Manolo for the HomeI’ve Fallen (Onto Your Couch) and I Can’t Get Up! | Manolo for the Home

I’ve Fallen (Onto Your Couch) and I Can’t Get Up!

By Christa Terry

Growing up, I never once encountered plastic furniture covers. My grandparents, who had the most chic furnishings my little girl mind could envision, sat directly on their couches and chairs, ate meals off their dining room table, and walked on their lovely Oriental rugs. Plastic furniture covers were something you saw on TV shows about elderly people with ridiculous pretensions. Furthermore, the furnishings under said covers were never as nice as my grandparents’ stuff. Thus, I concluded it was an affectation used for comedic effect in fiction.

Oh, how wrong I was. The images below both came from a listing I found via It’s Lovely! I’ll Take it!, which means that someone out there is still protecting the integrity of their furniture from rogue butt prints and spills.

Does it ever come off?

I wonder if it comes off in summertime, when bare, sunburned legs are most likely to be thrust into the agony zone by the amazing adhesive properties of smooth plastic…

Plastic on the backs?!

Those two-part covers must take a while to put on, what with at least six dining room chairs. Then when company is coming, they have to come off! And when company leaves, it’s time to put them back on again. It’s exhausting keeping furniture this clean!

For those who have known someone with plastic furniture covers, I must ask whether there is an unspoken hierarchy of visitors. Do professionals stopping by for whatever reason get to sit on bare chairs? What about relatives that one sees all the time? Or is the privilege reserved for relatives and loved ones who don’t visit often? I am curious because I would be much more embarrassed to have people see my plastic covers than to have them see a small stain or bit of schmutz on the couch.

21 Responses to “I’ve Fallen (Onto Your Couch) and I Can’t Get Up!”

  1. Gigi Says:

    Hahahaha, I was once engaged to a man whose parents still had their original wedding furniture. You guessed it, protected by plastic covers! They NEVER took the covers off. Try sitting on a plastic-covered sofa on Long Island in the summertime with no air conditioning. :-O I just don’t see the point of having nice things if you aren’t going to enjoy them. Thanks for sharing those dining set covers – I hadn’t seen those before and they certainly are good for a laugh.

  2. Sarah Says:

    My grandparents had plastic covers on the “nice” chair and couches in their living room, which was only really used a couple times a year for major family get-togethers. I think their caution was understandable, given the 5 grandchildren they usually had running about the place. Now that we’re all grown, the plastic covers have been retired!

  3. cw Says:

    My aunts and uncles had similar clear plastic covers on sofas and chairs in their one and only sitting room. This was in the 60’s. As far as I know, they NEVER came off. They were too tightly fitted a la upholstery for a normal person to have taken off and put back on. Very weird.

  4. Little Red Says:

    My parents don’t have plastic covers but they do cover the “good” furniture with sheets which are removed when we have guests. Even the individual dining chair cushions are covered. This is all done to keep the dust off.

    My mother is always suggesting I cover my chairs in order to prevent the upholstery from fading.

  5. La Petite Acadienne Says:

    I haven’t seen too much of the plastic covers on the furniture, but I have seen many a person who has kept the plastic cover on their pleated lampshade.

    Fire hazard, anyone?

    Mind you, I AM planning on getting a slipcover for my couch for when we have kids, so that if they smear jam on it or something, I can just pop the slipcover off and launder it. Is that just as bad?

  6. Twistie Says:

    My attitude is that most pieces of furniture can be cleaned, repaired, or replaced. If it ain’t museum quality, there’s no point in treating it like a museum display.

    That said, La Petite Acadienne, I think there’s a specific difference between having a slipcover (which might just as easily be chosen simply to change up the look of the room at minimal expense) and sealing your seats in plastic. A quick-washing slipcover that protects the sofa against weekly peanut butter and jelly stains while the kids develop gross motor skills is not the same thing as making adults feel that breathing in the same room is going to destroy your furniture.

