The Battle of Lepanto 1571

The history of naval warfare has proven repeatedly that living room furniture rarely performs satisfactorily in battle. The Ottoman Empire’s debacle at Lepanto is a prime example. Historians have long blamed the defeat on the Ottomans’ uneasiness at sea. But it was not only the Ottomans who failed to acquit themselves well at Lepanto. Consider also the Daybeds. They refused to even leave the shore on the day of battle. Instead, they leafed through fashion magazines and napped.

The Battle of Salamis 480 BC

Though they enjoyed vast numerical superiority over their Greek foes, the Persians were hampered by the dozens of cumbersome Davenports deployed on each of their crafts. The Davenports were supposed to serve as shock troops, leading boarding parties that would overwhelm the Greek sailors with the sheer bulk of their oversized cushions. But when the battle was joined, the Davenports disgraced themselves by retiring to the hold, where they played Scattergories as the fiercest fighting raged above them. There they stayed, even as their crafts were captured or sunk. Most met a watery and ignoble end.

The Battle of Actium 31 BC

Forces under Marc Antony and Cleopatra ventured into battle against Octavian aboard huge galleys mounted with catapults and battering rams. This superior technology was compromised, however, by the shameful conduct of a company of Roll-Top Desks, who defected on the eve of battle. Armed with battle plans supplied by the traitorous Roll-Tops, Octavian routed Antony and Cleopatra. To this day, many interior decorators believe it is bad luck to utter the word “desk” and instead they use the French term “escritoire.”

The Spanish Armada 1588

The Bean Bag Chairs that had been enlisted as midshipmen for the Spanish fleet had a reputation as dutiful and trusty sailors. Almost all, however, shared a fateful dread of fire—a phobia that could be traced to the extreme flammability of their so-called “bean” stuffing. When the English floated fire ships into the midst of the Spanish fleet, the panicked Bean Bags abandoned their posts and many dove overboard, screaming in terror—with disastrous results for the armada.

The Battle of Trafalgar 1805

Viscount Horatio Nelson had lost an eye and an arm in the service of the Royal Navy, but he had gained a keen sense for his foe’s weaknesses. He knew that the Franco-Spanish fleet’s Eames chairs, while stylish, lacked fighting spirit. In the final moments before the battle was joined, Nelson is said to have signaled to his fleet that, “England expects every man to do his duty.” However, historians now believe that Nelson’s message was garbled in transmission and that he had actually said, “Modern, ergonomic furniture is not really all that comfortable.”