If you were a child in the 70’s or 80’s, chances are, you encountered a couch condom.
Okay, so maybe you’re unfamiliar with the term. You may know them as slipcovers, or the shrink-wrapped plastic that our parents layered on the furniture to preserve and protect what was underneath. You know, like a condom.
And what were they protecting the furniture from? LIFE, of course! Sticky fingers, wayward juice boxes, muddy pants, shedding pets, sharp toys, cookie crumbs and baby bums… all the things that come with being blessed with a family. Plastic slipcovers were the equivalent of a velvet rope; lifted with caution – and only for VIPs.
I often wonder why furniture required such proficient preservation. I mean, did our parents think that they’d be handing down that sofa through the generations? Or maybe in the off-chance the Queen visited for tea, the pristine velvet couch would signify grooming and grace.
Regardless, the message was loud and clear: this is our home, but we don’t actually live in it.
Did you grow up in a shrink-wrapped home? Did you have a formal living and dining room that were only used on “special” occasions, and then, just as quickly preserved the second the guests left? Looking back, I often marvel at the amount of space in homes that was for show only; the living room at the front of the house, the overly formal dining room, the guest room that was perfectly made up – and perfectly unused. However, times are changing.
A recent Ipsos-Reid survey conducted on behalf of Urban Barn revealed the majority of Canadian homeowners (71%) are “living” differently in their homes compared to the one they grew up in.
“Homes are evolving to accommodate the ever-changing ways in which Canadians are living in their homes”, says Candice Laughlin, architecture & home design expert, Urban Barn.
Nine in ten current Canadian homeowners surveyed stated their childhood living space and current living space differ in some way:
– 89% consider a blend of comfort and style as the perfect décor for the living area;
– 76% prefer their family’s living space have a more ‘causal’ feel as compared to their childhood home;
– 85% value multi-purpose and multi-functional furniture in their family living space.
Translation: Gone are the days of plastic covered furniture and separate rooms for the formal living and dining areas. With the introduction of open-concept living spaces, technological advances and lifestyle trends like nesting, we are witnessing the demise of the preserved and protected home.
“Creating a living space your family can actually “live in” requires versatile furnishings that provide homeowners with the flexibility to use the area for a number of different activities,” says Candice.
So what can you do to make the most of your living space? Candice has provided the following tips and tricks:
1. Rethink your room: Set up your furniture in a way that caters to your family’s personality and needs – you don’t have to stick to the traditional floor plans, styles or colour schemes. Do what works best for your family and you will get the most from your space.
2. Choose multi-functional furniture pieces that accommodate your family’s lifestyle and the variety of activities that occur within your living space. Canadian homeowners value multi-functional and multi-purpose furniture that will provide them with the flexibility to re-purpose their space as necessary.
3. Choose furniture that can dress up or dress down: Nine in ten Canadians homeowners (89%) consider the perfect décor for the family’s living space a blend of comfort and style. This leaves your family comfortable for the casual nights hanging around the TV, but with the versatility to get glammed up when entertaining a crowd.
4. Use furnishings to define the spaces in your open concept area: Furniture can be used as an alternative to traditional walls and allows the homeowner the flexibility to make the most out of their multi-functional living space.
5. Buy what you love: When deciding what to purchase for your Living space start first with what appeals to you the most and use that piece as the catalyst to define your personal style. This item can be as small as a trinket or piece of art, or as large as a sofa or armchair. If you love it, it will inspire you to compose the room of your dreams.
This Spring, I’m proud to partner with Urban Barn to feature my #livein home that highlights some of their best multi-functional furniture pieces. Or, as I like to call it – rage against the plastic preservation! Stay tuned as I transform my dining room into a room that we can live in and enjoy. And, I may just have a sweet surprise for one lucky reader!
So tell me, do you #livein your home?
sure do. every bit of it.
Wonderful to hear!
OMG, I remember going to homes that had these on the furniture.
I think we all do, Rick!
Hahah…couch condom. I don’t remember it in homes but in taxis along with beaded seat covers and fuzzy dice.
As for my live in, I’m picturing minimalist Zen, a flowing water wall and incorporating Feng Shui in the overall design. Comfortable seating is a top preference with maximum rage against the plastic preservation! ;)
Are you kidding? I wish taxis STILL had them, LOL! And I love the way you think: comfortable seating is king!
LOL such memories!!! Yes both our parlour and family room were covered in plastic, even the tables!! Too funny! Urban Barn has gorgeous furniture, I can’t wait to see what you have in store.
Hahaha “the parlour” – I haven’t heard that term in a long time!
Yes I live in my home, and I grew up living in a home. It is the only way for us.
So great to hear Lori!
haha :) I certainly didn’t grow up in a shrink wrapped home (In fact, my parents admitted to choosing the downstairs carpet to be able to disguise Koolaid spills)… but my grandparents living room was very much like that. Oddly the rest of the home was fun and prone to spills from the grandkids running around but the living room – shrink wrapped and museum like..
