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