Back when we moved in, something moved in with us. Not just the dog, not just the boxes; a precious heirloom arrived from another house. The porn couch came to live with us.
The porn couch is a foundling. Probably built in the 1950s, it lived with Someone Somewhere until it was sent off to be auctioned. Our family friend, Ted, attended that auction and bought the couch for maybe $10. He called Mark, who drove over in his Parisienne, and those two hooligans plus two other friends drove home slowly, each with one arm out a window, holding the couch onto the top of the car. Safely procured, the very heavy couch lived with the guys for years.
The couch came (*ahem*) to be called the porn couch because apparently ANYTHING could be spilled on it and wiped off. Or at least, this is what Mark says. His story never changes, no matter how much I prod him to tell me “the truth”. Mark has said, enigmatically, that the couch was “the star of many parties” and I’m not stupid, the liquid repelling qualities of upholstery were NEVER the star moments of any Bombshelter party. Mark will not break his silence, though, and those who may have starred on the couch are also silent, presumed satisfied.
(All the people photographed on this couch know why it’s called the porn couch, and none of them will tell me why. One of these people is now a professional writer, specializing in erotica. We are very proud of this person, but I believe this person also knows why the couch is called the porn couch and that person is comfortable with the vocabulary required to tell me the truth. This person should be ashamed of him or herself for not using their words.)
(Also shown in these pictures is a massive wall of beer, all the cases filled with emptied bottles of beer that served as a testament to the excellence of the parties held by these fine folks.)
The couch survived many roommates, parties, and the founding of a fraternity that grew into the healthy, thriving TKE (Tau Kappa Epsilon) that is present today at Carleton University. This couch has also been a comfy home and gym for the pet of choice of university students – cats. So many cats. However, even typing “cat” makes me reach for an anti-histamine. I am sooo allergic, which will figure into the story later.
Ted is the rightful owner of the couch, so after surviving many roommates with cats, Ted moved on with his life and ended up with the porn couch, his own home, and in love with a lady who was in love with the idea of remodelling the basement. One thing SHE didn’t love? The idea of the porn couch that was lurking in the basement, now 60+ years old with broken legs, wrecked fabric, and at the end of its life. She’s within her rights to turf the couch: it’s called the PORN couch for Christ’s sakes. She didn’t like the idea of how unsanitary it must be inside. She had pneumonia, bronchitis and Avian flu all within 18 months, she deserved a hygenic basement… the porn couch had to go.
Ted wasn’t going to let the heirloom couch go to the curb. He intended to give it to the current TKE men if he couldn’t keep it in the family. He offered it to Mark and I right before we moved into the Apple House, and Mark instantly agreed that we would take it. Then he checked with me (a dramatic reversal of how things should work). I said yes immediately because THIS IS AN AMAZING COUCH. Those lines! The size! It was free! The weight = hardwood frame! The value!!!
Oh wait… from the pictures, you can’t tell that it’s stunning? Ahhhh well… look closer!
The couch has a hardwood frame (today, couches weigh nothing because they’re made with softwood or composite frames that are muuuch easier to break than hardwood, and when an old couch weighs a ton you KNOW it has an indestructible hardwood frame) and has amazing long lines to its design. It’s 9 feet long! The original fabric was emerald green with golden laurel wreaths. But even worse, the couch cushions and frame had been exposed to many cats over many years, and my allergy to cats is so powerful that I would never have been able to live with the couch.
36 hours after the couch arrived in our house, the couch left with our upholsterer. He had his instructions: the couch is family, so strip it to the frame and repair it. I’ll send you the fabric later. It MAY be full of cat hair, no one knows.
We didn’t tell him the name of the couch. The arrangement was to have the couch redone by April or May, when I had the money saved up to pay for the work. The couch couldn’t stay in the house because the knowledge of how many cats probably pissed on that couch (not to mention napped and shed on the couch) made my skin crawl.
My next move (a few weeks later) was to post pictures of the couch online and announce (like a buzzfeed title) You Won’t Believe The Glamorous Transformation Of The Porn Couch! and was super chuffed because I had chosen a truly, truly glam fabric. It was a woven geometric in black and white. It was soooo amazing. It was so very hardcore amazing. And people were like “these are the before shots, where’s the AFTER shot?” and I was like “to get to the AFTER shot I’ll need $1,700 for the upholsterer and $600 for the fabric so I take your point but I need to save up some money okay?”
And I learned a valuable lesson about the internet, and blogging.
So I saved up some money and ordered the fabric, and yeah you know that the fabric was discontinued. People will NOT believe the glamorous transformation of the porn couch because it’s not going to be a glamorous. Fuck my life. I had an entire rock and roll black and white living room planned around the fabric and my angry screams of frustration shattered windows when I realized what was happening. I even had Mark’s buy in. He LIKED the bold black and white geometric fabric. We were like OMG we are going to be cool people with a rock ‘n’ roll couch and we’ll hang black and white photography on the walls, cars and stuff, and we’ll have amazing lamps, and it’s gonna be so cool.
Fuck it. I started over completely. I also turned to a new vendor for fabrics, because the first vendor didn’t have any other fabrics that looked young and cool.
I checked out Tonic Living (online), and loved what they sold. I followed Tonic Living on instagram where, two weeks later, they promoted a spring time sale. BOOM. I ordered without even getting a sample first, like a REBEL. I chose Ellis fabric in cream and grey. This particular fabric has a lot going for it: warm neutral colours, that mid-century modern vibe, environmentally friendly production process, washable, intended for upholstery, washable, low price, washable, did I mention our dog gets our furniture dirty and also a great price! I got all the fabric I needed for the couch at 1/3rd of the price of what I would have paid for the black and white glam fabric.
I looked up how a very similar fabric looked when Sarah Richardson used it on Sarah 101 (she’s the best, A+, hero worship ENGAGE). The patterns were so similar that it made my decision much easier. Here’s the link:
As you can tell (if you checked the links) the pattern on her two side chairs is incredibly similar to what I picked up from Tonic Living.
And here’s how it turned out!
The couch has six legs now, instead of four. It has been rebuilt with all new cushions, all new fabric, and all new zippers. When the men tore the soft materials off the couch, it rained beer bottle caps on their feet. *wipes away a tear of pride from Mark’s face* Yeah, there were 50 to 60 beer caps IN THE COUCH somehow. Why it didn’t ring like a tambourine when it was transported, I’ll never know. But that’s the magic of parties and the beauty of family heirlooms. Every bottle cap a jewel on the drunk history of long term friendships.
I have a different post to write, about choosing to put a patterned fabric on a couch when no one encourages amateurs to do such a thing, but I’ll end on this happy note: thank you Ted and Mark for being great guys who, along with a bunch of other really stellar people, built an incredible tribe of friends who now, decades after graduating university, are still goofing off on the internet and are still hanging out in backyards and parks together. It was an honour to do what I do, to save your iconic porn couch so that another three or four decades of our tribe of people will have a place to sit and get drunk, stuffing beer caps under or behind the cushions.