Sunday, January 27, 2013

Come In and Sit a Spell

We’ve been known to tell visitors that it’s easier to point out the few store-bought items in our home than all the thrifted ones. I looked around the other day and realized this is certainly true when it comes to our chairs, and that the thrifting goes w-w-a-a-a-a-y-y-y back. Like over 40 years. How can that be when we ourselves are still so young, so dewy fresh? Dang, I couldn’t even write that with a straight face. But no matter. I’m still young enough to give you a tour of our chairs!

Let’s get the retail-price ones out of the way. All three of them. Yup, three places in our house to sit that we bought in stores. Actually two, because this one came from a craft market.

handmade rocker

Must have been about 25 years ago, in High Point, NC. We went to a big Christmas craft fair and wandered around until we saw this puppy. Tried it out. Bought it. No matter who sits in it, the curves fit perfectly. Can’t remember what it cost, something like $100, but we’ve amortized it down to about four bucks a year so far. I can live with that.

The other two retail pieces are my husband’s desk chair, and a bench that used to be at the foot of our bed.

desk chairslat seat bench

When we moved to this house, we discovered the bench fit perfectly into a space in the master bathroom. It is the best place to tie your shoelaces.

Don’t worry that you won’t have plenty of choices when you want to sit down, however. Feeling particularly vintage? Settle in the corner of the living room in one of the Hans Olsen chairs, or the Danish rocker.

Danish rocker with Hans Olsen cane back arm chairs

Just found a pair of Olsen chairs like these for sale in a showroom in Los Angeles. Theirs are refinished, mine are original (though we did replace the cushions). Theirs are priced at $2695 for the pair.

Mine weren’t!

If you’d like to bask by the fireplace, we have the Sixties sofa, currently covered with a linen throw.


At mealtime you can settle in at the table on one of the Hans Wegner CH-23 chairs. Steven was at a vintage store in Portland recently that had a set of these. Theirs were priced at $2450 for the set of four. Mine weren’t.


For many years our dining table was surrounded by a mix of chairs. Some have gone by the wayside (i.e. were resold to other thrifty people) but we still have our first – a pair of antique pressback chairs.

pressback chairs

We bought these from a little old lady in Minneapolis back in the early 70’s. At the time they had that kind of gooey dark finish that old varnish gets after years of use. Steven refinished them and we were amazed at the design that emerged from the grime.

pressback chair design

These chairs have an unusual detail for pressback chairs of the era, can you pick it out? Think about it, and we’ll check later to see how you do on your test!

Another chair dates from our time in Minneapolis, from a sale in a very posh house. I’ve never forgotten the design of the inlaid wood floor in the foyer.

sturdy chair

Light weight but very sturdy, this chair has been on stage many times. Steven often takes it with him when he performs.


Sturdy but decidedly NOT light weight would be our old dentist’s chair. We found this in the catacomb-like basement of the first place we lived in Minneapolis, along with an old x-ray machine. Our landlord sold the pair of them to us for ten bucks.

 1916 dentist chair

We still have the control panel from the x-ray apparatus, and it’s scary enough.

1916 xray controls

You should have seen the rest of it – or maybe not. You’d never have dental work done again. We parted with it because of it’s huge size. Wish we could have kept the label with the patent-pending from 1916, and the warning not to use this machine for pyrotechnics. Ah, those were the days.

If you’d like to have a snack at the kitchen island counter, you’ll get to perch on these vintage babies. We have three in all.

vintage bar stools

My office chair is not fancy, but it works.

thrifted desk chair

Sometimes I sit on this old lab stool instead.

old lab stool

The big wicker wingback and ottoman relax in a corner of the master bedroom.

rattan chair and ottoman

This was our dog Lizzie’s favorite bed. Edward usually spends the night there now.


Zoe’s favorite chair is the ever-so-comfy Siesta Chair by Ingmar Relling. With or without Edward.

Big Brothers are so Comfy

Noll Baxter often sleeps on this bench, guarded over by his friend Woody.

woody on the bench

(Picture this cat on that cushion.)

Noll in a basket

We have two of these benches, which sometimes become tables. They weigh a ton. We think they must have started life in a mall or gym.

sturdy bench table

If you settle in to watch movies with us, you can sit on the Forties rattan sofa

vintage rattan sofa

or the surprisingly comfortable hair dryer chair.

vintage dryer chair

Or you can move Zoe off the Heywood Wakefield armchair hiding under a throw until I get it reupholstered.