It’s always the living room, isn’t it? Which makes even less sense because it’s called the LIVING room!
My aunts house was like this. The thing that bothered my mom the most was that my aunt Sara always said that she removed the plastic covers for company, but always kept them on when we visited! I guess we weren’t special enough!
Hahaha that made me laugh out loud! Kind of like saving the china for good company only :)
We lived in every square inch of our home growing up no plastic covers for us and we still do to this day. Although I have to say that leather is the new plastic it is so durable stain resistant and fur repellent !!
Best of luck on your reno Lena cant wait to see it!!!
You’re absolutely right Allie – leather, stain-guarding, etc are the new plastic – and a lot easier on the eyes!
We sure do #livein our home. Not an inch left untouched. I agree about leather being the new plastic. Our couch has taken a beating from spills and whatnots and come out alive. Can’t see that happening with a non-leather couch. Eagerly awaiting your renovations.
Thanks Tricha! And so happy to hear that you #livein your home!
My grandparents had the plastic covering and I hated it, but at least you could live in their home, my other set of grandparents, now that was a different story, we weren’t allowed in that room it’s off limits or you weren’t allowed to use the upstairs bathroom . I’m sorry but I don’t like people who do not live in their home, it’s your home enjoy it don’t just look at it
It’s funny how times have changed, right? I recall going to a friend’s house and her mom lost it if we even set foot in the living room. Craziest rules ever!
My mom had two antique chairs that were shrink wrapped. Not allowed to sit on them. At all. EVER. I really hated going into houses that had barred off areas, not allowed to enter, its for special occasions. Dont like cleaning the space? Dont buy such a big house! Or get a maid. Non of this ‘guest bedroom’ and ‘guest livingroom’ stuff.
Ah, shrink wrapped antique chairs – crazy!!! And yes, the barred off areas were popular in homes when growing up for sure!
Lol, really a tease to make a room look so inviting only to be told ‘nope, cant go there’
I wonder who they were saving it for? Perhaps the Queen, LOL!
Judy C (Judy Cowan)
We never had plastic on the couches but my mom always left the plastic on the lamp shades which drove me nut!
Hahaha my mom used to put bed sheets on the couch to protect if from fading in the sun.. such funny memories!
When I was growing up we didn’t live in a shrink wrapped home at all and I have carried on that tradition.
Excellent to hear, Anne!
I don’t think my family ever used couch condoms but our family friends did. Never seen so much plastic in my life.
Ah, so tragic! An awful to sit on too!
Chandra Christine O'Connor
I live mostly in my kitchen its a glorious kitchen I want to put my bed in here I enjoy it so much. my dream kitchen. then at night I retire to my lazyboy for some tv or my twitter parties lol
Well I’m certainly glad to see you on our Twitter Parties! :)
I really like that orange couch. And I need a new couch because mine has been lived on. I will never convince my husband that we need an orange couch.
We do use our things, and I don’t mind when things get broken or worn out, but I do think there’s something to say for keeping something special. You know those dishes in the china cabinet that only get used once a year. Those are special to me and just maybe they’ll make some memories of special days for my children.
I think if I had an antique china set I’d guard it pretty heavily too :) And now, I must ask my mom about all the little curios she had in our old home!
As a kid, I remember my Aunt’s house – those plastic slip covers on everything (including the dining room chairs !!) In the summer you would stick to them (no central air back then) but it sure was fun making those squeaky noises – until my cousin and I got yelled at to stop LOL
At home we didn’t have them, thank goodness.
The only “untouchable” area in my home is the hutch in my dining room where I have my collectibles and a set of my grandmother’s antique dishes.
Ah, yes – was just having this conversation one comment above! I wonder what ever happened to my mom’s collectibles – I can see why you’d want to keep them safe!
OMG I totally forgot about plastic-wrapped furniture!!! My mother totally did that when I was growing up. Not anymore, though (thank goodness!).
Same! And not anymore – thank goodness as well!
I am in love with that grey and yellow room. I have two cats so everything gets lived in. They are as bad as kids!
Isn’t it gorgeous? And yes, cats do help us #livein the home!
We never had a plastic covered sofa, but I do remember friends who did. It always seemed so weird to me. Life is for living and my home reflects that with well worn and comfortable pieces. I am SO excited though about starting from scratch once we are back out west. The only things we are brining with us are our sofa, our antique dining room table, and an antique secretaries desk.
Ah, starting from scratch – you will have so much fun! I can certainly appreciate your excitement!
We live in most of our home. We don’t really use the dining room much but everywhere is in use.
Wonderful to hear, Heidi!
Oh my gosh we were totally forbidden from going in the living room (which made it far more fun to hang out in when my mom wasn’t home, lol)
Hahaha isn’t that always the case??
