I've never been on the cutting edge of anything until a recent knee surgery put me there. It was unexpected and possibly drug-induced, but hobbling around my home during my recovery gave me a vision of what the next wave of interior design needs to look like. (Hint: really soft so when we fall it doesn't hurt.)
Fearing ACL reconstruction would confine me to a brace, crutches and my house for weeks, I cleaned the place manically in the days before surgery — vacuuming furniture, mopping the kitchen floor, and wiping the counters under appliances, tasks that wouldn't get done again for weeks (and in some cases hadn't been done in years). Thirty minutes before leaving for the hospital, I even took apart my fridge to wipe the shelves and bins, not wanting generous, food-providing friends to be grossed out. I thought my house was ready for the ordeal ahead.
Once home I immediately saw how wrong I was. Turns out, sofas should be much closer to the entry door, and they should have ice cushions and heating pads, too. A retractable commode in the couch could come in handy as well. And beds should help you put socks on.
OK, that's not quite it. I'm off the pain medication now, and I know "universal design" and one-floor living are catching on, but I'm way beyond implementing wheelchair-friendly counter heights and doorways. As baby boomers insist on staying active, and everyone gets knees, shoulders, and hips replaced or reconstructed, I want to see our homes and furnishings multitask to help us recuperate and rehab. A workout in every room.
Our big cushy couch in the family room looks like it would be a comfortable place to be laid up, but it swallowed my withering muscles up in its downy softness. To exercise, I needed to roll onto our ugly, utilitarian (really sturdy) coffee table. Once, lying on my stomach with a pillow under my hip, gritting my teeth through an especially excruciating stretch, I dreamt of a better coffee table, padded like the enormous blue-mat table at my physical therapy place. It would be the first piece in my Fit Furniture line at Rehab Row: a low workout/coffee table, in a variety of colors and sizes. Keep in mind that when my children were young, I incorporated a quite large, blue elephant slide into our living-room décor, so I know a little bit about design.
Injuries and surgeries aside, to counteract the obesity epidemic, everybody needs to be more active. How cool if our homes featured workout elements in every room. I'm keeping my ideas about the bedroom to myself, but sofa bolsters could double as stretching tools. A punching bag pulls out while you're on the commode. We're addicted to multi-tasking anyway, and it would be easier to disinfect than all those magazines.
Years before I was injured, I'd learned to appreciate seated exercise when we bought a recumbent bike. It was almost like not exercising, yet more virtuous. It made me think that if manufacturers can make couches with footrests and speakers and cupholders, it's time for a sofa where one pulls the lever and out pops a set of pedals. Arm pedals could swing out of the armrest. Connect them to your TV or Wii for a virtual Tour de France.
My recent physical limitations just add to my creativity. Just the other day I invented crutch golf with things I'd dropped on the floor and laundry bocce, slinging pillowcases full of dirty laundry down the hall all the while propped on crutches. My physical therapy guru, Sharon, would be proud. Throw one bag as far down the hallway towards the washing machine as possible while not falling on one's rear and then heave the second bag so that it lands touching the first. As long as I don't fall, I win.
I'm expending so much energy getting myself off the sofa; I can't understand why we have so much furniture designed just for sitting. Don't listen to your mother; it's time to play ball, crutch golf, and whatever else we can invent, in the house.