  7. Leah Says:

    My aunt and one of her daughters are extremely allergic to dust mites, so they do use plastic covers on some cloth furniture items day-to-day ’cause it’s easier to get the dust off. However, they would never cover the wooden table top! And the plastic came off when they felt they were “hosting” an event. As furniture was replaced with newer items and newer hypoalergenic mateirals and stuffings, they used less and less of the plastic covers.

  8. raincoaster Says:

    This is hilarious! I love tacky people; they give the rest of us so much to talk about!

    One of the funniest interviews I ever read was JFK Jr’s interview of Louis Farrakhan in his home, which was all-white and had plastic covers on everything. Farrakhan made Kennedy put little plastic slippers on his feet before he was allowed into the sitting room. Kennedy won some respect from me for being polite about it and still getting the creepiness of the whole encounter across.

  9. class-factotum Says:

    My grandmother had plastic covers on some of her furniture. I laughed at “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” because I had thought, up until the scene in the movie where the plastic covers appear, that only German grandmothers did that.

    My other grandmother didn’t use plastic covers, but her mantra was that everything was “too nice” to use. She kept her nice linens in a drawer for a special occasion. When she went to use them years later, they had been eaten by mice.

    The moral of the story to me? My house is not a museum, it is a home. My furniture is not as important as my family and friends. If a sofa gets stained, oh well. That’s life.

  10. Christie Says:

    I can understand the humor of plastic covered and “good” furniture…but I think there might be one thing that some folks might be missing. Maybe this is the best furniture those folks could afford and maybe it’s not as disposable or replaceable as it would be for other families. Maybe it’s just an attempt to keep up with the Jones across the street who could afford better furniture, replace it at the drop of a hat and to walk on their priceless Oriental rugs. Just sayin’.

  11. monica Says:

    wow, i saw this plastic stuff in seinfeld, i recall, he he…
    well, nothing similar in romania, where i come from, just that now that i am getting married my mom gave me some nice embroidered table cloth and towels that are 100 years old. in good condition, some of them never used. guess what: i intend to use them! of course, will try to keep them in good condition, they are so nice!

  12. divya Says:

    usually, people who use plastic never take it off!!! I knew a woman who bought new cushions, put them in a plastic bag, covered them with beautiful cushion covers. Washed and changed the covers, but we could never rest on those rustling cushions.

  13. raincoaster Says:

    My father kept the plastic covers on his lampshades, until he went on vacation and asked me to house-sit. They were mysteriously missing when he got back, but it took him two solid years to notice!

  14. SusanC Says:

    I agree with Twistie- slip covers are fine and practical. Done well, their function may not even be obvious. I do wonder if any of the plastic-cover people also shop at Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel for “distressed” furniture. I recall seeing a “Provence” style dining room table with the same wear pattern hammered in various spots, no doubt by bemused 3rd world laborers.

    Or is that a different set of silly people?

  15. elayne Says:

    class-factotum, your post reminds me:

    I think it was Erma Bombeck who said, in her last months of life, that if she had it to do all over again, she’d ENJOY the things she loved, instead of protecting/preserving them. She gave the example (I might have the details wrong, so don’t quote me on this) of some lovely rose-shaped and -scented candles she had been given, which she’d deemed “too nice” to burn, and too susceptible to collecting dust to leave out on display. She’d stored them in the garage, and after her cancer diagnosis, decided to get them out and enjoy them – but they had melted in the heat over several summers.

    I’m all for keeping things in such a way so that they’re easy to clean and don’t create so much work that they become a chore instead of a pleasure, and for protecting one’s health (re: plastic covers to help combat dust allergies), but yeah – I LIVE here, I don’t give tours. Keeping things clean and tidy is important to me (though you’d never know it by looking in my kitchen right this moment) (or my office, or my bedroom, or…) but what is the point of having things that are too “precious” to be enjoyed?

  16. Never teh Bride Says:

    Gigi: Sticky!

