One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Pearsall Chair

First my apologies for our lackadaisical posting. Things are busy and we hope to be back to fairly regular posts—some day. But today’s find is good enough to make up for that. Hopefully.

One of my favorite things about spring is the onslaught of fresh finds that make their way out of basements, closets and attics into the fresh air, just as the flowers push their way out of the soil. These things make their way into thrift stores, Craigslist, garage sales and, sometimes, even the curb. I did a double take the moment I drove past this sitting out for citywide trash collection.

IMG_3830Was this a Pearsall wave lounger? On the curb?! After examining its poor condition, lack of any legs and lack of any tags, I decided this was probably a knock-off and too just too much work to justify cramming it into my overflowing storage. And I drove off. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I drove a couple blocks and then turned around, justifying the move with “the plywood alone wouldn’t be cheap” logic. When I returned I searched a little harder for a tag. Lo and behold, hidden under the fabric on the bottom was this:

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Woo hoo! But…what happened to the legs? I couldn’t even see where they had been attached. As I was stuffing it into my car a woman pulled into the driveway. I approached and asked if she knew anything about the chair. It turns out she was a caretaker of the man who lived in the house. She said he was actually very sentimental about the chair and had hoped that by putting out on the curb someone would find it and give it a new life. She said it had been a rocking chair, but the legs were long gone having been broken by his kids years ago.

It was good to know that a) someone hadn’t stolen the legs before I found it (it has happened more than once) and b) its restoration will be meaningful in a cosmic sort of a way. Of course it is a little saddening to know it once had legs that looked like this:

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The Pearsall wave rocker as it would have originally appeared.

I will not be able to replicate those. But the chair was also available with tapered legs and that’s the route I will take for restoration—once I find a source for walnut tapered legs that don’t cost a small fortune.

And original wave lounge with tapered legs

And original wave lounge with tapered legs.

I’ll probably also forgo the cushy pillow top design of the chair as-is and instead opt for the earlier upholstery style pictured on the orange example above. All in all I’m glad I turned back and got it, even if it will be a ton of work. My justification for turning back was also particularly on point—the plywood is the only part of the chair I’ll be able to salvage.

 

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Black Beauty and the White Whale

If our infrequent posting has you concerned that perhaps there are no good deals left to find, hopefully this post will give you some reassurance. While our hectic modern lives have slightly hampered our efforts to share all of our adventures, we are still having them. Case in point, this past weekend I decided to take my 1967 Cadillac out for its first drive of the season.

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This is not usually the car that I take junking or thrifting, but the weather was nice so I decided to do both. I spent the evening driving around a nearby town whose spring cleanup week was coming up, looking for interesting things set out on the curb. After striking out completely, I decided to try my luck at a thrift store. I arrived at 15 minutes to close and found this lovely little specimen:

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A writing desk designed by Paul McCobb for Winchendon Furniture’s Planner Group. In decent condition. For a mere song. Mega score. And, of course, it never fails that I find furniture when I’m not driving a vehicle meant for hauling furniture. But, where there’s a will there’s a way. I wasn’t going to let this one get away.

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As if it wouldn’t fit in the back seat. You could park a Prius in this back seat. If nothing else it was totally worth it just to see the look on the employees’ faces as I pulled up to the front doors of Salvation Army to load it.

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Usually these are seen in clear maple finish with conical hardware, so at first I assumed both had been altered. Research proved, however, that these ring pulls were original as was the black lacquer finish and were both options in the original line. The finish does, unfortunately need restoration, but that won’t be nearly as terrible of an undertaking as it would have been if this were covered in thick latex paint.

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I’ve said this many times before, but the best way to find something is to not look too hard. My expectations for the night were so low I drove a classic car knowing I’d have no way to haul furniture. Fate took that temptation and ran with it—but even fate is no match for a 20-foot land yacht.

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Happy Spring!

It’s a wonderful feeling knowing warmer weather and garage sale season is right around the corner. This past month I did find a few Easter goodies worth sharing. First up is a circa 1930s paper mache bunny candy container. He came from an antique store my family made a quick stop at while taking a mini-spring break vacation.

Paper mache bunny

My other Easter scores were found at a Salvation Army. I was super exited to find these beauties waiting for me in a cart being brought out from the back. The cart had been full of items and when I walked up to it only a few things were left sitting in the bottom. I asked the person stocking the shelves if I could have them out of the cart, He responded with a smile and a “please help yourself, then I won’t have to put them onto the shelves.” I collected them up quickly and thanked him!

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From the cart came a glass bunny candy container nibbling on a carrot. He was priced under $1.00! 
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An amazing pre-WWII lithographed paper mache egg. This had price tag stickers holding it closed so I waited until I was home to remove the stickers carefully so not to damage the old paper image. I was hoping for more paper mache eggs nested inside but instead found the metal egg.

