I confess. I have an addiction to modern chairs. I have accumulated so many that my wife, Terri, often shakes her head in exasperation whenever I bring home my latest acquisition or junk find. “Why did you buy that?” and “Where are you going to put it?” have become the reflex responses. It all started one day in 1998 at an antique store in Helena, Arkansas while I was visiting a friend in Louisiana. Two seasoned young men were taking a break from refinishing turn of the century furniture, and one of them was sitting in the chair pictured above. I had no idea what the chair was or who made it, or even where I was going to put it, but the unusual shape caught my eye. I asked them if I could give it a spin. One said okay. The chair was surprisingly comfortable. I knew it wasn’t for sale, but offered $50 cash on a whim anyway. Both quickly declined, saying, “Oh no, it isn’t for sale — this is our sitting chair!” I pressed again to no avail and left, but one of the men followed me out to my truck and said, “We’ll take it.” I loaded it and began my journey back to Lawrence. Little did I know the chair would lead to an obsession with midcentury architecture and ultimately to our current home on Owens Lane. When I got back to Lawrence, I showed the chair to a neighbor who confirmed it was an Eames Aluminum Group chair made by a furniture company called Herman Miller. I later learned this model was first released in 1958 and is still sold by the company. It became my office chair at work.
Shortly after the Aluminum Group chair purchase, Terri and I were looking through a magazine and saw an Eames 670/671 Lounge Chair and Ottoman. She said, “Oh, I really like that.” I gasped at the price, however, and said I would never spend that much money on a chair. (A new one from Herman Miller costs more than $5,000.) A couple weeks later I was driving down an alley in Old West Lawrence and spotted an original (Rosewood) Eames 670/671 lounge chair and ottoman near a pair of trash cans. I couldn’t believe it. The leather was ruined but the shells were in excellent condition. I had them recovered by an upholstery shop in Kansas City for under a $1,000. The chair is still in our living room. It’s supremely comfortable, and the smell of the leather and exotic rosewood shells make sitting in it all the more pleasureable.
After these two very fortunate furniture finds I began to scour every garage sale, yard sale and estate sale in Lawrence on the hunt for more modern furniture. Our home is now filled with vintage furniture and objects — Hans Wegner chairs and tables, George Nelson bubble lamps, an Isamu Noguchi coffee table, pieces by Charles and Ray Eames, and other mod stuff. To make a long story short, my chair fetish sparked an interest in modern design and eventually led to the home we currently live in. It also led to Lawrence Modern. They (the chairs) opened up many doors (literally) for me to meet many wonderful people, photograph beautiful houses and learn more about our rich history of modernism here in Lawrence.