This article explores the function and form of the sofa through the contemporary age and beyond. Sofas have many uses as we mould them to our intent as well as to our backsides. And it largely is a ‘we’ and not just an ‘I’. Sofas are for groups, and sofas define a group. We are the ones who use, and abuse, that sofa.
So far, so good. Sofas have come so far and sofas are so so good. We can’t get enough of them, especially at Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Hogmanay, or whatever your cultural group fest. Guaranteed delivery by “whenever” you want implies the multimedia advertisements.
Sofas are definitive: they define who we are and they define who we want to be. The quickest way to lift a living room is to buy it a new sofa. It changes group dynamics. It changes groups. Your pack is defined afresh. Sofas make a design statement in the reception area of a customer-focussed company. The statement is of futuristic opulence: buy from us and this is the comfort you will be able to afford. ‘You’re worth it.’
Sofas have iconic status in western culture. Move over the Keeler chair with the naked model posed elegantly on view: that was the observer mode. Sofas are participation mode: we sit together. Sofas provide furniture for the post-modernist age, where responsibility for each other within the pack is key. “We relate therefore I am” is a reframed descartian idiom. Nonetheless, if you still ache after observer status, there are the sofa’s little sisters available: tub chairs or cubes where you can be cocooned or perch by yourself.
Pre-eminently, sofas receive each and every one of us as we return to base camp. Sofas know and celebrate who has membership of the group. This is the mission of the Simpsons as the series intro transcends the message of the episode to come. The Groening sofa has many guises, but it’s always there for the Simpsons pack. Sofas are for members of the family or extended family pack. There are many to choose from. Strangers used to be consigned to the parlour, now they are given, or choose, the solitary chair.
Group members return at evening from their various daily activities. This may be the hunter-gather mode of profession, business, retail therapy or job seeking. Sofas are the place for the recovery/reflection mode as we renew our energies for the tomorrow. Sofas prepare us for the next foray into action hero mode, hunter gatherer mode, or whatever your pack animals are into.
Sofas slow you down. This is a serious function in our frenetic time-stretched lives. You climb into a sofa and finally out of it. As the sports car gets you low slung before speeding away and reviving your engine, the sofa slows you down and gets you low slung before relaxing your engine. Both sports car and sofa require grace as you consent to their embrace. The sofa may succeed of course in relaxing you completely such that sleep takes hold of you. If so, then let’s hope it’s a bongo couch you’re on.