Monday, December 13, 2010

A Weighty Topic

When I was younger, I believed that couches should be as light as possible. If you’re changing apartments every year, the couch is going to have to go up and down many flights of stairs. I had many, many boxes of books. I had more luck getting friends to help me move them if they hadn’t already thrown out their back while helping me carry the furniture.

At one point, I went so far as to get an inflatable couch. It was short-lived – it ended up with a slow leak, so that if you fell asleep on a firm cushion of air, you’d wake lying flat on a plastic-covered patch of floor

When my first son was born, my in-laws bought us a Klik-Klak.
ACME Klik Klak Adjustable SofaIt was light and functional. It looked like a bench from a mini-van, but it was a good height, could double as a bed, and, in the beginning, it was comfortable. I could carry it by myself. Rearranging the living room was a snap.

The Klik-Klak was short-lived. The light-weight construction meant that it couldn’t stand up to the abuses and bounces of three small children. This summer, we put it on the curb and replaced it with a nice, heavy, school-nurse-style couch that we bought at a rummage sale for $25.00. As a bonus, it’s pleather, so we can disinfect it and wipe it clean when the kids spill. It’s not pretty, but it works. And it should hold up pretty well.

My friends have had extraordinary luck with the Couches from This End Up. (Link) 25 years, 6 kids and their friends, 2 grandkids, and they still look like actual pieces of furniture.

I’ve become a convert to the cult of the heavy couch. The lightweight stuff is clearly for the childless.
Recently, however, I discovered there’s another reason to favor heavy construction: Self Defense!

If this woman had had a Klik-Klak, her attacker could have blithely tossed it aside and killed her. Instead, she stunned him and put him to flight. Weighty couches save lives, people. You and your family deserve something you can’t move without a hernia.

Besides, if a couch is heavy, you have an excuse not to rearrange the furniture!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Art versus Comfort

Noguchi Free Form SofaWhen I worked for Indiana University, my bosses were big fans of Design Within Reach.   They ordered some really beautiful stacking chairs for the College Arts and Humanities Institute (CAHI).  Since I'm on a Sofa Kick, I decided to see what DWR had in the couch department. (Amazon has the same one, BTW.)
The couch above was designed by Isamu Noguchi.  I have a bit of a fascination with Noguchi because he spent a few of his high school years here in La Porte.  They tend to leave that bit out of his biographies.  Apparently La Porte likes him more than he liked La Porte. 

The DWR description warns us that Noguchi was "foremost a sculptor" and that the sofa is "lightly padded" and provides "firm seating."   I've never sat on this piece, but I'm pretty sure all those words are code for "very uncomfortable."  Personally, I don't think the above sofa looks particularly inviting.  It doesn't yell "Lounge on me!"  Instead, it darkly hints that if you sit on it in the wrong way, you'll end up falling off onto the floor.  Or maybe that's only if you're as clumsy as I am.

My Husband's favorite line in the advertisement was the declaration that, "the sofa has a grandly scaled, open form that accommodates multiple people."   "I should hope so,"  he shouted.  "It's a FRIGGIN' SOFA!"  Maybe people like us are the reason that Noguchi wasn't fond of Indiana.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sofas may be for Sultans...

...but couches are for the dead.  From The Autobiography of Arthur Courtenay, published in 1834.
I walked towards the sick chamber, and, on my way, a woman with something in her arms endeavored to attract my attention, but I pushed her away, and entered what was now the chamber of death. Good God! what a scene met my sight - the pure spirit of my wife had passed away, and she lay dead on the couch. But where now was the beauty in which I had gloried?  The dreadful effects of the poison were but too evident; and a livid corpse, with the signs of violent death, was before me.  In a transport of desperate grief I threw myself on the body - of what passed afterwards I have but dim and indistinct recollections.

Also, couches apparently affect you ability to write clearly and concisely.  (At least if they're poorly chosen or covered in corpses!)  So, are you a couch person, or a sofa person?

An Early Reference to the "Sofa"

I was having a little fun with Google Books, and I think I found one of the earliest English references to the Sofa.  It's a dictionary definition from 1675. 
Sofa: A sort of alcove much used in the Eastern Countries, being an apartment of state, raised about two feet above the floor, and furnished with rich carpets and cushions, where persons of the greatest honor are entertained.

For me, this description suggests a sultan in his harem, reclining on cushions as he watches the dancing girls.


Origin stories matter.  We care that Batman is avenging his parents’ death and that Spider-man was bitten by a radioactive spider.   It makes a difference whether sin entered the world through the actions of a bad god or through the free choice of a human.  We’d rather patronize a company started by an out-of-work dad in his garage than one cynically spun off by an international mega-conglomerate.

This blog has an origin story too.  It was born from laughter and a dare.

Late at night on my youngest son’s first birthday, I couldn’t sleep.   My husband was trying to remember the name of those beds that fold down from the wall.  All I could come up with were synonyms for sofa: Davenport.  Chesterfield. Divan. Fainting Couch.  Chaise Lounge.   I knew they weren’t the name, but they kept spilling out of my mouth.

My husband was amazed.  Who knew there were so many synonyms for sofa?  I explained that the Eskimo may have 1,000 words for snow, but the suburbanite has at least as many for that thing in your living room where everyone sits.

In the cold light of dawn, it seems silly.  But at night, hilarity ensued.  After about fifteen minutes of gut-busting hysterical laughter, my husband challenged me to start a blog called ‘synonyms for sofa.’  He was thinking sofa reviews.  I was thinking sofas in history, art, and literature.  We giggled at the thought of adding advertisements.  I could be like one of those ‘unemployed moms from yourtown, USA’ who makes 50,000 dollars an hour magically online! 

So, this blog is both a joke, and an experiment.  Can I manage to say interesting things about Sofas every day for a year?  Can I make money doing it?  I’m guessing the answer will be a big, loud, ‘No!’   But it will be fun to try.  Besides, if I do make any money at this, maybe I can use it to buy a better couch!