A Tale of Two Chairs

When we moved into our loft I knew I wanted to have two sofas and a pair of matching arm chairs in our living area. I've always loved bergere chairs, so I looked on Craigslist for a while for a pair. The only pair that came up during that month or two were $800. No bueno for me since the plan was to reupholster. Then I found a pair of these Antonia chairs from Ballard on eBay.


The seller said they were floor samples or returns because they were brand new with the tags. The price was right at $400 for the pair, so I bought them and had them shipped from Virginia. Long story short, I picked up the chairs from a freight company in PA a couple days later late at night. It had been a really long installation day and the chairs were really well packed, so I didn't inspect them as thoroughly as I should have before signing off on the delivery and heading home to NYC. Turned out that the internal back structure was made of chipboard (hello! cheap!!) and the board of one of the chairs was completely cracked in half. The problem was only visible looking at the chair from behind, but it totally made a weird sound when you sat down against the chair back. Bummer. But I was planning on having them upholstered anyway, so we could have the broken frame repaired then.

Soon though, a bigger bummer was apparent. The chairs were flat out uncomfortable. They were stiff and awkward and absolutely impossible to lounge in. I noticed that we avoided sitting in them and I always felt a little guilty if guests had to sit in the chairs.

But they were a pretty shape and I tried hard to make them work for a while. Looking back, the sheer amount of time I was taking to make a decision about the upholstery material should have been a red flag for how much I hated these chairs! I almost bought leather to reupholster them in. It would have looked great, but the underlying problem of the chairs not being comfortable would still be there.


Here's the thing that I most wanted to share with you today: It is so easy to get tunnel vision when you are decorating. I get stuck in the "make it work" mind set, which I think can be really great most of the time. I feel like that is the responsible way to decorate for 95% of decorating scenarios. But there are some situations where it truly makes the most sense to cut your losses and scrap the piece of furniture or the idea. I recognize that usually the reason I try to "make it work" is to justify the cost of the item. The bottom line though is sometimes mistakes are made. Chairs get damaged in transit. Or they look pretty online, but are awkward and uncomfortable to sit in. It happens. Rather than dumping more money into the room that you won't ever be truly happy with anyway, consider craigslisting the piece and use the proceeds to find something new that better suits the needs of the room. As soon as I decided to sell the Ballard bergeres the choices for the rest of the room sort of presented themselves and everything in the space made sense again.

And in a stroke of good luck I stumbled across a pair of mid-century bergeres with great potential at Granny's Antiques in NJ last week. They are so, SO comfortable! I find myself sitting in the chairs more than our comfy sofas these days. And guess what? They cost only half the price of my old Ballard chairs, so I'm sure I'll be able to recoup the cost and then some when I sell the old pair.


This week I'm reupholstering the chairs and painting the frames. Tomorrow I'll share the photos of the first steps. Here's a sneak peek. Remember this Victoria Hagan fabric? I had just enough in my stash for the pair!

37 comments:

Katy said...

That is so funny, we must have been looking for a set of Bergere chairs at the same time, cause I remember those from Ebay. I was considering them when they got swooped up.
Too bad about the comfort level. But, your new chairs are envy worthy.

laxsupermom said...

I have such a hard time pulling the trigger that I rarely have a make it work scenario, but I've also had to pull out uncomfortable and ugly folding chairs on occasion so that's even worse than just uncomfortable. Love the new chairs! Can't wait to see them finished.

Jennifer said...

Great post. I agree--sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the "make it work" mentality! Your before chairs look great, but weren't meant to be. The new ones are so pretty! A good reminder that sometimes you have to go in a different direction.

Beau lifestyle said...

I understand you totally, I had shipped a table and 4 chairs all of vintage bamboo and received 3 chairs totally broken into pieces.
The transport only costed me 400 dollars and the chairs are not able to be repaired. So a big loss it was.
now I have found some new chairs to replace the broken ones...

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

Oh your chairs look awesome!!

Whitney said...

Jenny, what an excellent post about tunnel vision and getting wrapped up in a single idea! We all should try to step back from our projects to see what's working and what isn't working (even if it seems like a defeat).
I try to remember that furniture can be like clothes; If the jeans don't fit well, they probably won't fit well in a few months, so they're just sucking up closet space. The same is true for furnishings that just don't work.
Thank goodness for Craigslist and eBay so that we can sell the castoffs! Good luck with the new chairs - can't wait to see pics!

Rachel said...

Furniture is one of those things, like jeans, I won't buy unless I can try it first. Especially when it is something you plan on sitting and using a lot! Comfort comes before price, well mostly.

Barbie said...

That's a great tip. I love the new chairs and the fabric is awesome! Can't wait for the tutorial and more photos!

Beth said...

Oooo i just finished upholstering a pair exactly like this! i found them for $12 each at a thrift shop in perfect condition! i'll send over pictures of the before and after today:) i can't wait to see yours!!!

Anonymous said...

Will you list them as, "a terribly uncomfortable pair of chairs that are just right for your home if you don't plan to sit on them"?

Jenny at LGN said...

Anon- I plan to list them as more formal chairs. It's not that they're terribly uncomfortable for casual use, but they're not TV lounging chairs for sure like we need. Thanks for your comment.

j

Splendid Sass said...

