall paint color for painting. Not 10 years’ worth, but it’s been a while. Perhaps this says as much about married life as anything else??

    1. No, wall paint is a very common marital flashpoint, you can actually use it as a gauge for how well the marriage is doing. Finding a compromise, a color that you can both live with, is where you want to end up. If you work it out systematically, you should be able to find something you both like, and you’ll learn something about your relationship along the way.

      There’s an app for that, a good one, that presents colors from all the major brands and compares them. It works best on the iPad.

  3. An italian designer by the name of Natuzzi makes some amazing sofas 🙂 I bought a set for my home theatre room 🙂 I actually chose it because it’s aesthetic and simplistic beauty reminded me of an apple product 🙂

  4. When I saw that photo of Steve sitting on the floor when I clicked the provided link and the story of how long it takes to pick out furniture, it sady reminded me of the Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka office.

    I like perfection just as much as the next guy, but there is such a thing as taking it too far.

      1. always wondered about those large speakers in the back

        What, you’ve never designed a living room around your stereo before? It’s what esoteric bachelors do.

        For me, stereo hardware would be purchased first, then furniture. Because while I’m shopping for the rest of the house, I can hear the soundtrack of my life coming from the big speakers in the back.

        Steve Jobs would not be happy with a Bose Wave. He would, like many audiophiles, buy their stereo system one component at a time. Well, the receiver and speakers might be bought together, but the Bang-Olufsen turntable is definitely a stand-alone purchase.

        Jobs may be a fan of all-in-ones but not when it comes to stereos. That any chair designed by Herman Miller would be a fine fit, I have no doubt. I’m sure he would have liked the walnut Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair. Priced at 4900 dollars, I’m sure Jobs could have found something to like about it.

  5. Talk about prophetic, in the same 1996 Wired article that Steve talks about washing machines, he makes the following statement that is even truer today than 15 years ago:
    “No. The world’s getting worse. It has gotten worse for the last 15 years or so. Definitely. For two reasons. On a global scale, the population is increasing dramatically and all our structures, from ecological to economic to political, just cannot deal with it. And in this country, we seem to have fewer smart people in government, and people don’t seem to be paying as much attention to the important decisions we have to make.”

    1. Massive *DING* on this insight by Steve Jobs.

      I consider over-population to be the source factor of the vast majority of current human problems and our inability to survive ourselves.

      Controlling human population growth is also the very LAST subject humans wish to discuss. That’s dire, perhaps our biggest flaw.

      1. What we’ve experienced in recent decades is the last bump up in population before decline sets in. A number of countries are already running at below replacement rates. Not just Western countries (Russia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Spain) but Japan, Turkey, and Iran as well. David Goldman (aka “Spengler”) discusses this in “How Civilizations Die”.

        1. Tell me about it. The paranoia level regarding population control can be outrageous. I remember movies and discussions about the HORROR of limiting child birth at the end of the 1960s on into the 1970s. Yeah, I want to facilitate dealing with people raging with violent paranoia.

          Considering the one place where it has been done, China, what an incredible mess. Of course their dominant culture hasn’t helped, where only sons are considered valuable while daughters are considered a liability. They’ve exported their unwanted baby girls all over the world leaving an enormous imbalance whereby thousands of men have no prospect of finding a wife. As per usual, whenever mankind attempts to manage nature the result is spectacular catastrophes. Natural systems remain beyond human comprehension in general.

          IOW: Point taken.

          BTW: I have no kids, a deliberate personal choice.

  6. This doesn’t sound that unusual, I’d rather have nothing, than feel forced to buy or use something I wasn’t 110% happy with.

    I guess because 89% of the world is forced to buy/use Windows, it seems odd to them.

  7. I can’t be around people who are indecisive and can’t commit, and more importantly who lack the ability to express their needs.

    Steve could have had custom furniture made by hand, of his own design, color, and fabric and he still would have found flaws with the craftsmanship, even if it meant tearing the furniture apart to prove his point, he couldn’t help but shit on everyone’s impression of his new furniture, so his family probably just let it go, rather than draw the ire of dad.

    Do you know what it’s like to live with someone like this? It’s a bag ‘o hurt.

  8. MDN says “we’re just like Steve!” . . . There is no way Steve would publish things with the wrong links or publish Flash based videos. Come on MDN, don’t even go there.

  9. He should have looked at Stickley furniture. It would have gone great in his Palo Alto house (from the photos I’ve seen). That would have saved him so much time and let him do other great things.

    It’s simply the best. Made in America too.

  10. Shopping is a more of a nightmare when you have no money.

    Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. For many, “perfect” means good enough … within affordability or free. For those fortunate enough NOT to have to worry about expenses (Mr.Jobs), craftsmanship and image will likely dominate their desires.

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