When I was a kid, my grandmother used to cover her sofa in clear plastic. This was the style in the 1950s and 60s to keep the fabric clean and to keep pets and guests from spilling or making a mess on them. I will always remember her gray French Provincial sectional with the fleur-de-lis pattern, curved legs, metal nail covers along the bottom and top edges, and the tiny wooden corner table that sat behind it. I hated sitting on the that sofa and, most of all, I hated sleeping on that sofa. The sofa was fairly comfortable, but the plastic was thick and hard, with sharp edges that hurt. It was also very warm in the summer. When you sweated on the sofa, it would sit on top of the plastic cover (one of the good points of the cover, I guess) and wouldn’t go anywhere, so you would continue to sweat and just get warmer and wetter. It was a disgusting cycle when sitting in her living room on the plastic sofa. I would always turn her air conditioner up and blame one of my brothers. She also had a matching chair with a plastic cover, but that was her chair and we didn’t sit in it (not that we weren’t allowed, I think it was just out of respect that we chose not to sit there). Needless to say, I have always sought out furniture with fabric since then. I guess it had a permanent effect on my inner furniture-selecting psyche.
I have been lucky since moving overseas. All my apartments have been furnished and I haven’t had to buy any large furniture items. This helps when moving around the world because they only give you so much of a moving allowance, and have to pay the overage. Needless to say, I paid overages in the move to China AND in the move to Singapore. My apartment in Madrid was equipped with a fairly ugly, but functional, red fabric sofa-bed. I loved the sofa-bed aspect because it was a small apartment and it was handy for when people came to visit. Madrid got very warm in the summer and, without air conditioning, I was very happy to have that absorbent sofa under me. It got so bad that sometimes I would drape towels over the sofa so that it wouldn’t get so wet. It would even seep through the towels on the hottest of days.
In China, I had another fairly ugly, but functional, yellow sofa and chaise. This was a little less comfortable because it had fake leather armrests and headrests. They were pleather, and they were beginning to wear down, so sometimes I would get little bits of the plastic leather on my arms as I sat on the sofa. It was also very warm in summer to lean my arms on the pleather. It was comfortable, however to lay down and watch television. The core of the cushions was like memory foam and it would conform to my body.
Here in Singapore, the hottest of the places in which I have lived, I’m plagued with a vinyl (fake leather) sofa and love seat. They are not too comfortable to lay on, but what’s worse is that they are non-absorbent and, therefore, too hot to sit on in this sticky Singapore climate. I have bought cotton blankets from Ikea to place over the pleather, but it doesn’t matter, the plastic doesn’t breathe and it holds my sweat against my body. I like to relax on the sofa after a long day at work and watch some television. It’s virtually impossible to do that on these plastic sweat traps. My apartment has a beautiful breeze that blows across, and I can’t enjoy it because I am too hot, so I turn on the air conditioning and spend the extra money for something that I don’t really need because I have the beautiful breeze.
I wish furniture manufacturers would find a fabric that mimics leather, but breaths. I know they found out that cotton can be brushed to resemble suede, perhaps there’s a fabric out there that resembles leather, but breathes. If I decide to stay in Singapore for several years, I think it would make sense to buy my own sofa…..but until then I’m going to keep covering the vinyl with cotton blankets from Ikea….now if I can just get the cat to stop scratching at them and pulling out threads…..