When my wife’s paternal grandparents sold the modern house they had built in the early1950’s just south of Seattle, we inherited a great deal of their mid-century furniture when no one else in the family wanted it. We were thrilled to get it, of course, seeing as it replaced a great deal of particle board and plywood we were living with at the time.
All of the furniture had been collected over a lifetime - nothing in the house was ever replaced in the 50 years my wife’s grandparents lived there. But the house had distinctly different décor throughout the decades, mostly because my wife’s grandmother sent things out to be reupholstered every 15-20 years.
Through photographs and family stories, we have deduced that the furniture we inherited is currently in its third incarnation. Sometime during the 70’s, all of the upholstery was sent out at the same time. A sofa (which we never owned) was covered in salmon colored cotton velvet, a large lounge chair was covered in a pink, green, and taupe velvet stripe, and three different Danish chairs were covered in a psychedelic floral just this side of tame.
When we got these floral chairs, I was definitely not enamored with the pattern, which is a woven design. Taking myself fairly seriously, I slip covered them in black. (This was during the time Cara and I were in design school). Once I got over myself, the covers came off. We’ve lived with this floral as the main pattern in our home ever since, and are quite fond of it. It reminds us of my wife’s grandmother, a ballet dancer and true aesthete.
But beyond sentiment, the fabric is also a daily reminder to me about quality in materials and lifecycle for home furnishings. Our furniture is sixty-plus years old, and the fabric is more than thirty. In an industry driven by aggressive consumption, textiles can be an enormous source of waste. Because of their inherent fragility compared to other components of an interior, they need to be replaced with more frequency than other things. But because there is also a particular degree of fashion related to fabric that changes faster than other surface materials, textiles are often discarded before they become obsolete.
When we’re specifying textiles, we think hard about lifespan and try to balance value with longevity. Good fabric is an investment worth making when you understand how to get the most use out of it – which relates not only to the technical qualities of different fibers, but also to aesthetics. These crazy green woven daisies remind me of that.
And as a final note, now that we’re firmly settled in Seattle and not moving in the foreseeable future, most of our furniture is finally being recovered again. One of these chairs was just repaired, refinished in a darker stain, and is about to be upholstered in an homage to my wife’s grandmother: another floral embroidery, but this time handmade, instead of machine-made, and a little more subtle in hue - dark brown to temper the sweetness of the embroidery’s subject material. My upholsterer is saving the daisies for me so I can have them made into cushions.