Now that spring is officially here, I have been giving more thought to cost-effective ways of sprucing up my digs after a year of quarantine. I wouldn’t call myself a “neat freak”, nor would I aim to stigmatize those who prioritize cleanliness or order. I’d say that on the continuum, I’m probably closer to the Felix Unger side of things than in Oscar Madison territory, but I love my home and have tried to find ways to make the experience of staying generally confined within these square feet not only more bearable, but genuinely enjoyable. Over the past year and by necessity, my condo had been transformed from a place where I basically only ate, slept and watched television into also my home office, work space, art studio (which, admittedly, it already was), health club, place of worship, cinema, café, juice bar, and occasional disco.
I suppose I hadn’t considered when quarantine started just over a year ago that all of this extra time spent at home would have a measurable impact on the wear and tear of certain household items and furniture. Roughly six years ago, my ex and I had purchased a lovely midcentury modern sleeper sofa from a chain that specializes in that aesthetic. We had actually separated households before we ultimately split up, but I kept the couch (I got custody) and had maintained it well. I remember the first time I noticed a small stain on it and how upset this made me, reminded as I was of the time I had flicked a cigarette ash out of the open window of my then-pristine ’88 Mustang only for that giant ash to land instead in the back seat, leaving a very visible burn mark. It took me months to get over that.
My couch, however, had remained in otherwise great shape, until COVID-related guidance dictated that people should try to just stay home. This ultimately and obviously led to a lot more couch time. I don’t consider myself a sloppy eater, and I’m generally careful with the possessions that have been entrusted to me in this stage of my life, a philosophy I owe partially to a sensible, thrifty upbringing. I also sport a shaved head, which I made reference to in my essay last week about an ’85 Cadillac Eldorado. Those of us head-shavers know that our scalps can get oily as the day progresses. At some point earlier this year, I had started to notice some dark discoloration on the back of my couch. A friend suggested on social media that I should have invested in antimacassars, those doily-looking things people put on the backs of chairs and sofas to keep people’s greasy, bald heads like mine from inadvertently doing damage to nice furniture.
I had my sofa professionally cleaned, which helped, but there was still very noticeable, natural wear from six years of regular use. In a moment of inspiration, it occurred to me to look for a relatively inexpensive slipcover on the internet for a couch like mine to see what was out there in terms of looks, types of fabrics, care, fit, ease of installation, and price. After a little bit of due diligence, I wound up with a quality slipcover in a corduroy-like texture, in a beautiful shade of blue similar to the original color of my couch, that fits with absolute perfection. For less than $35 including shipping, I now have what looks, literally, like a brand new couch, keeping the comfort and utility of the $1,500 unit I had originally loved so much. All my sleeper sofa needed was a new cover, and its refreshed appearance has helped enhance the overall look of my living room, all on the cheap.
The 1980 Cadillac DeVille also received a new cover over its new-ish and recently downsized C-Body structure. Based on others’ comments I have read about full-sized, rear-wheel-drive Cadillacs of the 1980s, camps seem to be split pretty evenly down the center between those who prefer the original light, crisp visual athleticism of the 1977 to ’79 cars, and those who saw the meatier, more fully fleshed-out, 1980-on models as an improvement. I like the looks of both iterations, but one thing is for sure in my mind: a new skin definitely transformed the outward flavor of these cars. I was of a young car-spotting age when the new-for-’80 Cadillac DeVilles and Fleetwoods were introduced, and I remember a new Cadillac being one of my dream cars at the time – so stately, classy, and elegant. They looked like rolling status symbols before I had any idea what a “status symbol” was. People in them usually looked reserved and well put-together, in contrast to the middle-class, five-person circus going on inside my family’s ’77 Plymouth Volaré.
The ’80 restyle lost its initial visual impact over the course of a decade, but thinking about this within the context of the 1980s, yearly model changes were already thing of the past by then. The basic design of these big Cadillacs did hold on for a long time, but let’s talk about the coupes for a minute. I’m not completely positive about the featured car’s model year, but the later ’82s had the red center on the wheel covers, and the ’81s had the newly-introduced and problematic HT 4100 engine, so by process of elimination, I had initially thought this one to be an ’80 model*. The Coupe DeVille would last in this form through ’84, with a one-year encore for this bodystyle for ’85 as the renamed Fleetwood Brougham. For this reason, the two-door C-Bodies have always seemed rare and special to me.
I spotted this example in traffic on iconic Wacker Drive near the Civic Opera House while on a walk from the office to a business lunch with an external insurance colleague, and it made me think about how much things continue to change in our industry. Maybe when this car was new, it had been the personal transportation of an insurance executive. These days, cars like the Audi A6 in frame seem to be more the standard for those types of business men and women. On the sign at the opera house, I had seen that “The King And I” was the stage production that was about to show at the time. I’d like to think that driving this Coupe DeVille had made someone feel like royalty. Getting back to my new slipcovers, the old adage may say that beauty is only skin deep, but if a new skin was good enough for Cadillac, it is certainly good enough for my living room sofa.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, April 15, 2016.
*It has since been identified as an ’84.