This post is in partnership with Article, who generously provided the featured furniture!
Remember how we all just lived through a pandemic that forced us to stay in our homes by ourselves all the time? What a time to be alive. For many people, this aspect of the pandemic was a waking nightmare or, at least, a big adjustment. For me, it wasn’t all that different from regular life—I’m usually either working from home or out at a job site; I’m used to spending a fair amount of time alone; and futzing with the house ad nauseam is standard fare. Work never really slowed down, so my Netflix well of entertainment never ran dry. For a couple months I even had Juliet as my life-wife/roommate, and we maintained a certain level of decorum.
Then Juliet went home to Brooklyn, and things may have gotten weird—like how, at a certain point, it occurred to me that I could dispense with my sweatpants by just wearing a women’s nightshirt around the house. It’s black and sort of stretchy and mostly just looks like a big t-shirt, but it’s decidedly a nightie. Paired with my favorite pandemic-era footwear—Birkenstocks n’ socks—it’s a perfect day-to-evening all-season look. I can say that because I’m the only person who ever saw it in action, and that was the whole point.
Fashion wasn’t the only thing that slipped. For me, the impending arrival of guests has always been my best motivation for cleaning up the house. But with dinner parties and weekend visitors cut out of the equation, I began to realize that—left up to my own devices—I’m sort of a slob. Gone was the pressure to move that pile of tools and supplies back down to the basement when I finished a given renovation-y task. Eliminated was any sense that I should wash dishes until I ran out of clean drinking glasses. Breaking down the rapidly accumulating pile of cardboard boxes from my newly-enhanced online shopping habit? Meh. Pass. Let em pile; see if I care. I’ll deal with it when they topple over. And so on.
As vaccines have rolled out and restrictions have eased, I—like you—am faced with the prospect of re-entering polite society. The time has come to pretend I didn’t get into the habit of shaving my facial hair into a truly awful divorced-dad-style goatee every couple of months just for the hell of it, because nobody could see it anyway. That I didn’t impulse-order colored contact lenses one night just so I could know what I’d look like with blue eyes. That I didn’t spend 2 months putting all of my childhood photos into albums—an activity that sounds nice on its face, but really means that you’re a single 31-year-old man, sitting alone in a lady’s nightgown, surrounded by dogs who are sick of your constant presence, watching a 15-year-old season of Survivor, while carefully placing photos from a 7th grade class trip onto sticky paper, thinking about how some of the kids in those photos now have their own kids and definitely aren’t filling their days with scrapbooking their memories while dressed in the saddest drag.
I digress. One thing this experience has taught me is that I really like having people in my house. I never really intended to live here alone to begin with, and it still feels kind of weird to have this big kooky house all to myself. I’ve always wanted this to be a place where people could gather from near and far, with a bunch of areas to hang out and crash at the end of the night. I have no interest in having rooms that don’t actually get used or furniture that’s better to admire from afar than it is to sit on.
If I were smarter or more hopeful that the pandemic would end sooner rather than later, I might have thought more about this during the isolation and made moves to prep the house for a refreshed and renewed return to normalcy. But I didn’t do that—instead, I waited until vaccines started rolling out to realize that I’d, someday, probably want to open my doors again to friends and loved ones, and it would be nice to do that without embarrassment.
Which leads me to my living room. Which is one of my favorite rooms in the house but, until recently, I barely ever spent time in. See the look on Mekko’s face? She’s mad because I messed up her bed. This is the clean and staged version I’d post for the Internet. But it never really looked like that, because it was too busy looking like this:
My dogs are too insane to have free run of the house when I’m out, and they staged a full rebellion when I tried keeping them in the kitchen, so the living room has become something of a glorified kennel. I intend for this to be a temporary thing, but I also have no real exit strategy.
At the epicenter of this kennel is the sofa, which I’ve tried and failed to love for years now.
For starters, I should probably mention that I inherited the sofa when my grandparents passed away. Quite a few things in my house share this origin story—in this room alone we have the Eames lounge chair, the painting above the mantel and the enormous abstract painting behind the lounge chair. My relationship with inherited things is tricky…on one hand, I adored my grandparents and their home and style is probably why I got into any of this in the first place. Having pieces I remember from that house is really special to me, especially since the house, like my grandparents, is now also gone. Getting rid of these things feels wrong, I think in part because they never feel like they’re fully mine to begin with.
What also feels wrong? Having a really cool thing that you don’t love and you know is getting abused under your care. Or, more accurately, my dogs’ care, because they used this couch WAY more than I did. I even tried swapping in a different sofa for a while, hoping it would improve matters. It went like this:
Sometimes like this:
And also this:
So not only did it look a damn mess, but the fabric was the stuff of nightmares and it wasn’t really very comfortable and the cutest thing about it where the legs, which I bought online and hacked into place.
Eventually, I admitted defeat and sold it on Craigslist and put the old sofa back so we could resume normal life. Things did not radically improve:
Sometimes, I consider how nice it would be to have dogs that don’t jump on the furniture. Then I catch myself telling Bungee that if he doesn’t come cuddle with me in bed in the next 10 seconds I will take him to the pound. It’s just not going to happen, and I can’t exactly begrudge my precious angels for the wear and tear they cause my belongings as a result. But there are consequences—in this case, they are multi-fold:
- The couch has two long cushions—one for the seat and one across the back. They aren’t secured to the frame in any way, so the cushions spent more time on the floor than they spent on the couch. I tried various anti-slip solutions including industrial-grade Velcro, and I couldn’t get anything to make them stay put. I toggled between letting it drive me insane and just accepting that the sofa would forever be spread about the room in pieces.
- Black leather and dog hair. Not a cute combo. Add in mud and drool and you get the idea.
