The other morning, as I was standing at the sink shaving, my wife happened by and unsolicited said, “You still have a cute body.” “Ahhhh,” I said aloud, while to myself thinking that love can place all kinds of things in a glow, if not myopia.
Looking at the reality of my body in the mirror, I accepted the fact that I’m no longer as lean as when I was a professional dancer, way off-Broadway in summer stock. (Yes, that’s one of my past lives). I was a skinny guy then and until I married, I never gave a second thought to whether that chair or mattress was wide enough or soft enough for comfort. But a more mature outlook and body now have me thinking about it.
When my wife and I got our first apartment with a real bedroom, rather than having to convert our studio into a sleeping area each night with a pull-out sofa, we bought a Williamsburg-style canopy bed with a standard double sized mattress. Committed to keeping this bed throughout a long, happy marriage — romantics that we were and still are — we even inscribed our initials and date of our marriage on one of the bed’s slats. Bottom line: we haven’t slept in that bed for over 25 years, as we graduated from a double to a queen to a king-sized, as the desire for more room outweighed sentimentality.
Statistics show that 63 percent of Americans are overweight at a time when the size of our houses is shrinking and the big beds and furniture that have prevailed for the past two decades are not yielding to smaller chairs and sofas that take up less space.
Our indulgent “great” rooms of the recent past required bulky sofas and chairs to be in proportion to the space. But now, as homebuyers prefer smaller homes, the furniture industry must be in a quandary. Will they shrink the size of furniture to adjust to smaller rooms or will they acquiesce to the customers who need more inches for their ever increasing avoirdupois (I had to look it up too to double check its meaning).
And we should think about height as well as width. I was at an open house last weekend in a lovely antique home where the dining room had ceilings just over 6 ft. tall. A statuesque woman came into the room and looked up to make sure she didn’t have to duck her head. It reminded me of our early days as landlords of a charming early 1800s saltbox to rent, but the ceiling height was only about 6’2,” so whoever called to inquire about the rental was asked, “how tall are you?” much to the consternation of some applicants.
We all try to adapt to the layouts of our homes and the size of what’s in them, but even a tiny adjustment in size, height or proportion can throw a wrench into our comfort zone. For instance, my old bathroom sink was a farm style model that sat about five inches above the counter. Having replaced that with a bowl that hangs beneath that counter, I feel that I must bend down much further to wash shaving cream from my face. Even that slight adjustment of my body to its environment makes me feel as though I’m doing a touch-your-toes exercise.
Personally, I think the most important two inches a household might consider is that of a “comfort height” toilet, which is 17 inches high, compared with the 15 inches of a regular toilet. Originally designed for elderly or tall people, it’s just plain more comfortable for anybody else and, once tried, you’ll never want to go back, or down, as the case might be.
When our new quartz countertop was installed in our newly updated kitchen, its height rose by only one-half an inch, but my wife noticed even that small difference when she was dicing vegetables and commented on it.
Now that we’re considering moving to a smaller house or condo sometime in the future, I have been testing furniture in showrooms and stores to see which chair designs my more mature body would welcome, rather than what we have now. After having created the look of an 18th century home with high backed wing chairs and a Sheraton sofa with a straight back and firm cushions, I must confess that I’m ready for a larger, deeper, more comfortable chair.
Oh, no. Does this mean that I soon will be lounging lazily in a recliner chair? Do I go from there to being a big couch potato?