A Tale of Two Chairs

Monday, June 20, 2011

When we moved into our loft I knew I wanted to have two sofas and a pair of matching arm chairs in our living area. I've always loved bergere chairs, so I looked on Craigslist for a while for a pair. The only pair that came up during that month or two were $800. No bueno for me since the plan was to reupholster. Then I found a pair of these Antonia chairs from Ballard on eBay.


The seller said they were floor samples or returns because they were brand new with the tags. The price was right at $400 for the pair, so I bought them and had them shipped from Virginia. Long story short, I picked up the chairs from a freight company in PA a couple days later late at night. It had been a really long installation day and the chairs were really well packed, so I didn't inspect them as thoroughly as I should have before signing off on the delivery and heading home to NYC. Turned out that the internal back structure was made of chipboard (hello! cheap!!) and the board of one of the chairs was completely cracked in half. The problem was only visible looking at the chair from behind, but it totally made a weird sound when you sat down against the chair back. Bummer. But I was planning on having them upholstered anyway, so we could have the broken frame repaired then.

Soon though, a bigger bummer was apparent. The chairs were flat out uncomfortable. They were stiff and awkward and absolutely impossible to lounge in. I noticed that we avoided sitting in them and I always felt a little guilty if guests had to sit in the chairs.

But they were a pretty shape and I tried hard to make them work for a while. Looking back, the sheer amount of time I was taking to make a decision about the upholstery material should have been a red flag for how much I hated these chairs! I almost bought leather to reupholster them in. It would have looked great, but the underlying problem of the chairs not being comfortable would still be there.


Here's the thing that I most wanted to share with you today: It is so easy to get tunnel vision when you are decorating. I get stuck in the "make it work" mind set, which I think can be really great most of the time. I feel like that is the responsible way to decorate for 95% of decorating scenarios. But there are some situations where it truly makes the most sense to cut your losses and scrap the piece of furniture or the idea. I recognize that usually the reason I try to "make it work" is to justify the cost of the item. The bottom line though is sometimes mistakes are made. Chairs get damaged in transit. Or they look pretty online, but are awkward and uncomfortable to sit in. It happens. Rather than dumping more money into the room that you won't ever be truly happy with anyway, consider craigslisting the piece and use the proceeds to find something new that better suits the needs of the room. As soon as I decided to sell the Ballard bergeres the choices for the rest of the room sort of presented themselves and everything in the space made sense again.

And in a stroke of good luck I stumbled across a pair of mid-century bergeres with great potential at Granny's Antiques in NJ last week. They are so, SO comfortable! I find myself sitting in the chairs more than our comfy sofas these days. And guess what? They cost only half the price of my old Ballard chairs, so I'm sure I'll be able to recoup the cost and then some when I sell the old pair.


This week I'm reupholstering the chairs and painting the frames. Tomorrow I'll share the photos of the first steps. Here's a sneak peek. Remember this Victoria Hagan fabric? I had just enough in my stash for the pair!

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