- This one time, well after it seemed like he was out of this phase, Bungee decided to chew on the leather of the seat cushion. Then he did it again. I attempted a very “wabi-sabi” repair to the rips, but it didn’t do anything to address the section that he turned into scraps and distributed all over the floor. I covered it with a throw pillow which, as one might predict, also ended up living primarily on the floor.
- That good old-fashioned Jewish guilt. My grandparents would be displeased by this state of affairs. They would also be genuinely confused about why I’d be living with this thing I don’t even love, and irritated that their memory is largely the reason I was doing it.
So the first stage here was acceptance: it may be cool; it may be inherited; but it is not a good fit for my life or my family and ultimately isn’t contributing to my happiness. If I’m being honest with myself and stripping away some of the emotional attachment, I know I wouldn’t pick it out and buy it for this room…or really any of my rooms. Which means I probably shouldn’t have it.
The second stage? The journey of figuring out what I did actually want. Because sofas are HARD! I knew I needed leather because of the aforementioned dogs. I also knew I needed cushions that are affixed to the frame in some way, or a couch that doesn’t have movable cushions at all. I flirted with a sectional. I considered a chesterfield and other very traditional shapes. Ultimately my favorite sofa on earth is the one in my TV room upstairs, which came to me secondhand from the Brinsons. There are a number of readily-available sofas out there that are very similar to it, but it just felt lame for both of the sofas in my house to be pretty much the same design. Then again, what are my other options? I feel like most sofas these days are either aggressively boxy and boring or something from the set of Mad Men—and you know I love my mid-century modern, but I’m not typically a fan of that repro “atomic-inspired” look, and they commonly sacrifice comfort for style because those sofas were more for offices than homes. I of course kept my eye out for something vintage, but it just never materialized.
I know. My life is very difficult. Pity me.
And then, there it was. At Article!
Do you know Article? If you don’t, you’re clearly not listening to enough podcasts. I got a couple little things from Article a few years ago to round out my TV room—which are great pieces that I still love and continue to use—but I’ve never bought a piece of furniture from them! Which isn’t saying a lot, because I can count the new pieces of furniture in this house on one hand. Anyway, I remember hearing a podcast ad years ago, pulling up the site, and being immediately impressed with the selection, designs, and prices. It quickly went on the shortlist of places I check first when I’m trying to source a piece for a client or a friend, and since I feel I was an ~early adopter~ (simply by virtue of knowing it existed), I’ve felt weirdly proud of watching the company grow and the selection expand. They haves so much good stuff. Their showroom-less model helps keep prices low, and shipping is fast and free on orders over $999.
Also, they are Canadian. I lived in Canada for a year so I, too, am Canadian (claims not verified by the nation of Canada).
This is the Texada Taos Tan Sofa and I’m in love with it. What style is it? I’m not really sure! I feel like it has a mid-century vibe but certainly doesn’t look like it leapt out of a time capsule to join us here in 2021. There’s something sort of 80s about it in the best way, but there’s a chesterfield-like quality about it too? As the name implies, it feels a little southwestern, but in a way I can’t totally pinpoint.
And I think ultimately that’s part of why I love it so much—it’s really refreshing to see a major furniture retailer produce something that feels boldly designed, totally unique, and doesn’t fit neatly into some trend. It’s just sort of effortlessly cool and a little weird and, because I picked it out, that means I am too.
I. Just. Love. This. Thing. And not only because it’s a near-perfect color-match to my gorgeous daughter. It’s also super comfy (I’m laying on it right now!), and the leather is like BUTTAH. That was my biggest concern, honestly—high-quality leather and affordable furniture don’t usually belong in the same sentence, and even though I don’t love my old couch I will say that the leather was incredibly nice. And now I can say that my Article leather piece? ALSO INCREDIBLY NICE. It’s the kind of leather that’ll get better with age and patina beautifully, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for. I also totally love the touch of wood at the base, and those chunky cylindrical legs are such a nice detail.
It was delivered in less than two weeks (!) and came fully assembled, which felt INCREDIBLY fancy. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a piece of new furniture that didn’t need to be assembled. This felt like some sort of adulting milestone.
Side note: The one major couch-based problem that this new sofa didn’t resolve is the fact that my dogs like to rough-house, and honestly I also like when they rough-house because I think everything they do together is super cute. When they do said rough-housing, they knock their big stupid bodies against the sofa and, consequently, it’s always sitting askew or pressed back against the wall, and I have to move it back into position constantly. I brainstormed solutions for years but none seemed particularly elegant so I continued to hem and haw and never did anything to improve the situation.
Then one night recently I had an epiphany: HORSESHOES. You don’t have to call me a genius because I’m already calling myself a genius. That’s some Mensa-level shit right there.
I ordered a set of horseshoes from everyone’s favorite frenemy Jeff Bezos, put the sofa right where I wanted it, traced around the back legs in pencil, and screwed those suckers right down into the floor. You’ll never see them and this part of the room is always gonna be covered in something, and besides it’s just two small holes…I do not have any qualms about this. As an added bonus, due to the shape of the horseshoes and the size of the legs, the legs nest in perfectly and the sofa can’t move back toward the wall or forward into the room. It has worked flawlessly and only took me a few years to think of.
The best part of having this sofa in my house is that I’m actually using my living room again! Alone, with friends, you name it! WHAT A CONCEPT. It really is sort of amazing what one design change will do to affect your behavior. This room has been through a ton of iterations and I can say with full confidence that I’ve never loved it more or been happier to spend time in it with guests. I’m toying with the idea of sticking a TV in the huge Dutch Kast, since I refuse to put one over the mantel and I deeply love TV. Those old seasons of Survivor aren’t going to watch themselves!