Thursday, January 20, 2005

How to Wreck a Perfectly Good Day Off

I’ve mentioned before that I “suffer” from intermittent furniture anxiety (IFA). It strikes without warning, and it struck today--hard.

As often happens in January, work is slow, and I was looking forward to taking most of today off and all of tomorrow off. Yahoo! One thing I planned to do was trawl some of the antique/thrift/vintage shops on Hawthorne looking for that piece (or pieces) of furniture that would cure me of IFA forever! Maybe I’d even walk from 13th Ave. all the way to 50th and thereby get some exercise, too. It sounded like an excellent plan.

My first stop was a place called the Lounge Lizard that had one whole wall devoted to Sacred Heart Jesus pictures, a lot of those cotton-candy light fixtures, and some terribly sad-looking and overpriced furniture. In other words, nothing for me. I wasn’t more than a few yards out of the shop, when I noticed a 1930s chair that was very much to my liking sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. It was being sold by a dingy, signless shop of uncertain category. Was it a pawn shop? The place was binky small and crammed full of stuff. At least a dozen guitars hung from the ceiling and an old Moog synthesizer blocked me from doing any real exploring. But I didn’t need to. There, just inside the door, was a sofa that matched the 1930s chair. Wow, actual furniture that I actually really liked and that was comfortable and that was, presumably, for sale.

I wasn’t sure how to proceed. There was only about three square feet of clear floor space, and it was occupied by me and a cluster of three or four men of varying degrees of shadiness. I was clearly the only customer. I asked who was in charge and a beefy guy in a child’s cowboy hat said he was. He started talking up the sofa and the chair, which he’d obtained only “20 minutes ago.” The sofa turned out to be a sleeper sofa, and was possibly “one of the earliest ever made.” And guess what? It had never been used! Yeah, right. The velvety upholstery is shot all to hell, with the nap completely worn away in some places from people’s butts and forearms, but no one ever used the mattress part of it. I believe you. Thousands wouldn’t.

But I didn’t care about that, really. I was already busy thinking about how fantastic the pieces would look in our living room, once they were fumigated and reupholstered. The guy wanted $600 for both (wouldn’t sell them separately), but when he knocked the price down to $550 and told me he’d deliver them to the upholsterer of my choice--Deal!

So much for my plan to take a walk. I hopped in the car and stopped off at two upholsterers in my neighborhood only to find that they don’t have space to store stuff and that they have other pieces they are currently working on--that is, they weren't just waiting for me to walk through the door so they'd have something to do. Fancy that! They wouldn’t be able to even start on my stuff for three weeks or so. Gosh. I guess, I didn’t think this through. Now I'd either have to store the pieces (and all the vermin they probably contain) in our basement or rent a storage unit. And, oh yes. It would cost between $1,000 and $1,200 to get the sofa redone and another $500 for the chair. But I really liked them, so it would be worth--gasp--$2,250. I was in denial.

I got home and burst into B’s office to tell him. He was not thrilled. He asked me just how we would be able to fit those pieces into our modestly sized living room. B was extremely doubtful but offered to interrupt his work (the luxury of being self-employed) and go look at the pieces with me and measure them.

We arrived to find the man in the small cowboy hat and a henchman carrying the sofa out to a delivery truck. Oh dear. The thing suddenly seemed massive. We measured it. There was no way. The chair was already in the truck. It was upsidedown, which did not show it to best advantage. The fabric near the bottom was a complete tatter, and there was a spring sproinging out through a full-length diagonal rip in the underside of the chair. At that moment, it looked worse than the stuff people leave outside with FREE signs pinned to them. I unbought the pieces.

I now know this: There is room for only one more piece of sit-down furniture in our living room and that piece will have to be a chair. How could I think we had enough space for two sofas and another chair? Wishful thinking, I guess.

I already knew this, but I ignored it: If you’re going to buy a piece of furniture and have it reupholstered, you should pay $75 for it--tops. Ideally, it should be a piece of free furniture you have salvaged from your grandfather’s retirement home or scavenged from an alley or tree bank.

And here’s the worst of it. When we went back to the shop, I totally felt like the stereotypical impulsive, ding-a-ling woman whose husband has to act as the voice of reason and un-do her silliness. That is so not the impression I want to give out--not even to a man who wears a cowboy hat much too small for him.


