Most of us have cringe-worthy items of decor that we’d rather never see again. For some, these interesting items can find new life with people who never lived through them the first time around. But, the orange, red, brown, and yellow velour Western couches we grew up with are rarely seen as having any kind of resale value for their sheer ugliness. While there is a small following of vintage collectors who enjoy this kitsch style, most folks (even vintage furniture addicts) find this once-appealing style to be garish.
These couches from the late ’60s and early ’70s were often printed with prairie, western, or pastoral themes in huge garish patterns that 99% of people who collect vintage run screaming from.
Unlike Mid-century Modern, these sofas have ended up being the outcasts of the vintage furniture world. Whereas a nice vintage sofa of even average maker can sell these days for hundreds of dollars (or a designer like Milo Baughman for thousands), this style often ends up on the curb with no buyers at all.
The style, so evocative of familiar family rooms for many, have now become the butt of jokes. Search “ugly couch” and images of these sofas instantly come up. This style of sofa is also the subject of many a meme, like the one below.
Pam Krueber of Retro Renovation, in an interview for Collector’s Weekly, says this type of style was evoking a Western theme. These sofas, with their stiff fabric and wooden arms or wagon wheel backs, were a throwback to the colonial style which had swept through the nation in the ’50s, one of many Mid-century design trends. Add to that the popularity of TV shows like Gunsmoke, Davey Crockett, Petticoat Junction, and Little House on the Prairie and you have a recipe for many a Western detail in home decor.
It makes sense that people who loved these TV programs would also want a taste of that style in their homes, however changed for the modern era it was. And, other trendy features – like wood panelling, fire-brand decor, and Early American touches would dominate more old-fashioned homes well into the ’70s and ’80s.
Styles ranged from the Old Mill and cuckoo clock patterns to more palatable simple floral designs, the latter of which has actually found a willing spot in some vintage-decorated homes.
These sturdy couches were meant to last a lifetime and often had scratchy, yet extremely durable synthetic upholstery, which is why there are still so many around despite the lack of buyers.
The loud patterns may not be anyone’s cup of tea these days, but they do bring back a lot of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with them. Memories of watching Westerns on a wooden console TV, with the nap of the velour digging into your skin, these sofas are irrevocably linked to happy days (if not to stylish decor).