Sorry about your experience with the chairs, Jenny. Love the new one. Looks so comfortable.
Can't wait to see the finished chair.
Teresa
xoxo

Once Upon a Tulip said...

I love those chairs, just the something I need in my living room! Maybe it will be one of the next things I look for online...

derek and said...

Oooooo!! I bet those turn out beautifully! I can't wait to see the end result :)

Helen Macfarlane said...

I've been dying to redo some chairs and can't wait for your tutorial! Always inspirational.

Annie said...

wow funny how things present themselves! The new chairs will look great!! I can't wait to see full pictures of the space!

Lisa said...

"tunnel vision"! well said, I am a repeat offender for sure. I have been wanting to venture out to Granny's myself, however it is about 3.5 hours(one way)from me and I am concerned that it could be hit or miss type of place, ala goodwill, or to pricey...that's a long trip to come home empty handed!

JTay said...

Loooove the new chairs!

Kim said...

Ok, I've never been a very good Craigslister because I have never been able to find exactly what I am looking for. I am sure a lot has to do with my area but do you search for specific items (by name, brand, etc) or do you just search general and go through every post? I am sure the latter would probably yield more results but I am sure it probably takes a good amount of time to go through. I love the chairs btw!

Naomi@DesignManifest said...

Oh no! I just ordered these chairs for my clients. (COM too, so not returnable.)
Wish this post had come a week sooner :(

They aren't for TV watching, but they will be sat on. Do you think if the seat cushions were replaced with down that they would be better?

Jenny at LGN said...

Hi Kim- I'm working on a Dear Jenny post for Craigslist and eBay search tips. Look for that one soon!

Naomi- I should clarify that the chairs are not completely uncomfortable. They are nice chairs and totally fine for sitting in for shorter periods of time. They are most definitely not for lounging though, especially for a bigger person (like a tall man for example is usually super uncomfortable looking in the chairs). No good for a tv room, but perfect for a front room/conversation room situation. I'm sure your client's chairs will be lovely!!

xx

paula said...

can't wait to see the final product!

Naomi@DesignManifest said...

Thanks for the follow-up Jenny!

Looking forward to seeing your (comfy) chair re-do.

amber wallace said...

What a bummer for the first pair! Love the second. I'm looking forward to the project.

Elizabeth said...

Great post, and great lessons. I think in this economy people are definately in the make it work mode, and you are so right sometimes it is better to cut your losses.

Cannot wait to see the new chairs. Will you post a step by step on how to upholster the chairs?

Robyn @ Imperfect Nest said...

Great post! I've searched and searched Craigslist for the perfect dresser. I almost made a compromise, but so happy I didn't.

Can't wait to see the tutorial on the re-upholstery job. I've got two lovely ladies (chairs) just waiting for a new outfit in my garage.

Hana said...

what a bummer, thanks for sharing about it. the new (old) chairs will look great! i have been trying to convince myself for over a year that a set of faux bamboo chippendale armchairs are working... even though they just aren't. can't wait to see your reupholstery project! go jenny! xo

JWK said...

Such good advice, love the new pair of chairs!!

Cathleen said...

Jenny- it's kismet! The Granny's chairs are beautiful and I'm really looking forward to seeing how they look in their new gowns. Did you teach yourself how to reupholster or did you have some direction from someone?

The World Tour said...

great post

xoxo

T from THE WORLD TOUR
A couple of lovers sailing around the world.
http://sailingaroundtheglobe.blogspot.com

Erika Ward said...

I lucked up on a bergere chair [just like this one] for $15 at the Goodwill. I tweeted about it and no one believed me until I also showed a picture of the receipt. Shucks, I couldn't believe it myself. I got outta there so fast because it was just a great deal I felt like I stole something...It's still sitting in my family room in its original condition. Looking forward to you post. Afterward, I may [or may not] have the courage to reupholster mine!

Jennifer said...

Great post! It is SO easy to hang onto things that don't work just because of the investment that's already been made - be it time or money. Glad you found a pair of chairs you like better!

Staci said...

Such great advice, I find myself hanging onto "stuff" all the time because I feel guilty that I spent the money even though I really don't love the piece. I can't wait to see your new chairs, I'm sure they will be gorgeous!

Kristy @ I Design Love said...

I have been looking for a pair of bergere chairs forever! I love the Ballard chairs that you found, they look great.

Westhampton DIY said...

Dear Jenny,

I upholstered my first chair this year. Look like you probably have far more experience with this than I, but here is my link in case it can be of any help:-)
http://westhamptondiy.blogspot.com/2011/01/reupholstering-green-chair.html
Good luck! It's so much work. Now I know why the professionals charge so much!
Best,
Carson

Style Studio said...

Loved following you through the reperfecting of these chairs. I myself do this all the time for my store and for clients, but it's much more fun watching you do it...and my knuckles don't have cuts all over the,! :) Thanks for sharing-

Tanya
www.stylestudiollc.com

Hilary Dow-Ward said...

You are such an inspiration! Thanks Jenny for sharing! Check out my post on your transformation!

http://hilarydowward.blogspot.com/2011/07/new-chairy-love.html

Happy Sunday-Funday.

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