The Gatehouse Family Sofa

The Gatehouse Family sofa. My very favourite piece of furniture. I suppose with more than just the normal amount of sentiment attached.

I designed this sofa when we did our first renovation, just after we arrived in Johannesburg and when my two oldest kids were still very small – Jurgens, two, turning three and Babette a couple of months old. Our first house was not big at all and we had to be very clever in re-organising and designing the space.

One of the things we did was to break down walls of a couple of adjoining small spaces in order to create a kitchen, dining and family room all in one. We had to have the basics for the kitchen, decided on a very long table, with chairs and benches right round, instead of a counter. This had to double up as a dining table for when friends were coming over, as well as informal meals for the family and a work-space to prepare the food on. We, of course, like most people in Johannesburg, also could not live without a fire place and of course, the TV, which we fondly referred to as our babysitter, those days. After all of the latter had been put down on plan, there was just about no space left for any furniture to relax on. I had to come up with a plan. I had to have something which would work for kids lying having their bottles and afterwards falling asleep, accommodating more than x4 people at a time sitting comfortably around having a chat, furniture that can easily be cleaned as this will be the space in the house where all the socialising will be happening and last but not least, furniture that can look, decent, neat, comfortable and inviting, without crowding a very limited space.

The outcome was one enormously scaled sofa.

I wanted it to be deep enough – (when sitting with my back against the back of the sofa, my feet were not allowed to hang over the end of the seating area) this I wanted in order to literally layer people on the sofa (x2 layers) at a time.

The sofa had to have more than the normal number of cushions on, which are part and parcel of the sofa, like it or not.  These could be stacked in the corners of the sofa in order to elevate the people sitting on it, creating layers of seating for a couple of people sitting on the sofa, all at the same time, chatting to one another at different angles and heights, as well as creating space for at least x2 kids in between lying watching TV and falling asleep while the adults are chatting. Sounds crazy but it works.

The sofa had to have, a super thin/slick and stylized back and arms in order for it not to appear, vulgar. It had to have a slip cover which could be pulled off and get washed regularly like you would wash your bedding. Furthermore, I included a duvet, which added a long and wide soft layer on top of the structured foam base of the seating area. This could be pulled and tucked in at no time at all, in order to make the sofa look neat and presentable. The cover of the duvet could also be taken off and washed within seconds – the ideal is to have two covers for the duvet. One in the wash and one on the sofa. This is the part of the sofa which would take the most beating and would be needed to be washed the most. Babette and her friends used it literally as a duvet when they got older, when too lazy to get up to fetch blankets while watching TV.

When I took over Mavromac and Gatehouse, Erica, who manages the Gatehouse operation, Nationally, convinced me into launching it as a Gatehouse design. We decided to call it The Family Sofa. We could not have chosen a more appropriate name for it. I have watched my children grow up on this sofa and had wonderful conversations with friends on it.  I never regretted, Erica for turning my arm. People instinctively loved this oversized piece of furniture. At first, they would look and comment on how you would need a really big space to accommodate such an enormous piece of furniture – changing into loving the challenge of accommodating and having the family sofa as their only piece oppose to a room full of furniture!

By itself it creates a contemporary Dutch approach to decorating and in a room with other furniture, it becomes the piece people naturally gravitate too. All in all, it is a proper conversation piece and as a family who bought it for their Plettenberg Bay Holiday home, said: “A piece which creates memories to be told at many occasions in times to come”.

The family sofa is now our bestselling sofa. Every truck which leaves the warehouse to any one of the Gatehouse showrooms in the country, always has one, if not a couple on board for orders and to replace the ones in the showrooms which had been sold. In fact, when the shelving in our long-haul truck was designed, it was designed in such a way to accommodate first and foremost, the Family Sofa.

Until the next story.