That Time I Bought a Couch at JCPenney (Buying Vintage vs Reproduction Furniture)

mid century style couch sofa chair charcoal JC Penney Darrin gray tufted bolster pillow upholsteredSo, this is probably a bit overdue since I wrote this almost a year ago and never got around to posting (oops)…And now it looks like the couch is permanently on clearance (along with the leather version here)….And the chair is gone….However, it’s possible this may be useful to someone and I’ve been mentioning it lately without giving the info, so here it goes.

Barring personal type items and things that are toxic (radioactive red Fiesta), I will almost always choose the vintage version of something over a new one. When it comes to furniture, I’m a design fan and collecting vintage makes my heart soar, though I think many modern companies are coming out with beautiful work too and I’m not above buying their stuff. CB2, I love you! But I not talking new here, just new copies of old designs. Actual real pieces are always better than their copy so in the reproduction “vintage” vs true vintage contest, original wins.

But sometimes, for whatever reason, original is not possible or ideal. In this house, we’ve purchased a few reproduction items: our Modernica Nelson Bubble lamp, our kitchen faux Eames shell chairs, and one of our couches. The lamp was out of sheer cost: I couldn’t find or afford the real thing and it was the one piece that I had wanted bad enough for years that I finally felt ready to unabashedly sell-out for (vintage ones in decent condition are so hard to find…they are made of paper, after all). The kitchen chairs were out of principle: I knew the chairs would be trashed and covered in food by my sweet children. I wouldn’t dare put vintage in there, at this season of our family’s life. (What is more insulting to a furniture designer: to buy a knock-off of their design or let your kids trash an original?) So, although I think the repro is tacky and borderline intellectual and creative thievery, I bought them because they were the cutest new/used option in my price range. (How are they so cheap on amazon??? It’s iffy, and I participated and don’t feel great about it.) And then there was that time I bought a mid century style couch at JC Penney…mid century style couch sofa chair charcoal JC Penney Darrin gray tufted bolster pillow upholsteredThis saga started a long time ago with this adorable vintage couch and chair set, below. The fabric was a super cool vintage metallic frieze that needed replacing. The cushions were springy and saggy. I’m embarrassed to say that I moved TWICE (huge moves too: NC>OH and OH>CA) with them with the intention of reupholstering when we settled into a long term housing situation.
mid century sofa chair couch vintage frieze fabric metallic brown upholstery mid century chair sofa couch vintage frieze fabric metallic brown upholstery First off, let me tell you how overwhelming it is to choose fabric (let alone even a color) when your options are literally every fabric in existence. I was adrift. I finally sort of settled on some cute nubby stuff, still lost on the color, that was a decent value but not cheap. The fabric alone was going to be in the $500-700 range, and then the actual labor for reupholstering another $2000 minimum. All this, not including new foam, which it desperately needed.This couch is clearly awesome and much cooler than most new couches. But the price and work involved didn’t make sense for a piece in our family room that would see heavy use by youngins’. It didn’t seem like the right move. Especially when I compared it with “good enough” new repro style couches. So I sadly sold it. (Weirdest story: This was purchased very late at night by a Japanese furniture dealer who drove up on a whim from LA with the intention of shipping it in a container back to Japan because mid century pieces, especially the American vernacular, are in high demand there. $$$ What’s it doing now?)mid century chair sofa couch vintage frieze fabric metallic brown upholstery I know it’s pretty random to buy a couch online from JC Penney, but that is where I ended up. I was online checking out Jonathan Adler’s JCP stuff and Darrin links kept popping up. I was totally surprised, impressed and quickly SOLD. The color was very close to what I already had in mind. The price was unbeatable. I bought during a sale and got both for $1200…I know!!!