Zoe in Heywood Wakefield chair

Back in the guest rooms, we have the old piano bench

vintage piano seat

and the vanity pouf that swivels.

vintage pouf stool

And for a real trip back in time, here’s the piece we’ve had the longest. My mother in law bought this at Montgomery Wards when she was pregnant with my hubs.

vintage rocker

Okay, test time! If you’ve been around very many pressback chairs, you might have picked out the detail that is different…it’s the slats in the backs. Almost always they are carved with knobby things that poke you as you try to relax. These have smooth slats that encourage you to sit around the kitchen table longer, sharing stories.

pressback chairs detail

I’m sure it’s obvious that we have eclectic taste in furniture, which helps when you’re a thrifty soul. I’ve been very lucky with my finds, but I do believe that luck resides in showing up. (Which I will be happy to do as soon as the weather warms up a bit and folks start having sales again!) But here’s a little comparison to put retail vs. shopping on driveways in perspective.

For the same amount of cash that we spent on this modestly-priced chair in a store (dog not included with purchase)

Edward and desk chair

I brought these home from driveways.

image IMG_5508 thrifted desk chair   IMG_6804IMG_2944

rattan chair and ottomanvintage pouf stool

Patience and perseverance pay. You can take that to the bank!



  1. Thanks for posting, even though you did not get to any new sales. I think it might be raining everywhere! Fun to see your treasures

    1. I must admit, year-round garaging was probably the best part of living in Southern California...I don't miss much else. Except my friends!

  2. Oh my! I love chairs so your little tour was like "chair porn" for me. My husband starts to sweat a bit when I spy something I like, although I think that secretly, he is is very pleased with some of my finds - although yours are MAGNIFICENT. Most recently, we were quite far from home looking in a very good vintage store and he actually spied a wonderful and well-made vintage rocker, before I did. Hopefully I asked him if we could get it in the car. He has been known to work miracles, jostling huge items into small cars, but he didn't think this one was doable. If only we were driving the hatchback that day!!! :( He wasn't keen on coming back on the weekend (close to 6 hours round trip). BUT - I have learned, there is always another chair, calling my name.

    I do love the picture of the dogs and the cat - what characters!

    1. Chair you've got me laughing! So sorry that chair didn't make it home with you, but you're right, there are always more. If you want to inspire your hubs for next time, show him the picture of getting our sofa home in a Honda Civic in the post on 10/22/11!

    2. I remember that adventure - so funny! It reminded me of our own "mission style rocking chair fits into a Hyundai incident" of July, 2011. (a very hot and humid day). One good character trait in most men, is that they WILL NOT back away from this type of challenge. It's just not manly!! Come Hell or high water, that baby was fitting into that car!!! My husband would not give up - I started to worry that we would never get the chair OUT of the car. The air was BLUE! We have graduated to Toyotas now, but sadly, they are not much roomier.
      That chair is one of my favourites. Nice sturdy oak, no markings. I suspect made by a very talented local craftsperson, probably in the 1920's We bought it at a yard sale, but it originally came from a farmhouse in a small farming community nearby!

      Happy times! BTW - I adore your blog - it strikes so many chords for me!

  3. I enjoyed the tour of the chairs. (Has a ring to it, don't you think?) I've never heard of those expensive chairs, but I'm glad you have some. Furniture like yours is (and some of mine) is so much more fun to talk about than something you could buy in a store.

    1. Maybe we could have a chair convention sometime, and we could all do seminars at round tables and talk about our chairs!

  4. Fantastic! I have recently started seeing my PiL's chairs in 'vintage and retro' articles - they did buy them new, but like you, cost per year plus the fact that they are now hyper trendy again, makes them well worth it! I'm afraid that our best thrifty chairs died a death when the boys were young, but I do have one pressed wood one I inherited from my mum.

    1. I always find it a little startling when some everyday object I use becomes 'vintage.' Guess I've become vintage myself, and am on the fast track towards antique!

  5. It's so nice to see my old piano bench living on in such a warm and inviting home - as opposed to the garage where it was relegated at my house.

    1. I'll let Bench know you stopped by, she'll be thrilled! She often speaks of what a wonderful piano player you were and how much she enjoyed your hours of practice. I'm hoping when I get my piano (soon) I'll be able to channel some of your talent from Bench!

  6. What you call a piano bench looks like a stool to an old sewing machine. I've never seen a piano bench with a back like that, but many old sewing chairs had that low back.

    Thanks for the tour of your chairs!

    1. It probably did begin life as a sewing chair! But the lady I bought it from (see her comment above!) used it as a piano bench for many years. Then I used it as a sewing bench at our last house...and when I get a piano in a few weeks it will be a piano bench again. Maybe I should call it the split personality bench!

  7. We've been virtually "hitting the flea" with our Armchair Junking series over at The Junk Drunk. Check out our recent post with a Book Ends round up, with a link to our recent Coffee Table round up as well. I hope you all like it!


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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