Real estate agents are not only in the business for houses and apartments, but above all, are selling an illusion of who you could be. Are you someone who hosts large dinner parties with the socialites of the century? Or are you more comfortable stretching your legs in an authentic Eames Lounge Chair and reading In Search of Lost Time?
We fall in love with a house or an apartment, because we fall in love with a new version of ourselves. And like all first loves, it has little to do with reality. In real life we might hate organizing large gatherings, and we might not enjoy reading Marcel Proust, and prefer reading the New Yorker. And by reading the New Yorker, I mean Buzzfeed.
But we fall for the illusion and think, “If only I could live here, I would be so happy.”
On a smaller scale, the business of illusions also holds true when it comes to interior design. This is the reason why buying a new couch or a new dinner table can turn into a quest of, “How do I want to live“ and essentially, “Who do I want to become?“
I know all this, because I spent last winter hibernating while shopping on online furniture stores, and spent, what felt like 500 hours, redesigning our living room. I probably looked at more than 3000 couches and 400 sofa tables and thus vetted my future upholstery much more carefully than I had any past boyfriends.
Before starting my furniture hunt, I was completely clueless as to how much decisive power buying a couch would require: Which color did I want? Did I want a blueish grey or a greyish blue? Did I want a firm surface or rather a softer firm? Pillows or no pillows?
I knew that I wanted a fold-out couch for the occasional guest to sleep over, but apart from that, I had no idea what kind of couch would fit into my living room. Or my life.
Our old couch had never asked very much from me. It was already there when my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved into the apartment, left behind by the previous renter. In white and blue stripes, it stood boldly but casually for its bargain price of $599. It stood next to the IKEA LACK sofa table and the MALM dresser. It wasn’t great, but it was fine.
At least that’s what I thought until I spent time on various home improvement sites. Even if you are perfectly happy with your home goods, once you start browsing on these sites, you start wondering how you could have ever surrounded yourself with your distasteful furniture.
After 200 hours of browsing and reading articles such as “New study says you might be too old for shopping at IKEA,” I got to a point where I was asking myself the big questions. It started with “How badly do I really need a new couch?” and continued to questions like “Why is there not one couch that would fit into our living room?”
Take my advice: When you have looked at a random sample of a hundred sofas, you have probably already seen your “perfect couch.” Multiple times.
Psychologist Ruth Chang, who became famous for her TED-talk on “How to make hard choices“ says that by making decisions, we no longer drift through life, but we become the authors of our lives. We are not just a character in our life story, but the one in the driver’s seat as well.
Designing your house or apartment is the rare chance to be both the author of your life and the director, deciding how your characters should live. Where should they relax, watch TV, and hang out? Is there room for hosting parties and space for a library for quiet nights?
While it took me 33 years to pick out and pay for the first couch in my life, I’m certain, it won’t be my last. For my grandparents, the situation was very different; for them, buying a couch was something you did only once in your life.
Their living room was reserved for special occasions, be it Christmas or someone’s birthday, and the couch was rarely used. It’s still standing there, but after so many decades it is old and weary now and more than half of our family cannot sit on it. The first reason is that over the years some people died, while the couch lived on. The second, is that the remaining family members get severe dust allergy attacks when getting near it. I for one, spent the last ten Christmases sitting on the floor, with the occasional couch-dust whiffing over and triggering happy sneezes.
In the very end of my couch browsing-marathon, I decided for an L-shaped, light grey couch, which is probably just like every other couch being sold these days.
When it arrived, it turned our entire apartment into a big mess, creating an utter chaos of boxes, metal frame parts, cushions, and screws. When we found out that some of the parts delivered actually belonged to another couch and not to the one we ordered, our apartment already looked like Noah’s Ark, beaten up by a storm. After hours of trying to assemble the wrong parts, we left the sinking ship and went out to dinner.
A few days later, the missing parts were delivered and our living room was restored.
Our new couch allows me to sit in the corner of our living room and to have a perfect overview of the room and its two big windows. My seat is close to our newsstand at the wall, allowing me, without getting up, to grab my New Yorker magazines. It is the perfect place for me to write comfortably, to read, or to watch Netflix on my iPad. I can place my coffee pot on a little desk on the other side and when I’m feeling adventurous, I sit down in the Eames rocking chair (a knock-off, but who’s keeping track?).
I don’t know what other people are doing these days in their downtime, but when friends ask me what I am up to this weekend, I want to answer, “I’ll be on my couch.”
What can I say? I’m living the dream.