I loved that there was a matching chair. That made choosing this over the vintage matched set a little easier. I know matching furniture isn’t very popular these days, but I love a matching chair and couch! It’s such a classic mid century design element. Mismatched things for the sake of mismatching is not my thing. And also, modern day sectionals don’t move me. So the couch + chairs was a dream come true.mid century style couch sofa chair charcoal JC Penney Darrin gray tufted bolster pillow upholstered


Here’s the lowdown on Darrin…

Color: I wouldn’t say it’s graphite as there is a definite blue tint to it in person. It is very dark and hard to photograph, but this is pretty close, as is the above.mid century style couch sofa chair charcoal JC Penney Darrin gray tufted bolster pillow upholsteredFabric: Pretty cute. Not nubby = sad. But has some texture with variation in the weaving = good. Here’s a hugely blown out example so you can see the detail.mid century style couch sofa chair charcoal JC Penney Darrin gray tufted bolster pillow upholsteredSize: Measure! This is so huge. Borderline gigantic. Especially the chair, which is nearly a two seater. My 6 footer husband can easily stretch out on the couch and there is plenty of spooning room. Great in my large room, but wouldn’t be good for every space. mid century style couch sofa chair charcoal JC Penney Darrin gray tufted bolster pillow upholsteredLegs: They’re OK. Color is good, standard walnut. But their bulkiness reads contemporary repro, not true vintage. I’m planning on replacing them with vintage trim tapers.mid century style couch sofa chair charcoal JC Penney Darrin gray tufted bolster pillow upholsteredComfort: Probably not the most comfortable couch in the world, but far better than any vintage couch I’ve ever owned! The back cushions are down, which is a bit squishy/floppy for my tastes. mid century style couch sofa chair charcoal JC Penney Darrin gray tufted bolster pillow upholsteredDoes it off-gas? YES. I always wonder about this, does anyone else? We had to air it out for a few days in our den with the door open and then it was fine. Definitely made in China, definitely not organic cotton, definitely treated with fire-retardant and probably some stain guard. I hate all that stuff but struggled to find new upholstery fabric free of it. Also, the vintage set needed new foam anyways and would have been an off-gaser itself.

Would I recommend it? For the sale price, enthusiastically YES! For retail, no because there are better options out there. If you are in the market for a new repro style couch, A Beautiful Mess just did a thorough roundup of mid century looking couches that is really good. Definitely check it out before you buy! And, I’ll mention that I would have purchased a couch from Thrive if I hadn’t stumbled upon the JCP. I’ve seen Thrive’s furniture in person and it is all gorgeous and extremely comfortable, and there is often deeply discounted furniture if you are able to visit their actual store! Thanks for reading everybody!


