But, Is It Art?

I’ve started an art project, which is usually bad because I am not good at art.  To forego any buildup and drama and suspense, the project is painting my couch.

You might have an image in your head of an early 1900’s couch with velvet cushioning and a painted wood frame, but that’s not it.  I have a modern couch, entirely wrapped in white vinyl, no wood.  And now you may have some confusion.  Painting your couch?  Yes, did you know you can paint vinyl?  Vinyl is just plastic and you can buy paints for plastic, Krylon being one well known brand.

My couch is nearly 15 years old.  It’s probably due for replacement, actually.  As I said, it is white, but that white is not as white as it used to be.  It’s that sad kind of off-white now, with some stains that refuse to come out.  The original idea for painting came as an outgrowth of an idea I had that maybe I could dye the vinyl bright white again.  Do they make white dye?  I don’t think I ever got a good answer to that, and I stumbled on articles talking about painting vinyl furniture.  So that’s where I am.

They do have white vinyl paint, but I figured if I was going to fuck something up, I should at least fuck it up in a bold way.  So I decided to change the couch to grey, which is another common vinyl paint color.  The paints I was buying were intended for car upholstery and dashboards.  I guess if you want durability, a car seat is going to take a pretty big beating, so this paint should be pretty solid.

The paint isn’t available for store purchase, so I had to order it to be shipped to a store.  Home Depot was probably about 50% the cost of Amazon (really).  I bought a 6pk of spray cans, not just so I would be sure to have enough, but because that’s the only cost-effective way to buy them.  The paint showed up in about a week and I brought them home and got ready to fuck it all up.

I made a shitty little paint booth in my garage, which just means I draped a sheet over things I didn’t want painted and stuck some fans in the windows to pull out the fumes.  I took one of the cushions off the couch, wiped it down with some degreaser, and set it on my little painting pedestal.  Ok.  There’s no ctrl-z on this, let’s hope it goes well.

I sprayed the paint on and immediately noticed it was actually kind of a brownish color.  This better work out.  I tried to keep in mind the tips I’d read in the articles I’d read.  Try for multiple light coats.  But, I do suck at painting of any type, so at the end when I surveyed my results, I was underwhelmed.  Hopefully it would dry better…

After a little while, I came back and checked on it.  While the color really did turn out grey and not brown, the coverage would be what I would call blotchy.  Definitely not uniform.  And that was even after I tried to even out spots that seemed too light the first time.  Some of it seemed to be caused by the “grain”, as if there is a grain to vinyl.  But what’s done is done.  I have to keep going now.

And that’s a little problem.  Just that one cushion used up almost three cans of paint.  I have another cushion at least as big as that one, plus two frames that have to have at least twice as much surface area.  That night, I immediately ordered a second case of paint.  I might need to buy a third, too.  That would put my art project budget at around $135.  Granted, that’s nowhere near the price of a new sofa, but based on the results of my first cushion, if I don’t level up my painting skills as I go, this is going to end up pretty embarrassing.  Well, I’m sure a thrift store could use a new donation.

Back inside, I removed the legs from one section of the frame and a realization came over me.  I think my couch is handmade.  The couch was not purchased at a large retailer, it was from a tiny retailer that specialized in modern design furniture.  I think they built the couch themselves or maybe bought it from a builder.  The first thing that struck me was that the legs were held on with drywall screws, not wood screws.  Then, while I had the couch on its side, I wondered where the little tag was: “UNDER PENALTY OF LAW, NOT TO BE REMOVED BLAH BLAH”.  There was none, which is concerning when you know why that tag is required.  It’s there to guarantee to the buyer that the cushion and filler are made of all new material, not reused materials.  And not only that tag was non-present, there was no other indication that the couch was made by a company.  No stamps, labels, tags, nothing.

So you can take that however you want.  Either I have a custom, handmade, one-of-a-kind couch which is really awesome, or I have a handmade, one-of-a-kind couch that is seriously sketchy.  “Nice couch, what brand is that?”  “No idea.”

The next day, I hauled one half of the couch frame out for painting.  I managed to complete an entire coat with most of one spray can left, so it’s possible I can do the whole couch for two cases of paint.  On the plus side, my technique did get a little better.  Even so, you can’t mistake there’s something “off” about the final result.  It’s probably good enough for a staging picture, but when you get closer, it becomes more obvious.  Oh well, I’m going to take this project to the end and the couch will serve me well for a couple more years or whenever I decide I really want something different.

Halfway done; before and after:


And here, fully complete:


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