Is Your Comfortable Sofa Killing You?

Comfort! When you ask a designer, furniture buyer, magazine editor, advertising agency, customer what do we want when it comes to our homes the first answer is always comfort. I'm it's biggest ambassador, comfy sofa, comfy chair, comfy bed, comfy bath, comfy pillows, comfy shoes, comfy trousers. Some say to live in casual comfort is the Holy Grail. BUT is comfort - the thing we strive so hard to achieve -  our downfall for a healthy life? 
If you are plonked on a sofa, bed, or chair right now American scientists claim you probably have "sitting disease". Apparently we are not moving our bodies enough. Australia is ranked fifth among advanced nations in terms of obesity after the United States, Mexico, New Zealand and Chile, according to the OECD. The Wellness Index, compiled by polling firm Roy Morgan Research and an initiative of health company Alere, have found over the last five years 736,000 more adults are now obese in Australia. 
 Is having a super comfy sofa with slubby cushions and chunky throws causing us to prolong, morning-to-bedtime sitting? Doctors call it sedentary living and research claims it to play a significant role in many of the most troublesome health issues of our time, from obesity and heart disease to diabetes to depression. I shudder the amount of hours I have wasted lying on my sofa watching crappy TV. 
Until recently, experts considered the antidote to sitting disease to be formal exercise sessions. But new research is turning that thinking on its head. As it turns out, just being up and about throughout the day can be healthier for you than doing a rigorous workout, then sitting the rest of the time. This then raises the serious question would we be more likely to get up and move around our home if we didn't strive for our cosseted home to be so damn comfortable?
Last year I met a young successful Sydney architect Kelvin Ho, for Sunday Life Magazine, who refused to have a sofa in his home. When he watched the tellie he sat on an uncomfortable wooden stool. He believed by not owning a sofa he would watch what he wanted  and wasn't enticed to keep watching. Not having anywhere to really chill out except for the bed he was forced to go outside to surf,  cycle, catch up with friends and entertain around his dining table. Kelvin did however give into a designer linen sofa eventually when a serious girlfriend (now his wife) came on the seen.
Perhaps there is something in the idea of minimalist design favoured by the Japanese and British architects  John Pawson and David Adjaye. The fewer pieces of furniture we have in our home the more likely we will move around than plonking ourselves in one spot. 
New York architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins who founded  Reversible Destiny Foundation dedicated their life work in aiming to create homes that reduce the aging process and prevent death. "People, particularly old people, shouldn't relax and sit back to help them decline," he insists. "They should be in an environment that stimulates their senses and invigorates their lives." Arakawa died at age 73 in 2010 flawing his philosophy of transhumanism, or reversible destiny. The thing is I still think there is something in their radical ideas.
 The Tokyo Reversible Destiny Loft In Memory of Helen Keller is the eccentric but thought provoking work by Arakawa + Gins. The space isn't designed for furniture. Using natural landscapes as inspiration seating areas are incorporated into the floor. Residents have included hammocks and swings into their homes.
 Arakawa + Gins believe to achieve everlasting life our homes should be inconvenient, uncomfortable and stimulate the senses far beyond what we are used to in our daily lives, keeping us nimble. Their work has steeply sloped floors that threaten to send visitors hurtling into its kitchen; more than three dozen paint colors; level changes meant to induce the sensation of being in two places at once; windows that seem too high or too low; oddly angled light switches and outlets; and an absence of doors that would permit occupants even a modicum of privacy.
In Tokyo one of the tenants in their famous Reversible Destiny lofts says he feels a little younger living in the building. Nobutaka Yamaoka, who moved in with his wife and two children about two years ago, says he has lost more than 20 pounds and no longer suffers from hay fever, though he isn't sure whether it was cured by the loft.
Lets face it though their work is ugly and I personally wouldn't like to live in a house like this. However just like a couture runway show we can learn from and introduce the ideas into our designs in a much more aesthetic and realistic way.

I know this all might seem a little crazy but the fact there is an alarming amount of people in the western world overweight we need to look at solutions in getting us to move around more. And you know what they say when you want to fix something up - always start at home first.


  1. This is fantastic lateral thinking. As a health care professional I see the consequences of overweight and obesity every day. And, yes, I am sitting on my comfortable sofa right now.

  2. Great post - definitely very thought provoking!

  3. I'd love to see this idea translated in to the workplace. I notice a big difference in how much better I feel when my work takes me out and about for the day, as opposed to a day in front on the computer screen!

    1. I agree. We are seeing some amazing designs and ideas to make people move more at work more. They are actually leading the way and I hope the trends in workplaces will translate into the home.

  4. Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old
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  5. We're all going to end up like the humans in Wall-E. The fact that I immediately make a film reference proves that I am already halfway there.

    1. Ha! Steve you know when I wrote this I didn't even think of the movie but now you have said it you are so RIGHT!

  6. im definitely getting a new sofa for the atlanta web designers in our office..hahaha:) I found your posts very interesting,I enjoy what youve got right here.

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  7. I'm a bit late to this but well, it's something that's close to my heart so had to post. I don't think it's the couch that is the problem - I think it's the television. We haven't had a TV for 10 years and funnily enough don't have a couch right now (we never sat on it so there wasn't a need for one though I am considering getting something to snuggle up in to read - can't find a couch I love though so it may not happen! Why are most couches horrible or if not horrible, ridiculously expensive? That's a whole other conversation!) Anyway, TV - get rid of the TV channels; watch the things you want, when you want, rather than, as you say, watching crappy TV that leaves you feeling empty when you finally get up off the couch and you're halfway there. Then yes, get up and go outside when you can! :-)

  8. About 4 weeks ago I googled something like 'is sitting in a chair bad for your back?'...it got me reading forum after forum and lead me to all these stories about people who 'floor live'...That is sit, squat, kneel at home instead of using props (chairs, couches, etc). Previously I had tried this once in a while and given up due to the extreme discomfort. However, I read a few comments that the discomfort is actually desirable because it forces you to change positions which means not only are you actively sitting but it is also engaging all different muscles to support the various positions.. Ever since then I have been 'floor living' as much as possible (using a yoga matt folded over). I do all my work from home on the floor and eat my meals sitting on the floor. Initially I had back pain and found it incredibly uncomfortable and annoying. Now I don't even notice the discomfort, I can comfortably sit cross legged for long periods and have not experienced any back pain at all for about two weeks. My partner even joined me for dinner this evening on the floor and is starting to use the floor a lot more as well.