I’ve been living in the past again. It would not be wrong to say that I have been immersed in it. The middle of the last century, to narrow it down.
WARNING: Dreary load of words follows to tell you that I am in love with a folding chair from Romania. You might want to quit here.
In early July, my daughter is moving into the first apartment where she will be living alone. Although she’s been away from home for a number of years, she’s always had a room mate. Her last location was in a very large house in Philadelphia shared with 6 other people. So there were things she didn’t need to own and things she gave away as her living circumstances changed. Now that she’s going to be living on her own, there are a few basics that she’s going to have to acquire.
The apartment itself is quite roomy overall but the living room is small. Way small. So small, in fact,that when we were discussing a dining table she said she didn’t have room for one, didn’t want one and anyway she has a folding card table that she can drag out from behind something or under something if anybody comes over.
Now, she loves me and she is very much like me but it is her life’s work to reject everything I like or offer up as a suggestion to her. It’s the way of the world, I know. They have to do for themselves otherwise they’ll never be able to fly on their own, but still I couldn’t let this go.
Have you ever seen these? I first saw this concept when I lived in Manhattan in the early 70s but I think the design is older than that. The vintage ones are all stamped MADE IN ROMANIA so maybe they went into post WWII production as part of the Marshall Plan to rebuild eastern European economy. If so, they could have been introduced to this county in the 50s.
Anyway, even knowing that she would reject this idea as she has rejected all of the other things I suggest, I sent my daughter the link and photos anyway and got back this email from her in return:
Oh, how a mother’s heart sings! She liked it. And now the hunt.
First of all, these full sets appear quite regularly on Craigslist. They are mostly beat to death and/or are light colored with no visible grain pattern to speak of and/or are missing the chairs. There are also some near-match drop leaf tables of the same compact design that don’t have the built-in storage space. Whether they are excellent quality vintage from Romania or poor quality later productions from parts unknown, they sell very quickly.
Two weeks ago, I had a bead on a beautiful dark set with the most fabulous wood grain on the table top and I missed it by an hour. There was another one listed at the same time for $50 – light wood, boring grain but very minimal damage – that I was too late for as well. Both of those sets were active on Craigslist for about 2 days before they were sold early on the following Saturday morning. these are usually listed as “Mid-Century Modern” or “Danish Modern” and that I think attracts the attention of people who know what they’re looking for and they grab it when they see it.
And I was broken hearted. The only one of my suggestions that my daughter approved and I could not provide. So, of course, I made it my mission to be sure I hunted on down and secured it as soon as possible.
And that happened this weekend, but it wasn’t so easy. I’ve seen a dozen sets since then or at least the tables and they were really discouraging. More money than those first listings I saw and really, really beat-up. Lots of paint blobs and scrapes, stains, gouging and a fair amount of missing veneer at the edges were universal. And the tables themselves were the less interesting pale grainless types. Some had cheap door hinges in three places along the length of the drop leaves instead of the full-length brass piano hinges on the Romania ones. Most didn’t have the chairs because I believe that no one wanted to give up those fabulous chairs.
I was willing to go farther than my own immediate Craigslist area, so while I was searching the Pocono listings, I came across The One. Beautiful teak veneers, lovely grain pattern, no gouges, tambour door concealing storage space for the chairs – but no chairs. And it was in Albany NY. (The Catskills, not the Poconos and 200 miles away from me.)
I’ve got nothing except free time and burning ambition.
But I loved it just by looking at the picture. Well, not just looking. I became adept and adjusting the lighting and enlarging the photos so I could see the details to judge if a table was worthy of trip to see it. And this one sure was. But no chairs.
Then what to my wondering eyes should appear during the same week but in the North Jersey Craigslist, but this:
It’s the wrong kind of crappy beat up table but offered as a package with the right kind of chairs. I knew they were the right chairs because of that signature indent in the top rail of the chair backs, the clever invisible hinge were the legs meet at the top rail and the genius design that allows these to fold completely flat at only 2″ wide.
So for one tank of gas, the better part of a sunny Saturday and no haggling at all, we’ve got the reunited set plus one extra crappy table. Which doesn’t look all that crappy now that we have it home. A few water marks or heat marks, and aths about it. No gouges, no veneer chips, nice overall color.
I started washing off the old food and paint blobs from one of the chairs yesterday. My God these chairs! My husband is a hypercritical engineer who believes he can build everything better than whatever he’s looking at and he is positively enchanted by the design and the quality of these chairs.
The feel of the chair back in your hand is a very sensual experience. The finishing is impeccable. Even the seat slats have edges that are sanded round. They move silently and smoothly – not a squeak or hitch in any of them.
I can hardly wait to get intimate with the table when I start cleaning that up. All I can tell you now is that the small drawer and the bottom of the chair compartment are lined with thick green felt and that the drop leaves and both of the gate legs have heavy brass piano hinges along the full lengths.
Why do people even buy new furniture when quality like this exists in the world?