Friday, August 19, 2011

Tales of a Couch Whisperer

Have you ever heard of Caesar Milan - the Dog Whisperer?

You know - he's the ex-dog groomer who turned his talent with dogs into a million-dollar business. Through his books and syndicated TV show Caesar shows dog-owners how to recognize fear and worry both in themselves and their dogs. More importantly, he demonstrates how to create the calm and control that brings contentment to both dog and owner.

When I think about it (after a cocktail or two) I pretty much do the same thing (for a lot less money) only with couches.

Yes...I have become a couch whisperer.

Like Caesar, I too, am called when a domestic situation screeches out of control. Whether it's a couch's riotous fabric, frayed edges, or simply age that is causing trouble...I have a solution.

Case in point:

My son and his girlfriend were gifted an old couch. It had a lovely shape and was fairly comfortable but it was suffering from ALL three issues and had been summarily rejected by its original owners.

In fact, the situation was so dire that I completely forgot to capture a picture of the original condition. Probably just as well - I know some you have tender hearts (or tummies). But here's a glimpse of the original fabric so you can see what we were up against.

The original 80's "disco sheen meets Miami Vice color scheme"...
I began my "whispering" by running my hands over the dated brocade and tried to squelch the 1980's flashbacks it inspired. I made my diagnosis and delivered the news in my most solemn voice.

"The bones are good. The padding is worn. Sadly, the throw pillows will need a funeral service...but the couch itself can be saved."

The three of us set out for the fabric store channeling the secret longings of the couch for a fresh new look. But this was no average couch looking for a new start - there was an underlying torment that made it nearly impossible to choose the right fabric - defeated, we gathered swatches and headed for home.

There was a certain amount of time pressure since I was in town for only three days and Lorri had to return to work so we set right in. We needed to uncover the issues this couch was facing and discard those things holding it hostage.

Look at those smiles! Okay Lorri's smile anyway - Alex has an inkling of what is to come...
And so the unstapling it usually does...with a measure of enthusiasm...then the hours tick by....and the profanity and shear disbelief follow. I've seen it before...many times.

"How many fickin' staples did this guy have to use???" was a common expletive.
Finally, after the outer layer of hideous fabric was removed, we fell into an exhausted sleep. The only person not exhausted was Una who had wisely kept a safe distance from the entire process.

Una - final competitor for the "World's Cutest Dog" title.
Day 2 dawned at...well...several hours after dawn, so we raced back to the fabric store with the chosen swatch in our hot little hands. After a minor scuffle with a rather disagreeable clerk (he actually questioned my couch whispering skills - the CRETIN!) we arrived back home with yards of fabrics and very high hopes.

The seat back went on quickly - always a good sign - and I'd hoped that this meant that the couch had been tamed and was willing to work with us...

But I was wrong.

Now I have never seen Caesar Milan bitten by a "client" but I have no doubt that it's all part of his job.

This couch bit my knee drawing blood from a two inch gash. Alex too suffered several injuries. Only Lorri made it through unscathed - somehow she had established a special bond with the its true owner no doubt.

The real turning point (no pun intended) was the arms. The intricate pleats and curved stature created a wrestling match for this couch whisperer and son. But brute force and well-placed staples ruled the day and we were victorious.

It's a two man job to hold, fold, staple and flip these arms! (Try saying THAT three times quickly!)
The second night fell and we were still whispering. The couch body was done but the seat cushions still needed sewing. Honestly, I thought we were on the home stretch.

But again I was wrong. Perhaps it was my fault? Maybe I relaxed my vigilance too early in the process?

I had become distracted by the welting and the ease with which it sewed and so failed to notice the cloud of doom lingering on my horizon.

It was really late - can that be my excuse?

I took a picture of the moment of death.

It died (insert long moment of silence). My lovely Elna sewing machine - friend and companion for the last 17 years surged to a whirring halt. Its little mechanical heart was willing but its needle no longer moved up and down.

Alex and the dearly departed.
We were all sad...broken-hearted even. To be this close and yet so far away from completion. I consoled my son and spoke of the natural cycle of life and death.

Alex consoled me and spoke of the 24 hour Walmart.

So while Alex comforted Una over the recent tragedy, I set out in search of a new sidekick.

Alex and Una mourning our loss...

A brief word here should be said about the ottoman...ottomans are like little sister couches. They tend to follow the lead of their older siblings. Once the big-sister has been tamed, Lil' Sis usually falls right into line.

This little sister first skipped into the room dressed only in a racy striped slip-cover and her very loose cushion.
Lil' Sis ottoman is there on the left nuzzling Alex's knee - the tart!

Getting her back on the straight and narrow required a two-pronged approach:
1. Stripping her stripes once and for all...
2. Tamping down her loose ways permanently.

Since she was too tall to be comfortable, we liposuctioned some of her padding and stapled down the remainder.
By 10 AM, our little tribe of Indians had banded (head-banded that is) together and was ready to sprint the final mile.

The LMIT  (La Mesa Interiors Tribe)
We sewed up some new chocolate-colored throw cushions and one funky striped narrow one for some added zip - a nod to the discarded slip-covers...and then it was done.

My whispering was over. The couch had been tamed and was suitable and willing to live peacefully among man and beast once more.

Calm and contented...another successful whispering.

So the Indians celebrated in style - drinking tribal Chai Tea and beaming their happiness!

The recently recovered relax together as a family.