    Sarah: I always thought the covers came off when company came over. I’ve never heard of the covers going on when company arrived.

    Christie: You make a good point, but one that strikes me as kind of sad. I have the best furniture I can afford — which isn’t all that — but I still use it. Unless someone has a lot of guests or a lot of kids, how much damage is that furniture going to take? I have six younger siblings, and my family managed to make un-plasticked furniture last a goodly long time.

    divya: Ugh, noisy cushions and pillows bother me. I can’t imagine how crinkly that must have been…

    elayne: “I LIVE here, I don’t give tours.” Damn right!

  17. La BellaDonna Says:

    Christie, believe me, it’s not about making fun of folks who are poor. A lot of the Plastic Slipcover people are more pretentious than they are poor, and a good many of them have more money than I’ll ever see. I think there is an element, though, of calling out the people who ARE trying to keep up with the Joneses across the street, because they aren’t in the same economic bracket. Better to be the best Smith that you can be (and life in comfort with your furniture while taking care of it) than to be a cheap imitation Jones. You’re not fooling anyone, and your legs are sticking to the slipcovers.

    Your belongings are supposed to make YOUR life better/easier/prettier/more enjoyable; you’re not supposed to be living your life for THEM.

    That said, I’m all in favor of taking care of the nice things you have: dust what needs dusting, polish what needs polishing, clean what needs cleaning, ignore the cat hair, etc.; but stuff exists to be used -otherwise, why have it? I’d rather wear jewelry and risk losing it – and I have – than never wear it at all.

    OTOH, it does help to use common sense; I did see a baby carriage of some sort in the photo, I think, and it makes perfect sense to use pretty slipcovers to protect materials that can’t be washed. Even in Jane Austen’s world, wealthy folks as well as the gentry and the ordinary folks used slipcovers on chairs when there were no visitors, and “holland covers” (aka “linen sheets”) when the house was closed up for a few months. Also, it IS true that light degrades and deteriorates textiles something fierce, so you may not want the zillion dollar silk and wool carpets in direct sunlight every day. (Sofas, chairs, carpets, hangings – all susceptible. Your Mom is right, Little Red.)

    When it’s a matter of health, now, I understand needing the covers – yes, I too have received all those “cover with plastic” instructions from the asthma specialists – in addition to “get rid of excess [textile stuff].” Since I’m a textile junkie, that’s not going to happen. If I die six months sooner, that’s fine by me. And they can line my coffin with some of the extra-nice bits, too.

    And Monica, I am SO JEALOUS – I mean, “happy for you” – about your lovely embroidered Romanian treasures! Do consider washing them separately and gently, though, so the embroidery doesn’t run. You may even want to use lingerie bags for them. I would suggest that you store lavender in sachet bags with them, or keep them in cedar chests, to discourage any pests, and shake them out regularly, if they’re not used frequently.

  18. Danna Says:

    Oh my, this brings back memories! When I was a kid back in the 60s, one of my Italian aunts bought new “good” furniture, upholstered in a heavy gold damask. And yup, you guessed it, she had plastic covers for the sofa and chairs, these were tight fitting covers that would easily slip on and off, and those suckers were meant to stay on. They weren’t smooth plastic though, they had a little embossed pattern on them so in the summertime when it was hot and swealtering and you were wearing shorts, you’d be stuck to the sofa with sweat, then when you stood up there would be little indentations all over the back of your legs, like you had some horrible skin disease. She also had plastic runners over the carpet so it didn’t get dirty.

  19. Erika Says:

    Here I thought it was an Italian-American ‘thing’, since my Italian grandparents, mother, aunts, etc. all had plastic on their couches! But only on their living room couches – we were free to get comfortable in the family room. We only really used the living room on Christmas and Easter, anyway. 🙂

  20. Never teh Bride Says:

    It’s not just the Italian grannies, Erika! I’ve seen plastic covers on houses belonging to all sorts of people, though the one thing they had in common was advanced age.

  21. LIAM Says:

    Keep up the great work

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