WHY DWELL on the couch? Because the couch, more than the eyes,

WHY DWELL on the couch? Because the couch, more than the eyes, is the window to the soul. Ask people about their couch and you will know their dreams, their joys, their habits of mind, their irresolvable conflicts. The couch, inevitably, inhabits them all. It is the deadweight of your past, the fresh expression of your style, the resented hand-me-down, the beloved treasure, the tolerated knockoff.Sure, a bed is necessary, but it’s insufficient. The couch is what elevates and establishes your space, making it fit for guests, for all the sweet, stark, indolent pleasures of domestic life. And so it has been from earliest times. “Beds and couches must have existed in every Minoan and Mycenaean household,” writes G.M.A. Richter in his classic, The Furniture of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans (1966). The couch is an imperative, a cornerstone of civilization.While the bed, with its private acts, is tucked away in a darkened sanctuary, the couch’s condition is terminally unresolved, an uneasy mix of languor and tea-party primness. It, too, plays host to such wild performances as the day would quake to look upon, yet the couch sits boldly in the living room, feigning classiness or, in some cases, just openly sordid. This tension lies within the very origins of the couch, which was used in ancient times as a daybed for naps, a place for the master of the house to dine, and—since it could usually accommodate two—other activities. It re-emerged in the 1600s as a domesticated sofa: an extended armchair, a more padded settee. (The sofa bed thus represents evolutionary closure, a full circle.)More than any other furnishing, the couch is the source of an infinite variety of sensual and textural experience—from the wildly different ways couches can receive and rebound against the weight of your body to the sounds that emanate from the couch itself. Most intensely of all, there is the unforgettable touch of a couch, more memorable against your skin than smooth, anonymous sheets: buttery leather, Grandma’s itchy brocade, buttons, seams, orange corduroy (in the case of my own childhood).The couch: Stroke it, sit on it, copulate on it, reflect upon it.mfefer@seattleweekly.com


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