When it Rains, It Pours—Saarinen Chairs & More

Spring has fully sprung. It’s warming up, the snow is gone and people are cleaning out and having garage sales. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was aching for a good sale and the past two weeks have been so jammed packed that it’s been impossible to see it all. Dumpster diving, Craigslist, a flea market, rummage sales and citywide garage sales—I’ve done it all in the past week. I’m fully exhausted, but the haul has been worth it. The catalyst for all this craziness was my first find of the week.

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As I was perusing Craigslist an ad for a conference table and chairs caught my eye. You could barely see the chairs in the picture, but I was pretty sure I knew exactly what they were—Eero Saarinen executive conference chairs by Knoll. I quickly contacted the seller who happily agreed to sell the chairs separately.

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As I was wheeling these beauties out to the parking lot the seller gestured toward my car and said, “You’re not going to get all eight in there.” But 15 minutes later I had them all nestled comfortably inside. Do not underestimate my car-packing abilities—everything always fits.

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Other than needing a little cleaning, these plums were in pretty good shape. I wasn’t sure how old they were. Since the bases were four legged rather than five, I knew they were older than 1990 (when laws required the additional leg for stability following a series of lawsuits). The chairs were designed by Saarinen in 1950 and have been in continuous production since; without a label it can  be difficult to pinpoint a production date. These chairs appear to have been reupholstered so I assumed any original evidence to date them was long gone—until I saw something peeking through the fabric on the bottom of one chair.

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The original tag! The 320 Park Avenue address was used between 1961-1969, but Knoll didn’t change their name to Knoll International (which you can barely make out on this tag) until 1969, meaning these chairs must have been made that year.

After years of never coming across these out in the wild, I was pretty stoked to have eight. Can you imagine how I felt when I found these at a garage sale on Saturday?

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Two more! And for only $10 each. The amazing thing is the sale had been open for nearly two hours before I got there and nobody had snatched them up. How is that possible? One of the most iconic mid-century modern chairs sitting right out there at the end of a driveway in duplicate. Granted each is in desperate need of new foam and upholstery, but considering a brand new chair starts around $1,500, I think it’s a sound investment. A few moments later I really thought I had hit the jackpot when I saw this pair from behind:

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Close but no cigar. Up close these were no Saarinens, but still pretty cute. The upholstery is beyond shot, but at $1.50 each I just couldn’t say no.

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Cheap chairs were a running theme for the week. This big boy set me back $10, but he’s a bit of a project. He’s going to need some mending and cleaning, but I expect him to make a full recovery. As fun as it is, the best part of buying this was that I had to make a second trip to pick it up (the car was already full of all the other chairs) and on the way back I spotted this hanging out by a dumpster:

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Who just throws out a cute walnut credenza? I don’t know, but I’m glad they did because I’ve got it now. Although I wouldn’t exactly call it free—an untied trash bag of half-eaten chicken wings managed to spill all over me in the process of retrieving it. The price of doing business I guess. I’m not wild about the faux-wood laminate so I think I’m going to experiment with refacing the top with new white laminate. I’ll keep you posted on the process.

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Speaking of free, this time of year is a good time to keep an eye on the curbs. During a neighborhood cleanup week I spied this box of pristine 1970s and 80s singles just sitting out in someone’s trash. Prince, Heart, Blondie, Stevie Wonder, Men at Work, Elton John—all the hits. There’s no shame in pulling over to take a peek once in awhile.

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When your car is full of chairs and nonsense, it’s nice to find something flat like this print. Personally I wish it was a real painting, but I still really like the look.

IMG_7400Of course it’s always nice to find some mid-century art glass. I’m not sure who made the decanter on the left, but the pitcher on the right is Blenko. Unfortunately the Blenko piece is not vintage, rather a 2006 reissue of a vintage design as evidenced by the date etched on the base.

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I’ve been finding a lot of enamelware lately and I’m starting to like it more and more. Each of these pieces is marked on the back but they’re all indecipherable. Beautiful nonetheless.

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This plate was one of my more unusual finds. The hand-painted design caught my eye across a thrift store but I was shocked to turn it over and discover that it’s Delft. Seriously? The Dutch pottery with traditional scenes? Although De Porceleyne Fles (Royal Delft) is well known for those elaborate indigo and white pieces they’ve been crafting since 1635, they’ve produced some less characteristic piece over the years including this. The “CN” on the back is actually a date code meaning this piece was created in 1969. As someone of Dutch heritage and a mid-century collector, I’m really happy to have this.

IMG_7431But of all the wonderful things I found this week, my absolute favorite piece is this metal sculpture.

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I almost walked right past it but the minute my eyes locked on it, my hands locked on it as well. I just love the colors of the metal and the form.

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It looks terrific from every angle and the patina adds great dimension.

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I just wish I could read the signature. Like so many signed things, I can’t make out the signature at all to look up the artist. Not that it really matters, I love it regardless.

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Anybody out there know what this says? Ro Syloc? Po Sulor? Gibberish. Beautiful gibberish.

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