|black-painted vintage Thonet No. 18 chair|
My friend Jeff and I spent a good chunk of last Saturday fixing up a chair—a vintage Thonet No. 18 bentwood café chair, beat-up but salvageable. This chair I had actually gotten for free from William Temple a few months ago (long story, mostly irrelevant, possibly karmic: lent Jeff some money to buy some furniture for resale, got a store discount, ended up with a free Thonet chair, not this antique peacock-patterned one we'd seen weeks earlier). The lines of the classic Thonet design were lovely, even if the feet were all chewed up, the frame splattered with yellow-and-red paint, and a chunk gouged out of the back.
|vintage Thonet No. 18 chair with paint splatters and gouges|
Free Thonet is always a good deal, even when needing work, since the design and engineering of the No. 18 chair have stood the test of time since 1876. Plus, the original finish was so far gone, I felt only a touch of guilt painting over it rather than restoring the wood. (Yes, the yellow-and-red paint splatters were cool in a bohemian-artist way, but the chair legs looked like a pack of dogs had been gnawing on them.)
|Thonet chair leg, original condition|
|vintage Thonet No. 18 chair, front view|
|vintage Thonet No. 18 chair, back view|
|vintage Thonet No. 18 chair|
While high-gloss black paint does showcase surface imperfections, it simultaneously adds chic to a room. Somebody famous in the design world (okay, Jan Showers) once said, "Every room needs a touch of black," something I've long adhered to intuitively. Black adds sophistication, mystery, and glamor—especially rich-looking when paired with wood and used with restraint. (Too much black and the place ends up looking like a bachelor pad.)
|vintage black Thonet No. 18 cafe chair|
And so I only have one dining chair so far, but it's a start. Better to have one chair I love than four—or forty!—I hate.
*It pays to befriend a furniture refinisher. Do check out Jeff's shop space (A6) at Hawthorne Vintage if you're in town and seeking mid-century modern design. He's a big blond Swedish type who enjoys rescuing sad MCM cast-offs, sanding out all the dings and water marks and making everything fresh again.