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My 'Life Sofa' - The couch cast in a cocooning role

22 Jun 2007
It's not the price of the sofa that dictates its status as a life's companion. If that were the case, you would have to live two lifetimes to justify the price of a Fendi creation in the Italian design studio's showroom in Buitengracht Street in Cape Town. Your sofa's value is something much subtler, more intimate.

Sofas for Decophiles
While the price tag of a Fendi sofa trembles under the weight of multiple zeroes, there are South African sofa makers whose offerings cost a lot less. They also don't impose the need to live up to a Swarovsky-encrusted logo, the double 'F' embossed soixante-neuf.

Aspirational, but not overtly dictatorial, a Klooftique sofa for instance, does what you tell it to – that's once you have it through the door. And it's not for show that four big guys have to deliver the buffalo-clad beast and still have to trek the cushions in one by one from the truck. Then, stretched over more than two metres of the living room floor, it says, settle in, I'm your life sofa.

The sofas made by Marianna and Jarome Furman in the Klooftique factory are owned by Decophiles round the world including South African globetrotting comedian Cokey Falkow, who would surely have something witty to say about his sofa if he had the time, and it was printable. Cokey's beautiful hide sofa is shared with Scottie dogs Scarlett and Fergus.

A life less ordinary
In the depths of the Great Karoo, a lifelong bond was formed when friends Gillie and Bob Ferrand offered to buy Brett Bard a sofa as a housewarming present. There is nothing ordinary about Brett, his house or, as it turned out, the sofa. Bard is a holistic vet, who practices his profession near the tiny town of Klaarstroom in the Karoo, and also in London, where he spends around three months a year on locums. The historic house on his farm Rosselvlei he has restored with fine attention to detail and a restrained hand, but the sofa breaks the rules. It is gigantic; fire-engine red bull denim, with seat cushions more than a metre deep. The entire thing is designed to accommodate Brett's lanky frame for the rare times he feels the need to lounge around. It is also shared by his canis Africanis, Beauty, dachshund Max, Cleo the cat, and any friends who might drop in. The sofa was specially made up by Cape Town upholsterer Washieda van der Schyff, who provided Brett with a micro-environment that is almost as self-sustaining as his farm.

Lee Reichman, of Coricraft, says her sofas are the most comfortable and aesthetically pleasing they can be, and they are certainly affordable. Writer and award winning makeup artist Sylvie Hurford recently bought a Coricraft slipcover sofa to take care of her family while she is at work, and she joins them there for her rare downtimes.

At close to three metres, it fits nearly wall to wall in the TV room and accommodates her more than two metres of husband Deon, son Gabe, 5, daughter Rose, 2, plus the dog, Jack and cat Moby. 'There's still room for me, plus stuffed rabbits, bears and blankies.' In a sullen brown cotton and somehow too long for elegance, the sofa is nevertheless spectacularly comfortable and absorbs dog snot, random tea spills and abandoned meatballs with equanimity.

Delicious in red velvet
Mandy Karpierz and her husband David own two of Cape Town's most famous eateries, The Greek and the Fat Cactus on the restaurant mile of Durban Road Mowbray.
Their sofa is one Mandy bought before their marriage, but David, apparently, has colonized it and has even written a paean in praise of its extreme comfort. Mandy says it has been with her almost as long as she has been in South Africa, and started out pure white. After a stint as the primary seating for her two best friends and herself in a shared Green Point flat where it suffered the rigours of red wine and a few boyfriends, it moved in with her and David when they got married. 'We proceeded to have two children and because of them, and maybe because I will always be an English lass at heart, I re-covered the sofa in delicious red velvet.'

Room for the family
Gary and Lisa Smith are a major force in the Karoo town of Prince Albert where they own the prominent Onse Rus Guest House in a mid-19th Century building in the main road. The property is highly popular for its famous hospitality.

After a stroke that affected his speech three years ago, Gary now spends his time with his horses and amusing friends with the visual metaphors he invokes to get his point across. To fully understand him requires a sound literary knowledge and an enjoyment of sight gags. Watching sport is one of his favourite pastimes which he practices on a venerable Anthony Byrne leather sofa with his Labradors, Beth and her son Bengu. 'The dogs are very territorial about Gary and the sofa, so I don't get much of a look in,' says Lisa. But it is left to her to keep up running repairs on the traumatized hide, scuffed by a couple of decades of canine cuddlers.

Malcolm Kluk and his partner Christiaan Gabriel du Toit, aside from being among South Africa's most bankable designers (having dressed just about every big-name diva imaginable), are also style leaders in most other respects. Significantly, Malcolm's life sofa is a relic of his father's early furniture investments and has seen several metamorphoses since it was passed on to Malcolm by his brother, who had covered it in 'hideous' (Malcolm's judgment) tartan. Now, it is stylish taupe, but has done service in both black and white at times. Dogs and cats have also had their will of the sofa over the years and re-coverings are dictated by their levels of energy.

There are those of us who others would judge as having too many sofas but once the collection fixation takes hold, moderation leaves the vocabulary and all one can hope for is, like a cat, to have nine lives to spend with each individually.

David Karpierz, however, seems to have exceeded most sofaholics' addiction by romancing his, with passable poetry:

Soliloquy to my Sofa
You provide a haven, a place, where I rest my tired body and reflect
I know your creases and bulges, I know where you hide my remotes.
I know your cushions intimately as they juggle to afford me that perfect position
I become part of you sofa and you part of me
I get jealous when guests use you, not understanding our special relationship
You are the furnishing of my life
You are that special secret place
You are soft and deep and relenting
You are and always will be, my sofa – Neill Hurford

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