Sunday, December 30, 2007

The word of the day is: SAD - but, I'm happy!

Originally uploaded by gimbler
Our last house was only two years old when we bought it. I think we had a pry bar and sledgehammer in the trunk when we went to the settlement table. Our very first act after getting the keys was to completely gut the kitchen. Next came the powder room and at one point there was a toilet next to the fridge in the living room.

This memory is one of the reasons that my husband promised to never try to talk me into buying a new house again. It doesn't matter to me that the electrical is up to code, the drains drain or that the heater heats - I've got tools and I gotta be me.

Once the new kitchen was finished it was, in our estimation, pretty fabulous except... something.... Something was missing. You know that "not quite right" feeling in a room. It was shiny and new and we finally realized what it was missing - something OLD. Something to juxtapose all that "perfection", our "ying" needed some "yang"!

I can't remember how we arrived at the decision to remedy this situation by adding a chrome and formica table with vinyl chairs into the mix, but we did. We started scouring ebay and local auctions looking for a red "cracked ice" table. You know the routine I'm sure - "this one's too big", "this one's too small" etc and then one day I saw them - across the room - they called to me. Four simple black wooden chairs that looked like something my grandfather would have put together in the basement with a copy of Popular Mechanics at his side.

At first glance hubby poo-pooed them. They weren't what we were looking for. I pouted. I made him sit on them. I gave him "the eyes". I promised things we both knew I'd never deliver on - but, it didn't matter - cause we got the chairs!

While loading them up I noticed a paper label under the seat of one of the chairs. H. T. Cushman Mfg Co. That sounded vaguely familiar... I googled the company up and found quite an interesting history such as Henry T. Cushman was the man who came up with the idea to attach an eraser to the end of a pencil. You can read about H.T. Cushman here if you'd like.

Well, the chairs were perfect for the kitchen and just the touch it needed. Hubby was in complete agreement on this and we completely reversed gears on the red cracked ice table and found a nice old enamel top table with chrome legs that didn't match the chairs but certainly complimented them.

Time went on, and last year we sold our house and moved to Pittsburgh. I remember telling the mover that the kitchen chairs were "my most prized possession". I don't know if that's true but it seemed the thing to say at the time as he was gingerly swinging one around in each hand.

From time to time I try to find out more info about the chairs but always come up empty. I've never seen another set like them. I think they're from a 1920's bridge set (each of the chairs has a playing card suit cutout in the back splat). They're simply constructed in an arts and crafts fashion with the little pyramid shape on the top of the backrests and held together with bolts.

Last night I emailed a gentleman whose name I found on a Vermont website who was listed as an authority on Cushman furniture, and included a poor quality photo showing two of the chairs that are currently in our entryway. Yeah, I still call them my kitchen chairs - but, this house's kitchen is a lot smaller and being that the chairs and house are from the same era they seem to be at home wherever I place them.

I didn't expect to get a response over the weekend, but Mr. Gertz replied very promptly this morning and seemed cautiously excited. So now I am too! Of course he requested more and better photos and since today was a workday for me I'm grateful that hubby picked up my slack and hauled the chairs out into the daylight to take some decent photos with our cheap digital camera.

He was also kind enough to upload the pics and send them to Mr. Gertz but in the text of the message he mentioned something about being " see the black paint drips remaining from whatever idiot painted over the original finish."

I never knew that he was "saddened" about our chairs being painted black some decades ago. I LIKE the paint, and the worn spots, and the tiny paint spatters where someone used a roller nearby but no tarp. Maybe in the end it will detract from their monetary value... but, "saddened"? They're pretty damned cool - we got them for a song - and I think their mystery is about to be revealed. I'm psyched!

I called my son's longtime ex-girlfriend over lunch to tell her the news - our chairs are "rare" and may be "fairly valuable"! The girl is like a daughter I never had and I knew this would be right up her alley. We could talk design and renovation all day! Our conversation turned to auctions, antiques, and finally to Ikea. It seems there's no Ikea near their home and she's been trying to talk her current boyfriend into taking a day trip to one. He's unfamiliar with Ikea and apparently not too keen on the idea - asking her "isn't it just a furniture store?".

She told me that she assured him that she too was sad when she first learned she was being taken to a furniture store! I laughed my ass off at that! It was me that drug her off to the Gulph Mills Ikea Grand Opening! She was a teenager at the time and never even occurred to me that driving an hour to spend a Saturday at a furniture store wasn't her idea of fun! LOL We did have a blast though, bless her little heart. And I know she reads this blog so I want her to know she made my day.

So, today I learned (or re-learned) two things:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that I am insensitive and blissfully unaware of the feelings of those I love.

UPDATE: Mr. Gertz replied this morning and says that he's never seen Cushman bridge chairs from the arts and crafts era and that they are "very rare indeed"! :o) He was kind enough to include photos of a later Cushman's "Colonial Collection" bridge set that aside from the cut-out back splats are worlds away from the style of our chairs. Mr. Gertz can date our chairs to between 1915 and 1930. For reasons I cannot even articulate I feel fairly confident that they were made in the 1920's. Take that for what it's worth... Oh, and speaking of worth - he feels that a collector might value the set in range of $400 to $600. Not bad for an $80 investment that I don't plan to ever part with anyway.

How lucky were we to be in just the right place at just the right time that this set went to auction?


Sandy said...

I really like those chairs, too! What a find for you. And, yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, let Mr. G. be sad and you be glad you have them and enjoy!

Wishing you happiness, love, health and prosperity in the New Year!

SmilingJudy said...

I have a thing for random lonely chairs. Have to buy them. I'll probably never buy a set.

THAT is a set I would buy. Sooo cute! Love them!

We are in said...

Oh, Judy that's so funny! I have a similar "thing" for dishes. None of our dinnerware matches and we like it that way. A couple of Thanksgivings ago my MIL tried to give us money to buy a matching set. She's so sweet - but just can't understand why we'd actually want random, mis-matched dishes.

Mr Schmagagy said...

Hi and thanks for your blog. My wife and I havea dining room set by Cushman Colonials and other pieces. I was wondering how to get in touch with Mr Gertz. Would you have his email address. I am thinking of finding a refinisher/ restorer. The chairs and the table are in excellent shape..but the chairs are becoming worn from daily use. They probably should show wear given their age. It would be interesting to speak with someone who knows their stuff.

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