An Ode to the Greatest Grandma Couch in NYC

Filed under it's fun to be fat

When I moved to NYC in 2005, I came only with one of those plastic storage totes, crammed full of clothes and duct taped closed so it wouldn’t explode in the plane’s cargo hold. My boyfriend, Todd, already lived here in an NYU dorm, so when we moved into our first apartment together, we had absolutely no furniture. We sat on black beanbag chairs at first, but I eventually got antsy and found us the most beautiful modern Victorian couch on craigslist, cream-colored with a brocade pattern, carved wooden arms and legs. A guy had inherited his grandmother’s apartment when she’d died (probably on the couch) and wanted to get rid of it, so I paid him (or likely Todd’s dad did) $150 for the pleasure of owning it for the next eight years.

That couch saw a lot during its lifetime with me. It moved from my first studio in Chelsea to my two-bedroom in Park Slope to my two-bedroom in Williamsburg to my two-bedroom in Downtown Brooklyn. It never went with anything else I owned, and basically everyone but me thought it was hideous. But it was my grandma couch, and I loved it. Here’s a list of all of the people I can think of who shared special times with that couch, in chronological order:

• My friend Lauren, who was in a college writing class with me in Ohio, visited me basically the moment the couch came to my apartment and slept on it for a week while forcing me to go see Broadway shows that I couldn’t have cared less about. But she also introduced to me to H&M.

• My friend Mike visited from Ohio and was approximately twice as tall as my couch was. And also twice as big as that studio apartment was in general.

• My blogfriend Amy came to visit from Missouri, told me Life of Pi was her favourite book before I’d ever even heard of it, and got asked for directions by 9 out of 10 people who saw her on the streets because she looked so much more confident visiting here for one day than I did living here for years.

• My BFF 4-ever and 4-lyfe, Tracey, drove ten hours in the rain to visit me from Ohio. When she arrived, the streets were lined with garbage, and the air smelled like wet garbage, and she was horrified that I lived in this ugly, smelly place, but she loved my couch.

• My sister, Joanie, and my cousin, Bethany, visited from Kentucky and Ohio to accompany me to NYC tourist sites when it was 2 degrees outside. Bethany would later buy me an air mattress, but nothing would replace the couch for friends-sleeping-over purposes.

• I moved to Williamsburg with my co-worker, Wen, in late 2006. He didn’t buy a mattress for the first six months we lived together and slept on my couch instead. The couch was never the same. It also had to watch as I painted the apartment pink and light blue one weekend and then Wen repainted it dark red and navy another weekend behind my back.

• My blogfriend Aaron came and slept on the couch from Australia basically just to let Kamran buy him a $14 sundae at Serendipity.

• My parents visited in the fall so my dad could see what all of the hullabaloo was about NYC, so I slept on the couch and gave them my bed. My dad wasn’t so impressed with NYC. But I’m sure he loved the couch.

• My original NYC BFF, Beth, slept on the couch for two weeks after leaving NYC for a while in order to be able to drive her Alfa Romeo, realizing she missed midnight bowling with me too much, and coming back. She brought golf clubs with her to an island without a single golf course and with apartments the size of bathrooms elsewhere, which about sums up Beth perfectly.

• In 2010, I moved in with my co-worker/friend Jack, and we immediately Oxicleaned the thing, which was somewhat successful in that parts of the couch were bright, sparkling white, and parts of the couch were still infused with Wen oils for life. Jack slept on the couch for a month when the air-conditioner in his bedroom broke all the same.

• My friend Kim came over to watch all of season 1 of “Game of Thrones” with Jack and me before season 2 began and then spent the night. And then woke up at 8 the next morning and put on a nautical-print sundress for brunch, because she is a true New Yorker. She’s since spent what adds up to days of her life there, talking to me about boys and our superior taste in literature and watching movies usually centered around teenage killing sprees.

• Jack’s best friend Chris often stays up half the night playing Halo on Jack’s XBox and then falls asleep on the couch. Jack has special sheets for him. Aww.

• My blogfriends Ellie & Kinard visited for Ellie’s birthday and let me take them to my very favourite restaurant and didn’t complain about the very un-New-York thick-crust artichoke pizza I fed them. I assume that one of them slept on the couch but don’t actually know, since they woke up hours before me every day to do totally weird things like read books and do yoga.

