Treasures seem to appear at the most inopportune times! Yesterday morning, as my delightful Yorkshire Terriers Snoop Stacy were dragging me through our building’s basement at breakneck speed, I stumbled to a halt in front of a large, wooden framed arm chair that had clearly seen better days. The upholstery was worn, stained and tattered, but the intricately carved woodwork spoke of a grandiose past.
Being a lover of historical romance, I couldn’t help but think of the stories that must resonate within this gorgeous antique armchair. Perhaps a young Miss enjoyed her first clandestine meeting with a beau on that chair. Or maybe it was the favorite seat of a beloved grandfather who told stories while the little ones gathered round. The possibilities are truly endless.
Our apartment building was erected sometime after the Second World War. According to my super, many residents who entered the building as children grew up, but never left, choosing instead to start families of their own here. (Since our building faces one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Queens, I can’t say I blame them). Anyway, this little bit of history helps to explain why I would find such an old, beautiful piece of furniture destined for the trash pile in our shared basement. It’s entirely possible this chair has been sitting in our building for seventy years; how could I ever send it to the dump?
So that you can fully appreciate me trying to guide two leashed dogs down a narrow basement hallway while pushing a massive,
heavy antique, here is what Snoop Stacy look like (Do not take their tiny stature as an indication of strength. These two could rip an arm from its socket.):
So, accompanied by my two tiny dogs, I dragged that chair through the hallway and shoved it into the elevator. Getting it through the doorway of the elevator was a task in itself. We don’t have a sleek, modern, fancy elevator with doors that slide open (ok, so that’s actually a normal elevator, but whatever, our building has character). Nope, it’s a vintage metal door that you swing open yourself after a tiny sliding door has cleared a narrow passageway for you to squeeze into. (This confused my girlfriends very much the time I invited them to brunch.)
This is where things got fun.
I directed my dogs in first, because puppy safety is my number one priority. For once in their wild little lives they decided to sit quietly in the corner of the elevator and allow momma to really get some grunt work done. The chair was wider than the elevator and it took some funky maneuvering to get it in. Serious props to whoever got the chair to the basement in the first place—I wish we could have saved one another the trip.
Then of course there was getting off the elevator. Once again, dogs first. They sat and watched mom grunt and sweat while trying to shimmy the chair back out of the impossibly narrow elevator doorway.
Now we’re in the hall. I’m afraid to bring the chair into the apartment. What if it’s infested with vermin and that’s why it was ditched? Suddenly an episode of The Big Bang Theory pops into my head. Penny finds a pretty red arm chair in an alley and takes it home. Of course Penny’s chair was infested. I clearly have not thought this through.
So I get the dogs inside the apartment and hastily pen a “Reclaimed by 4B” sign to tape to the chair in the hall. I grab my magical dust buster and call the only person I know who will somehow be able to detect bedbugs over the phone: my mother.
While we talk, I dust bust the hell out of this thing. I rip off the seat cushion and shove the vacuum’s nozzle into every corner and crevice. I am satisfied when nothing horrifying comes out.
The whole time, my mom is coaching me to look for black dots. Apparently black dots = bed bugs. She pushes the issue, “Are you sure you don’t see any black dots?”
“Nope, none to report.”
We determine that the chair is safe to move into the apartment.
Of course, I’m still not satisfied that it’s pest-free. My solution? Wrap the entire chair in garbage bags. Yes, I really did do that.
But before giving my salvaged chair the good old-fashioned Grandma plastic treatment, I snapped a series of photos and sent them to my husband. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about whether or not he would like it!
I shouldn’t have been. He was as enthusiastic as could be over text, but any doubts that remained were immediately eradicated when he got home. He ripped my protective plastic coating from the chair and immediately began to inspect the structure for any flaws or signs of pests (he is a fantastic carpenter, after all). Once he was satisfied with the condition of the chair, he settled himself in the seat as regal as can be. Our dog Snoop even joined him on the chair, which seemed fair since he technically helped find it after our morning walk.
The next step is to find a craftsperson who is capable of restoring this chair to its former glory. My husband wants go with deep red, tufted leather. I think this sounds gorgeous, but also insanely expensive, so we’ll see!
As for the chair’s true history: So far we’ve determined that the chair has been reupholstered at least twice. Unfortunately we’ve yet to find any visible labels or markings beneath the chair. I am hoping that a reputable vendor will be able to at least identify what period the piece is from. If any history buffs out there recognize the style, please let us know in the comments below!