My heart was thundering as we approached the Design Within Reach warehouse sale. This was due in equal parts to the fact that I was driving a new rear-wheeled-drive car in the snow, that my blood was a bit thin from the night before, and from the anticipation of what was to be found inside the warehouse. I must say I was disappointed in the spectacle, more specifically, the lack thereof. For such an important and glorious event, surely there would be more pomp and fanfare than a few handwritten 8.5 x 11 signs pointing to the building. Where were the balloons? The lights? The helicopters? They were nowhere to be found. The end of my rainbow was a dull, grey concrete box sulking under a dull, grey Kentucky sky.
What I found inside the warehouse sapped what little enthusiasm remained. There they were, the highest expressions of human design, crammed disgracefully together under lifeless fluorescent lights. Oh, the indignity of it all, pieces that I have only seen lovingly staged in stark modern settings, crammed into indifferent piles of luxury. It was obscene. After some moments of wandering about in shock, I slowly regained my senses and began to pick through the heaps of the objects of my lust.
|Even their own image of the warehouse is depressing.|
Despite the volume of the warehouse, the pickings were slim. A few of the big name classics were there, but the majority of offerings were second tier works that didn’t really speak to me. The objects of my desire, lounge chairs, were also in short supply. There were a couple of Saarinen womb chairs, but none of them had the ottoman, and the prices weren’t that much of a bargain. I ambled about for another twenty minutes, wondering if our journey of eight hundred miles was to end in vain in this ‘hole of a warehouse.
|I was not moved by the designs,|
but could have used a lie down on the couch.
Just before despair set in, I found them. Set slightly apart from the heaps of lesser objects, surrounded in an otherworldly halo of ambient light sat a half dozen Eames lounge chairs. The archetype of mid-century modern furniture, the Eames lounge is a study in molded plywood and luxe leather upholstery. This Chair, designed in 1956 is arguably the most famous in the world. Several iterations of the icon were there for the taking- assorted combinations of walnut, palisander and ash wood, and black and ivory leather. The chairs were pristine, and priced at less than half of retail. We conferred, discussed, considered, walked away, walked back, and decided to pull the trigger. We choose the 50th Anniversary edition in black leather and santos palisander veneer.
The purchase transaction was, however, as seedy as the warehouse. This sordid little affair was no place for Visa or American Express. In the immortal words of Randy Moss, it was “straight cash, homie”. No returns, no refunds. After making the purchase we were told to head to the other side of the warehouse to talk shipping with the third-party delivery company. For reasons that are unclear to this day, the shipping company would not ship beyond the borders of Kentucky or Ohio. Had our quest had come to a disastrous end? We were stuck in the shithole sub-urbs of Cincinnati with a chair that we could not ship home and could not return?
Our last ditch option was to see if we could somehow shoehorn the behemoth of a chair and its ottoman into my impulse-buy of a new car. Years of paying Tetris finally paid off, as I was able to get both chair and ottoman crammed into the 300. The whole scene was a bit of a blur as I was still drunk from the night before and in the red haze of anger at the worthless “shipping” company. I don’t recall how my wife got home. I can only assume that she struck a contortionist's pose in the back seat for the five-hour drive (plus time to stop for a 5-way at Skyline) home.
The chair was perfect and I loved it. As the newness wore off, however, I found that I rarely sat in it. The grip of the La-Z-Boy was that strong. In the year that followed I started designing a new home that was more in line with my philosophies on design and sustainability. One of those philosophies is to live with less by occupying a minimal physical footprint. While the house was generous enough to accommodate the two chairs, I didn’t need to have two chairs. Despite the fact that I was rocking daily in the La-Z-Boy, it became clear that there was no place for it in the new house. I know that the chair would be out of place, but hoping against hope, I moved the chair to the Southside in a vain effort to find a nook that would work.
|For a time it was merely an expensive toddler's seat.|
I knew the La-Z-Boy was lost and I searched for something to fill void. That something was more modern furniture. As I was spending thousands on the construction of a new home, a few grand on furniture here and there was easy to hide. Having an aversion to retail I first resorted to eBay for our dining room chairs- the J.L. Moeller Model #77. In depths of my depravity, I then resorted to scouring Craigslist for modern classics. As fate would have it, a dealer in Atlanta was looking to peddle a couple of LC3 loungers. I didn’t want and couldn’t afford two, so I drug a friend into my sordid world and we split the cost.
|LC3 and SCR|
Within a two-week period we moved into our new house, and welcomed another baby boy to family. The next time the chair broke was the last. With as much dignity as I could muster, I placed it on the curb and called 311. This was a sad and ignominious end to my relationship with that chair, and it was the end of a thirty-six year rocking addiction. With no rocker around, the Eames lounger is now The Chair. It is a timeless and elegant piece, but it doesn’t fit quite me right (I’m two inches too long). Would that the story would end with a bang rather than a whimper, but such is life. I still think about rocking from time to time, but I think I'm over it. That is a place to which I can not return...except when I go to my in-laws house...where there is…a La-Z-Boy.