Saturday, 11 May 2013

Chair Safari

With the move imminent, it suddenly occurred to me that while we have a table, we have no chairs to sit on while we eat. I decided that this weekend it was time to remedy this situation and one way or another, score some chairs. I've been looking at chairs for a while now and baulking at the prices of your average wooden high street chair, I decided that for ours, we'd need to get creative if we wanted anything remotely stylish.

For a while, I was obsessed with classic bistro chairs like the one below:

However, being very much my mother's daughter, it has become clear that I have expensive tastes. The cheapest I could find these was on but at £160 a pair and in metal, they were out so I began obsessively scouring eBay but with no luck. The problem with chairs is that they're not exactly easy to post and while there are plenty lurking around, I didn't really feel that driving to Manchester or beyond was productive or economically viable.

Discussing our chair woes with my dear friend Hannah one night, she suggested that I should try the arches under Bethnal Green station in East London. They are largely filled with reclamation and house clearing businesses where chairs like the kind I was after are stacked high alongside mattresses, wardrobes and other bits of furniture. With Mr Flatzilla in Southampton for the day for work, I loaded Holly the sausage into the car and off we set to East London on our chair safari.

Only one of the businesses was open on Saturday but taking up three or four arches, there was plenty to explore down the narrow corridors with tables, stools and bed frames balanced precariously on either side of narrow corridors. Carrying Holly the sausage, I squeezed through a maze of plywood wardrobes, eyes trained skyward where all of the chairs were when suddenly amongst all of the office chairs, I spotted a pair of bentwood backs. I scurried back and grabbed one of the owners to get them down for me and £25 later, I had a pair of chairs exactly like the ones in Kent that I had obsessively stalked on eBay all of last week to no avail.

Pleased with my purchase, I drove home on a high with our new chairs in the boot and set up my workshop in my mum's living room where we're based at the moment.

In the darkness of the arches, I hadn't noticed quite how filthy they were.  So, I set to work in my mum's living room with some old crime dramas on TV to wile away the hours of scrubbing with a scourer, vinegar solution, toothbrush and toothpicks to dislodge years of grease, dust, paint and even old bacon from one of the chairs. I wish I was joking about that last part.

A few hours and a lot of elbow grease later, we have two nice chairs. We also now have a floor covered in Pledge which means that I spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to kill myself on the living room floor like a fat version of Bambi.

I'd originally planned to paint them but during the cleaning process, I found Mundus stamps on the underside and a quick google gave me a wealth of information about their history. From what I've gathered, these are pre-1914 before the company was bought out by Treton and worth quite a bit so I don't have the heart to mess with the past. Instead, I'm going to re-wax them in a dark cherrywood colour similar to what would've probably been their original colour and bring them back to their former glory.

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