Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I Surprise Myself When I Buy Furniture

Apparently, I am incapable of knowing my own mind when it comes to furniture. Because I often end a long period of careful research and total agony by purchasing items that are the exact opposite of what I thought I wanted.

When I recently bought dressers for my bedroom, I had planned for close to a year to buy new, dark, modern-style dressers from Ikea.

I ended up with vintage mid-century blonde wood dressers. And I love them.

By the time I'd decided that this sentimental but ugly little piece was not returning to my living room (which I wrote about here), I'd already done some considerable thinking about what I'd want in an armchair.

My house was built in 1939, I like mid-century style furniture, and I like a lot of retro-style home decor in general; but I'm not slavishly attached to any one era, nor do I want everything to be all one style. You may politely call this eclectic or more accurately call this confused, but as far as decor styles go, I have big commitment problems.

I know that I am not afraid of color. Builder's beige and white walls has never been my thing. I want it to look like I, personally, live in my house.

This was sort of a big deal. The chair was going to be a new furniture purchase, in fact the first significant one since I bought this house four years ago. A lot of that was driven by budget and some by taste, but either way, I wanted to make sure it was the right thing. Buyer's regret on furniture can be a lot like a Vegas marriage. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you're stuck living with something that only looked good under the showy lights.

I took a good long look at a lot of chairs like this one from Thrive. I heart this chair pretty hard:

Image Source: Thrive

That suits a more 1950s through 1960s vibe, and I like the simple lines. Since my house touches on the 1930s Colonial Revival period, I also considered something along the lines of a more traditional channel-back armchair, like this one featured on Houzz:

I felt very "meh" about the channel-back armchair direction. "Meh" isn't a good enough justification to spend money. And several months looking and thinking online didn't get me to pull the trigger mail-ordering a chair from Thrive. If you're going to invite a piece of furniture to stay in your living room for the better part of a decade or more, you sorta want to meet it at least once before it comes home with you.

I'm glad I did. When I went shopping, I was surprised by the mid-century style chairs. That big boxy mod style is quite popular right now, finally making it a buyer's paradise for people who've loved it all along. But they are deep, front to back. Really deep. Really, REALLY deep. I'm a taller woman, 5'8", and my feet didn't touch the floor when my lower back was comfortably against the back cushions. It felt weird, and I found myself butt-scooting all over the chair, trying to find a comfortable place. They are also very wide. Very, very wide. Which in my narrow living room was going to be a problem.

That can be a problem, though, with almost all styles of chairs. Modern furniture is often too massive and out-of-scale in older, smaller homes.

I looked at a lot of vibrantly colored chairs. My sofa is deep brown, so I knew I wanted a counter-point to all that darkness. But each one seemed a little too....too. Too graphic. Too loud. Too trendy. Too not-the-quite-right-shade of whatever. It was getting pretty Goldilocks up in that furniture store.

This oatmeal tweed chair was my final choice. I am happy with it, but I am surprised, as usual, that I am. Because it totally was not what I thought I wanted.

Initially, I was worried that I was buying the arm chair equivalent of a boob light. Bland. Builder's grade. Typical. Beige. Unremarkable.

But I like the simple lines. I like the toasty, tweedy, almost sweater-like look to it. It fits the space. I like that it plays the low-key tailored gentleman to my much-loved strong greens and wilder rug, and yet still is a good contrast to my dark, dark sofa.

I'm okay with it being a safer choice. Considering the investment and the amount of time I'll have it, I can take bigger risks with paint, drapes, pillows, and other less expensive items.

It partners well with my vintage ottoman, which is a just-right size for my living room.

And though it's not something you can see in photos, it's a comfy yet rather firm chair. My sofa is a little squishy, and I like having a mix of seating in one room. That way everyone can be comfortable.

Here is the entire east end of the living room. I'm looking forward now to painting and getting some drapes on the windows.

Have you ever suprised yourself with your home decor decisions? Did you regret it, or did you love it?


  1. I think your choice of chair is perfect! I, too, have wondered how people can buy furniture online without sitting on it and kicking its tires, so to speak.

    My surprise design choice is my most recent ... the choice of bright patterned drapery fabric in our dining room and family room. I have always been a white drapes sort of gal. This house doesn't really suit that style. As soon as I saw this fabric at the store, I knew that it would be perfect ... and it is!

    1. I just checked out the drapes on your blog. Perfect! It's interesting how we come to these decisions. Sometimes it's logic, but there's a lot of intuition to it too.