• My former co-worker from Ohio and one-half of the one of the many marriages I take credit for making happen, Sarah, came to visit me while very pregnant and adorable. When she went to sleep one night on the couch, I dumbly closed the swing lock so no one could break in on her and cut the baby out of her for black market sale, and then Jack came home at 3 a.m., and she had to waddle to my bedroom door and tell me that someone was knocking outside.

• My cousin, Ethan, brother of Bethany of the famed air mattress, came to visit with his pregnant wife, Katherine, who slept on the couch. They made BBQ and vegetables for my friends and me using their famed homemade BBQ sauce, and we all drooled on everything and each other because we hadn’t had a home-cooked meal in so long, and they were horrified.

So, that couch and I share a lot of memories. I’ve recognized for a while that it’s seen better days and that a normal person with a job and self-respect probably would’ve replaced it long ago. But it had just lasted so long that I didn’t want to cut its life short unnaturally.

Well, on New Year’s Eve, I was hanging out at home with my roommate/landlord/former co-worker/friend, Jack, and he decided he wanted to sit next to me and plopped down on the couch without thinking. The crack of wood echoed throughout our cavernous 900 square feet, and we flipped the thing over to find that one of the major crossbeams had fractured. NBD, we thought, the sides were still holding everything together well enough, although we noticed that two of the side pegs doing the heavy lifting had also broken off. I argued that we should let the couch live on until it just completely fell apart, but Jack started casually browsing the Internet for fancy new leather and metal mid-century wannabes all the same. And then we happened to fall in love with one of them, and he bought it.

And then two hours later, when I pushed myself off of the couch to go to bed, it straight up broke off at the sides and sent us plunging to the ground. The middle leg splayed out, splinters flew, and the life of my couch tragically ended just in time for a new one to take its place.

R.I.P. Grandma Couch, R.I.P.

Broken Couch


  1. Tessa says:

    I slept on this once, didn’t I?

    Just making sure everybody knows how much your couch really, uh, got around.

  2. Kinard says:

    RIP, couch. ‘Twas I that slept on its gloriousness, and I’m glad I didn’t know then that it was probably a dead lady couch. Also, the totally weird thing that Ellie and I did was shower. Together. Rawr. (Okay, not really.)

  3. Dishy says:

    I;m sad I never got to sleep or sit on your grandma couch. But maybe I can test out your new one? One day? Pretty please? With vegan cheese on top???


  4. Tracey says:

    That was a darn good sleeping couch. Nice and long so you could stretch out.

    When’s the memorial service? Should we set up a scholarship fund in its honor?

    • katie ett says:

      Remember how my mom had a scholarship fund in her honor and how I won it? So wrong. I don’t actually know if it exists anymore, either. I’m slightly convinced that my dad set it up for just that one year to get me more college money.

      • Tracey says:

        Pretty sure you SHOULD have won it, and I hope Joanie won it the next year. Kind of like how we won the Steve Scott memorial scholarship because we both had parents with brain tumors.

  5. Ash says:

    I asked you if you thought Jack was mad that I inadvertently insulted “his” couch by saying I was falling through the middle of it. Then you proceeded to tell me no, and also that it was actually your couch. Haha, oops.

  6. Sarah says:

    Mike is an accurate unit of measure. As in, “This ceiling is 1.5 Mikes tall.”

  7. Alfagirl says:

    I love this article! I did travel back to NYC w/ a lot of stuff, including golf clubs. I too, am glad that I didn’t know at the time that 1.) it was likely a dead lady couch, and 2.) that Wen slept on it for way too long.
    I can’t wait to test out your (Jack’s?) new couch when I visit! Is it a sleeper sofa? :)
    I’m also looking at replacing my futon which I’ve had now for like 10 years- I will not be sad to replace it though. I have been looking at mid-century furniture just like everyone who’s ever watched Mad Men, but I can totally understand why you love that Grandma couch.
    I want to see pics of the new couch!

  8. Sandy says:

    I have teh sadz that I never slept on that couch!

  9. bluzdude says:

    And now I know the appropriate time to replace a couch.

    “But baby, the legs haven’t busted off yet…”

  10. Andrea says:

    This may or may not be my favorite post ever.

  11. Andrea says:

    Also, I really want to come visit NY again, so sometime in the future I may just be invitin’ myself over. Because I was raised like a heathen.

    • katie ett says:

      Consider this an invitation, and let’s pretend you never said anything first. Not that I don’t love you for your heathenism.