a chair, my late papa, and the joy of taking a seat
It sits in stark contrast with the rest of the room. Doesn’t go with the minimal, reclaimed wood Crate & Barrel writing desk, nor does it complement the sage-hued walls or beefy leather chair poised in another corner of the room. No, my beloved antique chair would make any designer worth their showroom discount give a disapproving shake of the head and gentle pleading to please move her somewhere else. The unfurnished bedroom over the garage, perhaps…
I tried that. And cried for a week. That’s how much I love her. To be clear, this isn’t a one man’s junk is another’s treasure sort of chair. The same designer tsk tsk-ing her placement in my office-slash-master bedroom would clearly agree she’s special, just not in this room. The Italian Louis XVI style side chair was a gift from my late papa, Dorsey, he himself a revered designer and antiques connoisseur whose store graced the corner of 5th Avenue and University St. in Seattle for decades. After acquiring the chair on a buying trip to Florence in the early 80s, he refused to put her out on the showroom floor. Or in a client’s home. Instinctively – I now believe – he knew she’d play a significant role in my life. Knew that when I was old enough to live on my own, I’d be able to feel his artistry, unconditional love and support every time I sat down. That I rely on her to support me every time I write is what brought me to tears last week.
It’s not worth a damn if it isn’t copacetic”
I tried another chair. A handsome, chestnut leather iron wrought arm chair that didn’t fit properly in my husband’s new home office. It looked smashing – but felt ghastly. I squirmed, winced, sighed. No room to tuck my left foot under my right thigh – the stiff arm got in the way. Too heavy to shift forward, back or side to side – I never sit still. Dorsey knew this, thus my nimble, move-all-you-must-dear, beloved chair. Dorsey was an artist, but every decision in creating a space was rooted in logic – is it agreeable? Will you and your guests feel warm and at home? Or gasp – is it mere decoration? I know the idea landed early on – as evidenced in an elementary school book report dotted with heavy use of the word copacetic.
Not just a chair”
I’ve given her a name – Rose – and am enjoying aging along with her. Every life transition, since my first walk up apartment in downtown Seattle overlooking Lake Union to what I hope now is my final home in Hilton Head, SC, she’s been along for the ride. She’s lived on a boat, a beach house, a series of apartments in Philly and Boston, and now here.
Dorsey injected life into Rose, a piece of his soul if you will, before presenting her to me at age 21. He painted her wood a subtle shade of cornflower blue, and employed a skilled process of sanding down and finishing her grooves and cornices with flecks of Chinese red and silver. He changed the upholstery on the seat and back to a soft, velvet rose, with double-welted finishes to ensure she’d endure a lifetime of holding my weight.
“Bring her back,” my husband begged. She now sits in her write-ful place, tucked up behind my desk waiting for me to sit back down, let my thoughts and emotions flow, and feel the love from my papa above.