By Shelley Wildgen
I have a confession. I am a chair collector (hoarder). I have a true appreciation (wanton love) for all kinds of chairs. I love wicker (way outdated) chairs, cane back (old) chairs, lounge (huge) chairs and a special fondness for chairs with names (orphan chairs). The one in our bedroom is called The Lawson Chair. It’s deep, comfy and sits very low. I bought it at Funk & Gruven in Belleville, where I was told it was a Lawson Chair. Sold. That’s not to say I love all chairs with names. When you get into the Queen Annes and the Louis XIVs and such – well, I just don’t feel worthy.
But a Lawson Chair has a nice, belonging ring to it.
Our house is stuffed with chairs. In our two-bedroom bungalow I have counted 15 chairs, including the pressed back (really, really old) chairs. That’s just inside. Our porch is home to four chairs and a loveseat. “Loveseat” has a cozy name but it’s not quite a chair; then there are four more chairs on the patio. This totals 23 chairs (and a loveseat). Oh, and the front courtyard has two more chairs – so 25 chairs. Enough to teach a grade seven class, but I don’t. You may assume that I like to entertain. No, not really. I just really like chairs, which happens to be uber-convenient when we do have company.
Buying just the right chair brings sheer joy to my jaded heart. Finding a perfect one can take me right off the biorhythm chart. Last summer, in PEI, I spied a wicker chair sitting roadside, along with four, leather-seated dining chairs. It was as if I had found a basket of abandoned kittens. NO, I couldn’t have all of them, so I retrieved the wicker one and, for many nights, dreamt of the ones I left behind.
I wonder if my chair fixation is akin to the relationship some people have with shoes. I’ve heard the shoe thing is fed by a love of selecting things that will always fit, while new clothes can be fickle. Maybe chairs provide a little, sparkling heartburst to those of us who love houses and decor. It’s impossible to have every house we love, but a chair is haveable and reaps loads of instant gratification.
That could be it. When I adopted The Lawson Chair, for example, it was to fill a spot in our rather large bedroom and, by doing so, it instantly gave the room a proper library annex kind of look. My husband agreed, so we outfitted it with a little side table and reading lamp. I can feel some of my friends rolling their long suffering eyes.
Chair highs do, however, have a downside. My rather dowdy pressed back chairs take up six valuable chair real estate spots in our small dining area. They are family heirlooms. My kids, who are both recently engaged to their significant others, are the fifth generation to be seated at them. I can’t let the pressed backs go, especially with the strong possibility that a sixth generation may be within reach. Surely someone down the yet to be born line will cherish their teetery splendour as much as I do.
This dilemma would not keep most people awake at nights. In fact, I’m sure my mother is screaming, “Get rid of the damned chairs!” from her billowing cloud chair above. It’s just not something I can do. Solution? I’m readying to paint all six red, or maybe white. Perhaps grey. Old chairs, new look. Win/win. Clearly addicted.
As I write this, it is the day after a family event here at our house. All of my chairs were put to work. They busied themselves being just the right fit for a senior behind and supporting another person’s tired back. The chairs with arms tucked easily under those who need a little launch when they stand up, and the pressed backs provided efficient seating space at the table. I quietly rationalized my love for them. All of them.
Upon cleaning up earlier today, my son noticed that one of the chintz seated ladder backs had bottomed out. Beaming with glee at the replacement possibilities that lay before me, I told him not to worry…not at all. The only thing better than buying a chair, is buying a chair to replace a well worn one that has served its term. Where would my search take me? A one piece Panton chair (do I dare)? A Glastonbury, a Dante, perhaps a Barcelona! I wouldn’t shop too hard. The thrill of the game is to have a new chair addition introduce itself unexpectedly. It could be the wild find of a roadside casting or a stupidly expensive prop in a fancy shop I had no business being in. Sourcing is as important as sitting.
Then, while depositing my newly retired ladderback in the garage, something caught my eye. As I moved aside boxes and bins, I saw it. Sitting quietly was a chair I’d been saving. An old friend I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. It had been spilled on, beat up and washed down many times over. I grabbed it immediately and escorted it inside.
My new/old chair is maple …a Colonial I think…maybe from Sears, originally, and in very good shape.
It’s a highchair, and it’s a perfect find.