I remember my friend’s house with the plastic furniture. The room was for show and we hung out in the basement. Funny too, the basement had a kitchen there. It was like the whole main level was for show only. Total hands off…look only.
That is exactly what my next door neighbour’s house was like growing up! Second “living” zone in the basement, including a second kitchen!
Those sofas were so sticky in the summer when your skin would feel like it was peeling off. LOL! Thanks for the reminder.
Hahaha I TOTALLY remember that! And you’re welcome :)
lol my uncle only stopped using those covers 2 years ago
Hahaha he’s committed to the cause!!
Crazy – you had both a formal living and dining room that were off limits – exactly like me! Now I’m proud to live in each room, and yes, we have a clutter table too!
Crying laughing here because yes, I remember the way we used to live. Looking forward to reading more about your partnership, I love Urban Barn.
Thanks Matty! Stay tuned – lots of great before/after pictures to come!
We absolutely live in our house! I want our home to be comfortable and welcoming, not a showpiece.
Couldn’t have said it better Kim!
Definitely! We are all about putting our home to good use and making it comfortable. After all, it’s there for us to enjoy it and is not just a show room.
Exactly! Show room homes are sooo 1980 :)
Oh yes, our home is well lived in! With 4 kids ranging from 8yrs to 2 weeks, our decor is somewhat kid chaotic!!!
Hahaha sounds fabulous! And congrats on the new addition!
I need a couch condom! With 3 little ones 5 and under, our furniture has been trashed!! My sofa has blackberry stains on it that I can’t remove, and I can’t tell you the destruction my 2-y-o wreaks! Crayon on the coffee table, anyone? Check. Marker on the carpet? Check. Pen on the wall? Check? Play doh in every crack and crevice he can stuff it in? Check. I’m going to have to move to DARK leather sofas to protect us from the stains and pains of toddlerhood!
Oh Janice I totally feel your pain!
No we never used them at home. But mom was always so precocious over the couch..she should have had one…LOL
Love the “couch condom”! That’s so funny!
My 8 year old daughter totally live in our all girl’s pad. You can feel the life, laughs and live in our home. :)
My grandma had her “Blue Room’. Nobody went in there unless it was Christmas or another very special occasion. Her couches were hardly ever sat on. She has since passed and we have adopted the furniture. I always wonder how she would react, knowing that her ‘captains chair is used for nursing in the baby’s room, and the couch is enjoyed daily in the rec room.
We do #livein our house, I hated the extra living room only for guests growing up, to me a waste of space!
hah amy grandma still has platic on the guest beds lol
Ella Pretty Blog
We didn’t have shrink-wrapped sofas growing up – but we did have them covered in white rose print slipcovers – only to be removed when we had family parties!
My house now has microfiber and leather sofas – all wipe clean. The microfiber couch has survived a lot as it was our main sofa when the babies were tiny…considering all it went through – it doesn’t look too bad ;-P
Yes, my home is very lived in.
we just rethought one of our rooms the other week. it was a guest room but our living room was being flooded with my daughters toys. so now most of the bigger pieces are down in the guest room and its more of a toy room now :)
I *do* kind of miss the heavy shag carpeting from my Grandparent’s rooms, BUT, clean modern design is kind of my jam right now.
Luckily, the house I grew up in was lived in and not covered in plastic. I always hated going over to friend’s houses where we weren’t allowed to touch anything, or were relegated to a dark room in the basement. Now that I’m an adult, I like simplicity and still need my living space to feel like a home instead of a showpiece.
I remember going to older folks homes that had couch condoms and not being able to sit anywhere but the floor. It was awful!
Definitely remember visiting some family friends with my parents. They didn’t have kids but everything was covered in plastic lol!
I remember visiting some family friends with my parents and they had their couches covered in plastic.
I want to redo my home, my furniture is sad…ONE day :)
We didn’t have a formal dining room but our living room…yes our living room was out of bounds..we sat in our kitchen and watched the tv off to the living room..wait for it..it had white sheet like material on the couch to protect them..lol
We definitely need a furniture upgrade. Pet- and child-friendly, of course!
ashamed to say i don’t…. i live in front of my desk
Yes we do live in our home.
We recently bought a house and trying to get it to where i #livein my home :)
I did not grow up with plastic covers on furniture. We did have cotton covers on the living room furniture.
i live in my home, but would love to live in the living rooms pictured in your post! so beautiful.
Absolutely live in my home! you don’t like the “mess”, there’s the door. ;)
Definitely do live in every inch of our home :)
Yes, I really live in my home.
Congrats on the new addition and bahahaha @ couch condom
Chandra Christine O'Connor
if we ever get our basement renovated I want a sectional couch with a lounger. I used to call those “livining rooms” non livingrooms
When I was a kid I lived in a home where every room was kid friendly no couch condoms or plastic. I do remember going to other homes where they had plastic on chairs and one place I babysat had a rope across the door to the living room to keep people out.