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A surprise metal egg with great graphics was nested inside the paper egg. Not to shabby!

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But the best out of bunch, only priced at $1.99, was this large antique glass egg! These victorian era eggs are blown glass and handpainted.  Happy dance!

blown glass egg 3Happy hunting!

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Weekend Finds: Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair

Sometimes you easily find something you never knew existed and it’s a happy accident. Sometimes you spend years looking for something to no avail, only to have it fall into your lap once you’ve given up. I’ve had both happen with the same item. Several years ago I picked up a worn but interesting office chair at a garage sale for $2. After a little research I discovered it was a soft pad management chair created by design gods Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller. I also discovered they are nearly impossible (if not entirely impossible) to reupholster and eventually swapped the dilapidated (and burgundy) soft pad seat for a more ubiquitous unpadded aluminum group seat found on eBay. I can’t complain, my total investment in that chair was only $30 after all was said and done.

My first soft pad-turned-aluminum group chair shown in my home office.

My first soft pad-turned-aluminum group chair shown in my home office.

But that taught, unpadded seat never really fit the bill for the long hours I sometimes spend behind the computer and it was relegated to side chair status in favor of a more “ergonomic” Herman Miller Aeron chair. The complicated 90s-era designed Aeron chair never impressed me much either and I vowed to someday replace it with a stunning (and comfortable) Eames soft pad chair. I hunted. I searched. For. Years. There were none to be found locally and any vintage examples I could find were priced sky high. Eventually I broke down and decided it was time to bite the bullet and pony up for one. I decided to go with a more recent production and shelled out the cash. We’re talking teenager’s first car money. It arrived. I was happy.

The "splurge" soft pad

The “splurge” soft pad

Then, not a week later, I get a text from a friend: “Should I buy this?”

IMG_8874It might have just as well fallen out of the sky and hit me. I’m reminded time and time again that the best way to find anything is to stop looking for it. Of course, having just bought one, it would have been logical to have said no to this one, but my zeal to not only have vintage possessions but also get great deals on them overruled all logic. Granted this one is a tiny bit of a train wreck, but it also didn’t cost used car money—more like gas money.

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The construction of these chairs makes restoration challenging, but I’m excited about getting into it. The leather, though in desperate need of cleaning and conditioning, is in surprisingly well-preserved condition. The wool fabric on the back, however, has sagged significantly. Since the upholstery cannot successfully be removed from the frame, it’s going to take some ingenuity to devise a way to shrink it back while in place. You might also notice it has a wonky incline as a result of a damaged tilt mechanism which should be a chore to reverse engineer.

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The severely abused cast aluminum arms and legs are another chore. These will require removal, stripping and lots and lots of polishing to regain their original mirror-like finish. I’m considering outsourcing this part to an auto body shop if I can find a willing one.

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The chair has a date stamp, though I can’t clearly make it out. I’m guessing it says Jun 1, 1986. Ray and Charles Eames first designed their Aluminum Group chairs in 1958 for the J. Irwin Miller house designed by Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard. Their Soft Pad Collection was introduced in 1969—essentially just aluminum group chairs with soft padded seating surfaces. The Aluminum Group and Soft Pad collections have been in continuous production by Herman Miller since their introductions though today a new example of a Soft Pad Executive chair would run about $3,200.

I’m really excited to get started on this project. Conceivably I could just take the arms and base from the gray chair I already own and make one good chair out of the two. But that’s clearly too easy. Wish me luck. Hopefully I’ll have a before and after to show you soon!

 

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Before and After: Sad, Flaky Lamps

Every now and then I grab something just because it looks like an easy project. And by “every now and then” I mean all the time. And by “easy project” I mean project that never gets done. And every now and then (and I mean it this time) one of those easy projects gets done.

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When I bought this pair of lamps I was excited because I so rarely ever find lamps in pairs. Not that I ever really want lamps in pairs for myself, but I like the idea of it. I’m a tiny bit OCD, so I like things in pairs. I also thought it would be a snap to get the old paint off because it seemed to just blow away in the breeze. I thought I’d try pulling it off with tape. Wouldn’t budge. I thought I’d scrub it off with a wire brush. The brush was going to give out before the paint did. Maybe soaking it off in hot water? Nope. Alas, it couldn’t hold out against chemical stripper. So, some gooey nastiness and toxic fumes followed by spray paint, new wiring, new sockets and new shades—voila!

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Easy projects always turn out to be the hardest. I had planned for these to be gray with darker gray in the recessed areas. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a concoction of paint that looked nice washed over it. In the end the only thing in my arsenal of supplies that worked was gel stain. It looked nice but it made the gray kind of a chocolate milk color. Still, I think they turned out pretty good and I’m glad I don’t have to keep seeing their sad, flaky bodies piled up in my garage for another year.

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