This is the time of year you can walk into any big box store, say a Costco or a Target, and just about trip over rows of super cushy sofas. I don’t mean seating for the family room or the finished basement. The pillow-y furnishings you see these days are for the great outdoors. That’s right. Today’s “must have” is a large, inviting sectional you place right next to the birdbath.
Apparently, we’ve done a 180 on the old Jeff Foxworthy “you must be a redneck” punch line. It used to be a badge of hick-dom to have sturdy furniture outside. Now, dewy sofas are the latest consumer frenzy. But, as always, there’s a twist. Couch out front — bad. Couch in the back — git-r-done.
Every spring, I just take a deep breath, let out a loud sigh, and hope the trend will pass.
But this inside-out consumerism doesn’t appear to be going away. Pizza ovens keep popping up like mushrooms on backyard lawns. Fireplace chimneys are going rogue, breaking away from rooflines and stomping out mid-yard volleyball nets. Conversation pits now wrap around the shores of backyard koi ponds.
Is this what America needs to finally get outside for fresh air and vigor? A couch?
So what’s a suburban family to do? My husband and I try to limit our possessions. The empty nest is looming. We don’t like the idea of having too much stuff in the house, let alone outside the house. We keep repeating this mantra to each other, “Let’s purge!” Luckily, for us, there’s no sprawling concrete patio that can easily take the weight and girth of another fully furnished “outdoor room.”
But we do have a deck. It’s half empty, glaringly so, and I want to keep it that way. There’s a sturdy metal table and some metal chairs — the kind you use for eating a hot dog and sitting around until the ol’ back gets stiff. It’s a dining set we can hose off in the summer or stare at from the window in January. Perfect. We also have a somewhat modest grill. Okay, a marginal grill with battle scars from a very bad windstorm. It’s a far cry from one of those new, mammoth stainless steel numbers with 10 side burners and built-in champagne fridges.
Table. Chairs. Wimpy grill. That’s it.
Yet I get these catalogs in the mail from places like Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, all tempting me to plunk down cash on a large coffee table for the squirrel zone. Right now these stores are all about selling sprawling pieces of pricey furniture onto which any robin or bluejay can take aim. Why is it we must always be within 12 inches of a love seat, even when mowing the lawn?
I’d like to make it clear I’m not judging anyone who made the investment in an outdoor living space. It must be magical to have the Big Dipper double as your ceiling. I’m the first person to ooh and ahh a cool backyard all ready for a swank party. If you wipe the pollen off your patio flat screen and invite me over, I’ll absolutely plunk down and watch from that designer ottoman under the pine tree. I might even do a shot at the granite bar by the garden hose, all the while pondering what might be wrong with me.
At my own address, it’s clear I don’t have whatever gusto it takes to attempt some fabulousness outside. I have no idea how to coordinate sofa cushions with, well, the universe. But this is a lame excuse.
Conclusion? There might not be an ounce of bon vivant in me. I’m a bad target audience for an outdoor furniture catalog campaign. I’m not cool. I’m not fun. But then again — here comes the gigantic, supersized, colossal elephant in the room — neither is the mosquito.