Blogger Sharon said...

Ah, just a minor blip on the radar of life!

6:29 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...


I know. This whole intermittent furniture anxiety thing is so petty and inconsequential in the scheme of things. Don't I have anything more important and meaningful to worry about? Really, I should just shut up about it already.

I will say, however, now that it's about 16 hours later, I am *very* glad I didn't purchase those pieces. They really were in sorry shape. I'm sure the guy in the child's cowboy hat got them from some sweet little old lady and gave her $50 for both pieces. Oy! It would have been ridiculous and not really in our budget (at all) to pay so much money to have the pieces basically rebuilt--and that's what would have had to have been done.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Cagey said...

You're being too hard on yourself! Furniture choices are NOT inconsequential - furniture makes or breaks a room - it sets the whole theme. Also, had you given in, you would not have been the first victim of Impulse Purchasing, either. Sigh.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Oh, I can so relate...

We have a Broyhill recliner couch that we paid a lot of money for 7 years ago, assuming it would last forever. I hadn't factored in the upholstery thing, and children. The upholstery is now torn and the stuffing is coming out, but because of the design of the couch plus the fact that it's a reclining one... it will cost as much as a brand-new couch to redo it. And that's the loop we're in. So my living room is still a source of embarrassment with a ripped-up couch (a blanket is thrown over that never really hides the fact, of course). When I emerge from denial, I have bouts of IFA. You're not alone...

11:02 AM  
Blogger Kai Jones said...

The only thing I've ever bought at Lounge Lizard was a set of TV trays. The rest of the merchandise is just never quite what I'm looking for. I do like that hole-in-the-wall shop up the street, though! And there's a terrific place on Division at about 37th, called Portico. I bought my dining room table there.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...


"Inconsequential" was the wrong word, perhaps. Of course, you're right that the wrong piece of furniture can really affect a room. And who should know better than I? Haven't I already griped about that damn ugly leather chair in our living room for two whole blog entries? I guess I just feel a bit guilty focusing so much energy on interior decor with the world in the state it's in.


Freaky weird parallel universe! B and I just got back from looking at some Broyhill pieces. We didn't see anything suitable--maybe that's good, given their less -than-stellar ability to stand up to wear and tear. Isn't it easy to sort of "get used to"/"ignore" furniture that isn't quite up to par? We have some awful, scratched-up, watermarked end tables in our living room that I want to replace, but it doesn't seem to make sense to replace them until I solve the seating problems. It's a vicious IFA cycle.


I agree, Lounge Lizard looks a lot more promising on the outside than it does on the inside. Too bad. Portico is a cool place. I don't go there enough. I think it's one of those places where you have to shop early and often to snag the good stuff. I should head over there this weekend and check out what's currently on offer.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Rozanne, as usual I needed to be clear in my previous post.
The radar blip was concerning the closing paragraph in your wonderfully, well written piece, not the furniture side of things. I understand the furniture anxiety too well.

You can pick up some wonderful furniture items here at the local auctions. Antiques and collectibles usually go high but good used furniture goes for a song many times. In fact, did see a 1940's oak drop leaf table in excellent condition go for $37.50.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...


Thanks for the clarification. I thought you might be referring to the last paragraph but wasn't sure. I do think, however, that it isn't quite right for me to be so obsessed about furniture. I'm trying to put it in better perspective!

Wow. An oak table in excellent condition for $37.50! That is amazing. I used to go to estate sales and flea markets when I lived in the Midwest, and it was much easier to find good-quality used furniture there than it is out here. My brother and sister have both furnished their homes with fabulous stuff from estate sales. I don't know why I can't do that here. Maybe there are more antique dealers out here who snap up all the good stuff for next to nothing and then try to sell it to chumps like me.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you go often enough, and early enough you can often do well at Goodwill or the like. I've also had success at But you have to wade through massive amounts of 'junk'
Happy hunting. I sympathize Sistah,

9:30 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...


Weird coincidence. A friend just e-mailed me a Craiglist listing this morning for a chair she thought I might like. I always forget what a good resource it is.

12:36 PM  

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