Sleep the Days Away

What makes for a great daybed and more.

In “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” the second novel from American writer Ottessa Moshfegh, the unnamed narrator, a dejected woman in her mid-20s — misanthropic and thin and beautiful in equal measure — seeks to cure her problems in an unconventional way: She plans to sleep the year away by continuously drugging herself. And thanks to prescriptions from her questionable and bizarre psychiatrist, she is soon sleeping all day and all night, and then existing solely in a fog of detachment for the few hours a day she is conscious.

“When I’d slept enough, I’d be O.K.,” she tells the reader. “I’d be renewed, reborn. I would be a whole new person, every one of my cells regenerated enough times that the old cells were just distant, foggy memories.”

The newest issue of the interiors magazine Apartmento includes a feature on Moshfegh’s Pasadena home. Naturally, I was intrigued to see where the author of this darkly funny and artfully fucked-up novel lays her head. The spread did not disappoint.

One bedroom is cavernous, the walls are lined with brick and stone, and the bed is tightly tucked into the corner. In the other room photographed, a bed without a headboard sits next to a nightstand littered with a Diet Coke can, Aha sparkling water, a mug of tea, and an empty glass — all lit under the soft glow of a small lamp. Above the cluttered tabletop hangs a painting of the Sacred Heart, floating on yellowed paper, with the text “Thy Kingdom Come”.

I’m not quite sure what I thought seeing the bed of Moshfegh would reveal but nonetheless, I was tickled by the inside peek at her home.

Last year, I felt both stuck in the grip of the pandemic and unmoored by the sprawling socio-political turmoil. Plus, there was this constant, low-grade feeling of dread. I couldn’t shake these omnipresent thoughts that things were always about to get worse, somehow. How does one cope with being alive during a time when being alive feels so terrible? I slept.

Well, more accurately, I slept when my mind would let me.

I wasn’t quite ready to sleep the full calendar away but I got the appeal. Many nights, I had trouble sleeping. I’d pour myself out of bed in the morning, tired and anxious and bitter. Around this time, I was placed on a reduced workweek by my advertising job, so I had more free time on my hands. I could nap during the day if my body needed it, and more often than not, it did. So, I found myself trying to take a nap in a world gone mad.

Deep, meaningful rest took on new significance for me. On the days that preceded a lousy night’s sleep, I’d curl up on my sofa and close my eyes as the afternoon light washed over me. Without any hesitation, I replaced the couch in my living room with a daybed.

Daybeds are for those looking to not quite commit to sleeping for a full calendar year. The daybed predates the modern couch or sofa. Just as we use couches or sofas today, the concept of a daybed was created as a place for both leisure and socializing. When I think of contemporary daybeds, two designs sprint to the front of my mind: the Single Daybed by Donald Judd ($17,025 to $31,250) and the Nelson Daybed produced by Herman Miller ($3,395).

Judd, who died in 1994 at the age of 65, cuts a rare presence in contemporary American culture. He is a creative figure beloved equally by the Arts & Leisure crowd as by Common Projects-wearing, twenty-something graphic designers. Judd was a painter early in his career but would eventually move to objects, sculptures, and installations. This work, deceptively straightforward yet revolutionary, would make him a famous minimalist, a label he never warmed to. He worked with industrial materials, such as anodized aluminum, acrylic glass, and plywood, which had no precedent in the visual arts at the time. 

Today, he is best known for his heady installations where experimental objects played with space and could bend a room's energy to its will. The artist also developed a cult-like following for his no-frills plywood furniture. One of those pieces is the Single Daybed, designed in 1978, a simplistic three-walled frame that can hold a twin-sized mattress or futon. It is, as Judd himself has said, "The simple expression of complex thought."

George Nelson left an equally influential mark on design. The industrial designer is widely considered the founder of American modernist design. Where Judd veered into the high-concept art scene, Nelson dove headfirst into production. Nelson became the Director of Design for Herman Miller in 1947 and held the position until 1972. Under Nelson, Herman Miller would produce the most iconic home furnishings of the 20th century

Nelson designed an early version of the Daybed for his own use in 1941. For nearly a decade, he continued to refine it, and when he was finally satisfied, it became part of the Herman Miller collection in 1950. This simple-yet sleek-design swiftly converts from sofa to bed with the removal of its bolsters.

I’ve learned that I use the term “daybed” quite loosely. To me, a daybed can be part-sofa or part-loveseat. It can maybe be a pile of pillows in the corner of a room. The most important quality, in my eyes, is it just needs to be where you can maybe steal a few minutes of shuteye.

In recent weeks, I had started to noticed daybeds and lounge-like sofas in the apartments or studios of a few folks that I follow online. So, I asked them for some details and they kindly obliged.

Clément Pascal, Photographer.

“I bought it on Craigslist a couple years back for very cheap. This one was made by Design Within Reach. It was red and had two back pillows when I got it.“

“I reupholstered it in dark green alpaca fabric I bought at Mood Fabrics and some beige wool piping that my upholsterer had on hand. I wanted it to be a flat day bed with a bolster pillow. Because I didn’t have enough alpaca to cover the bolster pillow, I decided to use the opposite combination for it: Beige wool with green alpaca piping.”

“I love the lines of a flat sofa pretty much. It visually takes very little space, and the bolster pillow adds roundness. A piece of furniture you can very well sit on but invites you nonetheless to lie down by design.”

“I bought it to go upstate in our living room, but it’s been in my studio since I got it. I also use it when I’m in there alone, retouching or working on personal projects, and I need to rest for a minute. It’s against a wall, across from a coffee table, and surrounded by a few chairs. Great for conversation and great for power naps.”

Kaitlin Phillips, Publicist.

“I just said send over whatever in ugly green.” Editor’s note: This was what Kaitlin told Green River Project, LLC., perhaps one of the buzziest (and rightfully so) design studios of the past year.

“The wide berth. I just like couches with a lot of depth and heft. Like you can really lounge in them. This isn’t a daybed, actually — I just pulled the cushions off and throw them on when I want to.”

“I do all my work here. I also have a projector set up, so I watch my movies, too.”

Joe Henry Baker, Artist.

“I found this on the street near my house! Frame only. I had the base cushion made and purchased the throw pillows. Having worked with furniture and wood a lot, I was able to determine a good relative worth and ensure it didn’t have any hitchhikers.”

“I really love how compact it is — the slats you sit on are rubber, meaning you sink deep into it when seated. Tricky to sleep on, but achievable.”

“It sits in my painting studio in the corner with the most light. Perfect for reading a book or just staring.”