Couches: the Worst Seat in the History of Seats?

Disclaimer: this article contains strong language and stronger opinions. Reader discretion is advised, especially if you have strong attachments to your couch.

Owning a floor cushion company has provided me with unique experiences. I never expected that my apartment living room would be the receiving dock for 700 lbs of buckwheat hulls. I also never expected that I would so vocally denounce couches, and so frequently find myself justifying the price point of our floor cushions. My co-owner Brett and I sometimes get the following feedback:

“I can’t justify paying over $100 for a cushion.”

“Why is it so expensive?”

“I would consider purchasing a floor cushion if it were cheaper.”

Fair enough. We never expect anyone to purchase our products unless they provide value to their lives. And for most of the folks making these remarks, our product actually doesn’t deliver that value. They have, or perceive to have, no use for a floor cushion. 

You may be tempted to make similar statements and blissfully ignore the likely fact that you sit more than one third of your day without giving any thought to what you’ve chosen to sit on. But before I let you off that hook, I feel morally obliged to challenge your current seating, in particular your couch, and ask whether it is helping or hindering you in your pursuit of a good life.

Legacy Seats

Right now you’re probably sitting on a legacy seat. Couches, loveseats, desk chairs, etc. are all legacy seats. These are the ones that Big Seat sells you along with the promise of comfort and luxury. I’ve named them legacy seats because we’ve inherited them from centuries past without questioning their utility or lack thereof. They’re living on a legacy. This is madness when you give it even one ounce of thought. It would be akin to using a toasting fork to toast your bread, ignoring the fact that we have toasters that are easier to use, safer and more consistent. Or do you like pretending that you’re living in the 18th century? 
If legacy seats are marketed for their luxury and comfort, it’s worth asking what the tradeoffs are. 

There are serious tradeoffs.

They fall into two major categories: physiological health and productivity. Below they are listed with a sublist of their specific manifestations, along with a couple supporting resources if you’d like to dive deeper down the rabbit hole.

Couches and Your Physical Health

  • Couches don’t promote an active posture, making users prone to couch slouch.

  • They make us completely sedentary. No activity is involved, even compared to the muscle activation from standing or sitting on the floor.

  • Over time, couches (and chairs) wreck your hip action.

Couches and Your Productivity

  • Couches don’t provide any space for serious work:

    • No surfaces for artists to easily work on.

    • Laptops must be used on your lap. Don’t let the name fool you! This is uncomfortable, hot on the legs, and forces you to crane your neck during long work sessions.

  • Couches are usually accompanied by existing distractions, namely the TV. There’s nothing wrong with watching TV per se, but it’s a troublesome distraction for those trying to do deep work.

  • Couches are way too easy to lay out on. One moment you sit down to do good work and the next you’re laid out looking like Tutankhamun.

Tutankhamun laying down

Most importantly, almost all of us have mental associations with couches that don’t involve being productive, or having meaningful interactions, or getting meaningful work done. We associate them with netflix and chill, our morning coffee, Friday night drinks, games night, etc. These are all awesome things, but if you’re trying to also make your couch an intentional place of personal growth, then these associations (habits) can be incredibly hard to break. Introducing intentional seating into your space is how you sidestep these habits to make your seated life a productive one.

Examining these facts above, it becomes clear that couches are actually only good for one thing: relaxing. Their dominance as the seat of choice in Western homes would make a ton of sense if relaxing was all any of us ever did. But you should take stock of your waking hours. You’ll realize that relaxing probably only ever occupies 20% of your waking hours, and likely much less. On average, I use my couch for about 5% of my waking day. And if I’m being honest, I’d like to be on it less. The time that I am on it, I’m typically mindlessly scrolling social feeds, or watching Netflix. Both great things, but best enjoyed when kept to a minimum.

So the design of couches affords us relaxation, but not much else. We’ve established that they’re not ideal for work and play, and for maintaining physiological health. Not only that, but couches are actually terrible for engaged social time too. Yet we let them dominate our living rooms, typically taking up the largest square footage of any object in the room. And they’re expensive. The interior design experts at Modsy consider any couch under $1000 to be inexpensive. Yikes! It feels like we’ve bought into a tremendously terrible deal with couches, without ever considering the terms of the deal?

Trump explaining why floor cushions are a better trade deal.

Put another way, couches are like some invasive species that have infected our living rooms and live there permanently. We never asked for one, and we never necessarily wanted one, but somehow we have one. And their grandiose promises of comfort and luxury have glossed over the fact that, actually these suckers are pretty bad for our physical health, our work productivity, and even our relationships with others.

Is a floor cushion really that expensive, or has your couch infected your mind too?

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