So often, photos tell the stories of people through the decades. Objects have stories too. This chair has seen people come and go, holidays, and pets. Off and on for decades, it was paired with what my mother always called the “drum table.” It has had multiple homes and “worn” four different fabrics. As of December 2017, I became its owner. The chair has been with my family for at least 60 years; this is only part of its story.
I could not locate any family photos from the 1950s that include this chair, but Sherwin-Williams’ Color Through the Decades indicates that Pinky Beige was a popular color at that time. The chair’s original fabric color fits that description perfectly; my parents also had the matching davenport (my mother didn’t adopt the terms “couch” or “sofa” until much later). I time the chair’s arrival to the 1950s.
The chair continued to be enjoyed by my family in the 1960s, in my parents’ second home: my sister poses in front of it (and the drum table) before departing for a high school prom. Susan recalls that she loved this dress, which my mother helped her make.
The family moved in 1970 to accommodate my arrival. The chair came along. Here it is in Christmas 1971, enjoying my maternal grandmother’s company; that’s me (one year old) with the scowl on my face. In the second photo, the chair is supporting my mother and grandmother as gifts are opened (the arms of the chair have often served as a supplemental seat).
In 1974, it was still enjoying Grandma’s company at Christmas. My mother enjoyed reading in this chair, and the cats would begrudgingly share it with her.
Mid-1970s: time to reupholster! Pinky Beige was no longer in fashion. The chair’s new colors were right in line with Sherwin-Williams’ 1970s shades (Avocado, Edgy Gold, and Afternoon). This is the fabric I remember from my entire childhood. My then brother-in-law is seated in it for my fifth birthday in 1975.
On to the 1980s. Still paired with the drum table, and still supporting people with its arms (I’m the one seated on the chair’s arm, with my mother and the granddog, Oscar). I remember this as my mother’s morning coffee chair (again, with cat company). She did much reading here (Parade Magazine), as well as Fill-It-In puzzles. It was the focal point for my sister’s 1981 wedding day photos. The chair enjoys Halloween and Christmas in 1984 and a party with my high school friends in 1989.
The fabric held up well, as did the upholstery job…still going strong in the late 1990s (40 years for the chair, 20 for the fabric): Christmas 1999. The chair has met four grandchildren by this point. You can see the chair’s colors don’t really work with the rest of the room’s color scheme, which had moved on in the 1980s (Cooled Blue, Rosy Outlook, Favorite Jeans). Was the chair reupholstered again, relegated to the basement, or given away?
It hangs on and gets a new look for the new century (Origami White, Tradewind and Aquitaine) . In 2010, it moves with my parents to a continuing care community. It spends a year in the apartment with both of them, then moves with my mother to her room in the dementia care unit. It doesn’t get much use there, but it is familiar to family and continues to serve by holding bags, purses, and coats when we visit. It was her chair, after all (I don’t recall my father ever sitting in it).
My mother passed away in November 2017. I hadn’t forgotten about the chair. My family assumed we would just leave it for the retirement community to dispose of or use as they saw fit. I told my family I wanted the chair; they were fine with this but surprised. I said, “I remember her drinking morning coffee there, and I always liked the lines of that chair.” I knew she had reupholstered it multiple times, so why couldn’t I do the same? I remembered it as a wide, bulky chair. How to get it from Ohio to Virginia? The retirement community was kind enough to store it for me for about six weeks (I could tell some of them thought I was a bit crazy too). Turns out it fit into my Honda CRV just fine (the chair seemed bigger when I was smaller), so it made the trip to Virginia during the December 2017 holidays. Upon its arrival, it continued to attract cats.
2018 arrives, and I go fabric shopping. Three stores. Thirty or more fabric samples. Three cats to consider. I find a print that I think will withstand the occasional hairball (and a fabric texture that won’t be attractive to claws). I drop it off to be reupholstered in mid-January 2018; they tell me no more than three weeks. It takes longer (folks out sick, emergencies, etc.). I’m fine with that; I want it done right. In early April, my husband asks me why I haven’t picked up the chair yet. I tell him I haven’t received a call about it being finished. He informs me they did call. “What?!?!” I overlooked the message. Turns out they called on March 22, which would have been my mother’s 91st birthday. As a friend said, “That’s serendipitous.”
I picked up the finished product on April 4. Even my husband approves. New seat cushion, springs re-tied, new fabric — but the same chair. I don’t have a 1950s drum table, but I do have a round side table that I pair with it. I know my mother would have approved. How many more years does this chair have? It seems to get reupholstered every 20 years, so at least that long, I expect. Welcome to your new home.