With the advent of more and more good movies and British television shows to watch over the Internet—and the steady loss of good things to watch on my television—I moved a moderately comfortable Eames-style chair out of the TV room into my office. There, I could push my desk chair aside and pull up the Danish lounger to luxuriate in front of some of the wonderful performances to be had by computer. This left a big, gaping hole in the TV room’s decor. So, I decided I should try to purchase an inexpensive chair for that spot. No one ever sits there, so it doesn’t have to be especially comfortable, but it shouldn’t be too ugly.
I’d spotted a dowdy but more or less acceptable chair at a store that bills itself as an antique mall but really is a collection of second-hand furniture dealers’ booths. I don’t remember what the style is called—I always used to think of it as “ranch furniture,” because you’d see it on ranches and even in the dorm rooms at the University of Arizona: the chair consisted of a wooden frame with wide, flat armrests big enough to set a can of beer on; upholstery was a seat cushion and a back cushion. Although they can be surprisingly comfortable, this one wasn’t, and while the fabric on the cushions was in excellent condition, it was truly hideous and would have to be replaced.
But I can make cushions and could certainly have built new covers for those. Though the dealer wanted $175 for the chair, I figured I could push it down to around $150.
Still: it wasn’t a very pretty chair, and if I hired an upholsterer to recover the cushions, I could end up paying another hundred bucks or more for the final product.
A notice came in the mail from Crate and Barrel, advertising a 50 percent off sale. Hot dang! On the first day—Thursday, I think it was—I shot out to Scottsdale like a rocket. Hope springs eternal in the consumer’s breast…
Well, if Crate and Barrel was selling anything at a 50 percent mark-down, I sure didn’t see it. They had one piece marked off 40 percent…the sort of thing that goes on sale for a reason, the reason being no one in their right mind would want to own it. Otherwise, the deepest discount was around 20 percent. The two chairs that would have done the trick in the TV room were well beyond my price range.
While I was there, though, naturally I had to wander through the houseware department. There I found…ta DAAA! These excruciatingly nifty Polish glass items.
They reminded me of my wonderful Polish sister-in-law, who once gave me a glass sugar and creamer set that looked very much like the one here—a little more modern and stylish but very similar. To my dismay, I broke the creamer a few years ago. I always regretted not getting to know my former sister-in-law better: she and I had much in common other than the brothers we married. She lived on the East Coast and then later in Texas, and the distance made it hard for us to stay in touch.
So, with this purchase in hand I drove back into town and revisited the junk antique store, planning to buy the wooden chair. Boy, those cushions were ugggg-leeeee! Each was an off-size, too: no chance of buying cushions somewhere else to wriggle out of having to make new ones. And the chair’s joints were loose: it needed to be taken apart and reglued. This thing was beginning to look like a large project, and one that could run up the price considerably.
Pier One has some cool furniture. Most of their chairs are sterling uncomfortable, but comfiness was not a high priority for this decorator item. Besides, it occurred to me that I might get one of their wicker or fake-wicker outdoor chairs, some of which have real panache and actually are more comfortable than their interior furniture. So, before making a final decision about the $175 second-hand masterpiece, it was back across the city to the nearest Pier One outlet.
Their latest sales ploy is to have an employee accost you the instant you walk in the door, eagerly offering to follow you around the store and direct you to the many things you surely will want to buy there. I hate that. So I had to tell the manager, who was the accoster of choice that day, to leave me alone, thank you.
I found several patio chairs, any one of which would do the job. The one I liked was selling for around $125, but of course you had to pay extra for the seat cushion. The ones they had on the chairs in the store were sterling hideous (have you noticed lamps and upholstery fabrics all seem to be done by graduates of The School for Ugly Design?), and the only cushion I liked didn’t fit the chair.
They did, however, have a couple of wicker indoor chairs that were reasonably priced and very nifty-looking. The jazziest of these was one of the most breathtakingly uncomfortable things you would hope never to sit in. But another, given the right cushions, was pretty tolerable. If guests came over, I could sit in the Pier One chair and let my friends have the better seating. Unlike the seat cushions, Pier One’s throw pillows are to die for! It’s hard to resist coming out of that place with an armful of the things. Soooo…. This was the result:
The wicker looks almost black in this image; it’s actually a dark brown. Overall cost, with the chair and three fancy pillows plus 8.3 percent tax: $334. More than I wanted to spend, but a heckuva lot better than the $1,266 Crate and Barrel wanted for the best of its offerings. I figure I probably would have ended up spending pretty close to fifty bucks on upholstery fabric to rebuild the second-hand chair’s cushions. And regluing the joints…who knows how many hours of my time? Actually, that job might have been beyond my skills, so I would’ve had to hire a handyman to do it: two hours of Greg’s son’s $30/hour time: another sixty bucks.
$175 + $50 + $60 = $285, plus the cost of my time and hassle
So though I didn’t get a bargain, I don’t feel I did that badly, either. Not bad at all. Forty-nine dollars for to save four or five hours of my $60/hour time devoted to repairing and upgrading the junk vintage chair? I’ll take it.