Do you remember plastic on the furniture?

plastic on the furniture

When I came across this plastic-covered chair in a restaurant lobby a while back, I just had to take a picture. The sight took me straight back to a common household practice of my youth.

Thank you to all who commented on last night’s post, wherein I sought your opinions on a midcentury-modern-style couch – or, as we used to call it, “chesterfield” – that I’ve got my eye on for the Manse’s living room. One comment in particular, though, from reader GG, made me laugh as it brought back memories from the era of my childhood here at the Manse. As it happens, it was about a phenomenon that now seems about as quaint and old-fashioned as is using the word “chesterfield” for a couch.

It is, of course, the practice of covering all your upholstery in stiff plastic. Do you remember that?

My mum never tried it at the Manse, probably figuring that with four little kids who spent a lot of their free time playing in the dirt in the yard, the upholstery never stood a chance from the start no matter what she did. But lots of other households that we visited – and when you’re the local minister‘s family, you are invited to dinner and whatnot at a lot of households – did have that stiff clear plastic over their chesterfields and easy chairs and even the seats of their dinette sets. (“Dinette sets!” That’s a great midcentury term, is it not?)

The idea, of course, was to protect the upholstery from spills and dirt and wear and tear. All sensible enough, except for two rather major drawbacks:

  1. It made the furniture look terrible.
  2. It made the furniture hideously uncomfortable to sit on. And being able to sit on a couch, or a chair, is pretty much the point of the whole couch or chair exercise, right?

But still, people did it. And now they don’t. Or at least I don’t think they do. It’s been so long since I encountered plastic-covered upholstery that when I saw the chair featured in the photo atop this post (about a year ago, I believe in the lobby of a restaurant in Belleville) that I was quite taken aback. And of course had to document it photographically.

However, GG has helpfully taken the trouble to ascertain for us all that one can still buy those plastic covers. Here’s a screen shot from the website:

plastic slipcovers

Great news, and thanks, GG! Our new Manse chesterfield can be safe from all harm.

There’s only one thing: neither we not anyone else will want to sit on it.

7 thoughts on “Do you remember plastic on the furniture?

  1. Oh, and car upholstery too. I remember our new 1958 Dodge Regent, with tail fins how cool, and embossed clear crackly (and very sticky to the bare legs) plastic seat covers. Ouch.

    • It’s all coming back to me, Lindi! Those car-seat covers had raised, decorative (?) surfaces, right? Non-slip, I guess. As you point out, not really necessary in summer when one would stick to them!

  2. Further to Lindi’s comment, the heavy clear plastic seat covers were available on cars, as an option on new cars in the 50, 60 and 70’s. They were very hard and cold in winter, and very hot and sticky in summer. Once in a while you still see them on a classic car at cruise night in Marmora or Belleville. Really all they did was protect the seats for the next owner! And why is it that it was usually older people who had them installed, when they were the least likely to need them?? Bob McKeown Stirling

    • Ah, that’s a question for the ages, Bob. Maybe because they were afraid of what their grandkids would do to the seats if they took them for a ride? My memories of those plastic car seats is ever so faint, but it is there. Hey, I’ve heard a lot about those cruise nights with all the old cars in Marmora – Raymond and I have got to get over there and take it in one night this summer!

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