Yes I have been living in my home for over 15 years!
Elaine A (TOBeautyReviews)
LOL my parents personally didn’t have the plastic on the couches but many of my friends parents did! We TOTALLY live in our home which is probably why we NEVER invite people over :P
No plastic in my parents home, we lived in every room, but it was spotless and polished. I remember going in a house once with a room roped off and plastic on the furniture, maybe it was a museum, not sure.
My house is certainly well lived in :)
I like the orange couch.
We definitely #livein our home. We make our home as inviting and as comfortable as possible…for us and our visitors.
Oh man we totally grew up that way! There were parts of our home that were pristine and we weren’t allowed to use them unless we had company over. Even our remote control had plastic wrap! lol
Funny story first – I remember visiting my neighbour’s house for the first time and the entire living room from floor to almost ceiling was dressed in plastic!! Needless to say no one was allowed in that room, ever! Our living area is sooo lived in with our 5 kids and their friends and so on and so on…#livein
Thank goodness for Scotchguard and the elimination of plastic covers. My grandmother used to cover everything afraid of stains etc glad we’ve evolved past all that.
loving the orange room with the guitar and cons lol
What do you think of furniture from 100 yrs ago? I wonder what they’ll think 100 yrs from now.
We live in every part of our home, not by my choice. The kids just go everywhere, there is no sacred guest-only space :)
I remember visiting my aunt’s home with the plastic wrapped furniture.It felt so cold in the winter and in the summer, it was soooooo sticky as she didn’t have a/c. Definitely not comfortable.
I will soon live in my first home! Buying a new home!
we never had a couch condom but alot of my friends did. I truly live in my home however hubby lives on the water lol
Great tips especially about choose multifunctional furniture, this is especially true for condos
My home isnt very big so we use every inch of it
we have an empty nest now, so hubby & I live in our home, but are only using a few of the rooms in a large house
Brings back memories, esp the orange color.
I certainly do LIVE in my home :) Couches are best when they are there to curl up on with a book, sit & socialize (with potentially spill worthy food/drink) or to watch a movie – not to sit uncomfortably on :)
I have never come across the term couch condom – certainly never had them in any house I grew up in or visited – though I did grow up in Britain – every area of our homes were used as is our home now.
We invested in a comfortable real leather sectional to go with our ‘as-is’ Ikea furniture, so our house is lived in, spit up on, cleaned and repeated.
we do not have a ‘formal’ living area, but we do not allow food items and young people together on the furniture either.
we made our home very cozy, so the four of us live in every area, the basement is less used as it’s pretty empty, but it would be very cozy down there with some nice couches. Two little ones, it’s hard to keep everything tip top!
Our home is certainly lived in! Over the years with our 5 kids, our dining room has alternately been a play room, a family room and an office.Fortunately the kitchen is large enough for a very large table for meals and homework. But all my husband’s relatives in Italy have a formal living room with the plastic!
I have never lived anywhere where some of the furniture was just for looking at, not for using. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things!
Ahh, that orange couch. I still like it.
nothing’s formal in our house… lived in, useful, comfy, kid-friendly.
I sure do #livein but we could def use some updating, urban barn has some amazing pieces. My favourite shag rug is from there!
the grey/yellow/white colour palate really catches my eye!
beautiful pics and tips!
Carol M (Lushka S)
Yes, home very livedin
OMG I hated visiting my grandparents place in the summer and having to sit on that blasted plastic couch covering which stuck to you like glue! Oh and remember when you would be wearing shorts or a skirt and would go to get up and would slide, ohh the terribly horrible feeling of ripping skin!
I do We live in every room
My parents did not have a plastic couch cover, but they did (and still do) have a living room only used when company was over.
Interesting article! I love the 3rd photo with the blue colours used
Whoa! My grandmother still has the plastic cover on her couch and I remember how awful it was to sit on her couch during the hot sticky summer months!
I was not from a live in home but I have one now and have had for years!
As kids we generally used the livingroom for guests. We were allowed to use it Now parents and our livingroom is used all the time for visits and everyday ready etc
There are five of us living in every bit of our house, but it looks as if 25 of us are living here, unfortunately.
Karen E. Hill
My home is comfy, traditional and every room is lived in.
I love the colours in the third living room, so calm and soothing!
Haha. Thankfully there were no couch condoms in my house but I do remember the 70s brown and floral sofas (mostly because I inherited it when I first moved out).
#Livein Our house was always well lived in.We had a big family! The house was always spotless and very clean but also a little messy and we were allowed to go into every room as long as we treated the furniture with some respect.
I don’t ever remember us having a plastic cover on out couch, although Id seen it on 70’s tv.
I love those printed pillows
Bright positive decor