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Essayfurniture

That One Piece: My Army Shirt Sofa That Got Away

by Grace Bonney

Illustration by Sally Nixon

As part of our “let’s have fun!” initiative for our final year, Garrett suggested we all write about meaningful pieces that have come and gone in our lives that we want to remember and celebrate. Whether it’s the first piece we made with our own two hands, something we bought that made us feel “at home” in our first space, or something we regret getting rid of or not getting in the first place, these are the stories we toss back and forth when we talk to each other about the lighter side of design. And today I’m kicking us off with… the couch that got away. And why that couch meant so much to me in the first place.

First, some backstory. I came out publicly in 2013. But back in 2011, I was processing that news personally and with close family and friends. I quietly moved to Portland, Oregon for a summer so I could try to figure myself out and I felt so supported and inspired by the people I met there. Over coffee with my friends Matt and Greg, I brought up the idea of creating a makers market as a thank you to celebrate the amazing artists I’d gotten to know that summer. That turned into our project called Portland Bazaar and that was where I first met and fell in love with my sofa: an olive green refurbished piece created by Leland Duck of Revive Designs.

I’ve always had a thing for sofas that feel different (see some of my past couches below), but something about this one stayed in my heart. Made of a mixture of the *softest soft* vintage Army tents, shirts, and patches of olive green leather, it was quite simply the coolest sofa I’d ever seen. I must have walked past it a dozen times at the Bazaar and at the end of the day, I ran over to Leland, handed him my credit card and felt that telltale mix of excitement and “holy shit what did I just do?!” that always happens when I buy something I really love (but can’t really afford). It was 1000% worth the cost, it just wasn’t in my budget at the time. But I was in love and we all know that logic goes out the window when that happens.

My old sofas, clockwise from top left: My original love, a Room and Board Andre sofa upholstered in green Bead fabric from Hable Construction, the two-tone Crate and Barrel sofa we had in our office (and also sold), our current sofa, a super neutral greige design from Lee Sofa, our front porch sofa is a vintage rattan model with outdoor fabric in a mudcloth-inspired print, and our hot pink sofa that now lives in Julia’s office upstairs. 

Cut to a month later when it arrived at our Design*Sponge office. That era was such a special time for me. I felt so proud to have a space with our name on it, that felt finished and designed, to be working alongside my friends Amy and Max, and to have a couch that made me feel like a cool grown-up business owner. It was also the couch that Hope first slept on when she came home to live with me. It represented so many big changes and positive steps forward.

But about a year later, reality hit. The blog market started to experience the first signs of the ad market changing/dipping and that, combined with our expensive 3-year lease, started to wear on me (and the business) financially. After looking closely at the numbers, we decided to switch to a co-working space, sub-let our office, and host a huge office “yard” sale to get rid of all the things we’d accumulated styling shoots in our heyday (and hopefully make a little extra money to balance us out). The sale was a hit and we made enough to have a safe financial year, but the very first thing that sold was my beloved Army green sofa. Someone offered me the full asking price and I hesitated, but I knew that the business needed that money more than I needed that sofa, so I let it go. And while I know it went to a loving home, it has haunted me ever since.

Every time I see an Army green anything I remember how soft that couch was and then all the memories of that time of my life and work flood back in. I know I’ll never have that sofa again, but I am grateful that I’ll always have the memories of what that era was like in my mind. And while I still daydream that it magically reappears one day, for now, I will always think of that sofa with love and appreciation in my heart. It will always remind me of the first of many decisions I would make to support and prioritize Design*Sponge. This place and this team has meant so much to me over the past 15 years and I’d sell a thousand of the same sofas if DS or anyone on our team needed me.  xo, Grace

 

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Comments

  • Your couch, my antique pine armoire. It was a craigslist Boston item that I found when living in Providence. I rented a u-haul to go pick it up. It’s what I’ve now learned was a “knock-down” armoire because it could be dismantled so easily for wagon travel back in the day. It moved all over New England with me and looked amazing in my little Cape Cod cottage.

    It was a big piece and my carpenter boyfriend hated how the doors didn’t completely shut, he doesn’t like antiques like I do. I sold it when we moved to VA recently so we’d have more space in the van and told myself we’d get a piece in the future that we both love, and since I like antiques I’ll always find another piece to love. Well, I’m kicking myself for selling it. I realize now that the wood tones added warmth to my decor, and it balanced out the newer more modern furniture I have, and the scale! It was so lovely. I search online religiously for antiques in my area, but that style/age is hard to find. It’s seriously missed.

  • I know Leland, he’s a great guy and I bet I saw your sofa at the Portland Bazaar or at least another one like it he recovered. I believe he also reupholstered some chairs in tent fabrics and made pillows, too. He’s got an artist eye for repurposing vintage fabric and his Pendleton wool pieces are future heirlooms.
    It looks like the website link isn’t working, you can see some of his work on Facebook under Revive Upholstery Design.

  • Ridiculously, my thing that got away was a birdcage on a stand. I didn’t have a bird and I would never get one if it had to be in a cage like that (which is why I “logically” didn’t buy it). But decades later I still think of that thing. I do have a similar stand without the cage now. It has a Mexican papier maché parrot on a swing hanging in it. But something about that stand/cage….

  • Oh Grace, I so feel you on this. We had a beloved brown suede couch from West Elm that we had to get rid of when we moved. It was too small for a larger living room ( which is a great problem to have, I know). Every once in a while my husband or I will say, “What do you think brown couch is doing right now?”

    Side note – I remember that studio sale so well – I must have been 9 months pregnant and was afraid I’d give birth in your beautiful space! I bought a set of bowls which were my favorites for years. They were the most perfect size. One broke last year and it broke my heart.

  • Currently holding my breath with hope that the person who purchased this sofa will show up in the comments section and let us all know that the sofa is loved and cherished.

  • Oh, be still my heartstrings! A decade and 12 apartments later, I still feel that tiny ache for a beloved (and extra long) couch that I couldn’t fit in my ’99 Honda Civic. Hopefully I’ve learned to hear, and respect, my own taste over the years, and wouldn’t let another one get away.

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