Fences and Acquisitions

fence primingHey everybody! I’ve been doing so much painting around here and zero blogging, laundry, cooking, nail upkeep, vacuuming, or toilet scrubbing. Basically, me and my house are disgusting, but my fences are looking fresh. I spent the last few weeks repairing and painting a shared fence with our neighbor and then I got to looking at my backyard fences. They were so bad that I panicked and started to paint them before El Nino supposedly arrives. And then I found termites (live ones in the ground and the fence!) when prepping for paint so that’s added hours and drama. And then my thoughts turned towards my peeling house and my wonderful neighbor had the idea that I should just paint the woodwork myself (half is stucco and just needs washing, she noted, and it would be good for at least a few more years…genius! Thanks!!!) so that is on deck, and soon because people won’t shut up about how much rain is coming. Plus, I still have the dining/family room painting on my mind, though it may not happen ASAP with these new developments. Either way, here I am in the middle of a painting marathon. Yesterday I even destroyed a plastic kid’s chair (and my elbows) in my madness by Matt Foley falling/crushing it into a thousand pieces while trying to reach a high spot without getting out a ladder. All part of my future children’s book, If You Give a Jenny a Paint Brush.vintage tulip table coffee knoll saarinen burke laminate top black baseMore excitingly, I’ve acquired some radical things recently, which means things are coming together. The most unexpected and thrilling was this vintage tulip coffee table. I made my kids eat dinner in the car so I could pounce on this before the competition saw it on Craigslist. I’m sure it’s a knock off and not an original Knoll (a Burke?), it has a chipped laminate top, and the base is scratched. But that’s all great by me. I’ve been looking for 2 years for a tulip dining table for the patio because that’s the ONLY table I want out there. I had finally accepted it as an impossible dream because my hands are physically incapable of parting with $500 for a table. Literally a week later, this coffee table showed up for ridiculously cheap and I think it’s my solution…I’m going to build a bigger white top for it (I’ll save the original, no worries) and possibly re-powder coat the base if I can’t clean it up. I love the idea of a coffee table as outdoor dining space! Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Now, I’m on the hunt for some chairs and I know exactly which ones. Wish me good Craigslist vibes, even though it’s lookin’ like I already have them.vintage mid century lamp orange lava genie teak hugeAnd then, as you may have noticed here, this lamp of my dreams entered my life. I didn’t know I needed until I saw it. Filling my house with things I unequivocally love is my idea of living well. I ridded myself of a few lesser loved lamps, so I’m all squared up. Welcome to the family, big guy.vintage cone fireplace preway black lightsAnd then there was a big purchase: I finally bought a new rug for the den. The old rug (above) was cheap to begin with, small, thin, dirty and cracking. It may not look THAT bad, but it lived through 2 muddy Ohio winter/springs and was super gross. I didn’t like to hang out on it. Finding the perfect combo of pattern/color, size, material and price is daunting to me, so I never buy good rugs. But I am so happy with this purchase. The new rug, below, (which I almost bought on Rugs USA during their usual 75% off sale but found on Overstock cheaper, though their prices seem to change daily?) is huge and fluffy and CLEAN!
preway fireplace nuloom rug hallween decorations vintage lightsOn looks: I was concerned it was a little too Moroccan-trendy and would look dated in a few years (do you love that I said that when the rug sits under a giant passé fireplace?), but I wanted thick white shag that kept up, but didn’t compete, with the other crazy stuff going on in here. The brown squares work so well in this weird, colorful room. I seriously spend so much more time in here now, which is how it should be because I love this room more than a person should love a room. I didn’t get a full room shot yet, but above shows part of the cozy thing, along with the Halloween “decorations” I barely mustered up the energy to put up because Weather has decided October in California will be so hot that you’ll be too tired to put out Halloween decorations. (Decorations that Domino Magazine featured on their site….WHAAATTTT?! Thanks Domino!!!) saarinen-womb-chair-medium-knollI’ll leave with an incredible tale of a not-purchase: Just days ago I found myself saying “I’m gonna have to pass on this vintage Saarinen womb chair and ottoman for $75”. What? (Above is a new repro version from Knoll.) An original! Black frame, vintage fabric and all. It undoubtedly needed reupholstering. And that’s where the problem popped up. I was thinking it would be a couple $100 to reupholster, which I was open to considering, but still not 100% sold on. Then my quote from my favorite good and honest upholsterer was $1500!!! Not including fabric. I made the mature decision to pass. Ouch. My instinct is to just buy it and wait until free reupholstering jobs are falling from the sky, but that makes no sense. My husband jokes that I am gonna leave him with a “reverse will”, where instead of inheriting my stuff, he inherits my list of things to acquire. This would have made my list in my college years, but I kind of got over it because it seemed so unattainable. And today I honestly don’t need or have a place for it, so it’s officially not on the reverse will…which is why passing it up was the right, but sad move. But it is still on Craigslist, so maybe this still isn’t over (cue Ryan G.)? Join me next time for the riveting conclusion.

Howard’s Restore-A-Finish on Vintage Furniture

Howards Restore A Finish Vintage Mid Century Lane Dresser Walnut BurlI’ve been going a little Howard’s Restore-a-finish crazy over here lately. Have you ever used this stuff? I tumbled down the rabbit hole recently. At the height of my frenzy, which was the day I first tried it and saw with my own eyes the easy-goodness of Howard, I was literally walking around the house with a tin of walnut and a rag just looking for a place to wipe it.

It all started with this dresser top: banged up, wear from use, and rubber stamped in pink. I followed the directions, used some steel wool and magic happened.

Howards Restore A Finish Vintage Mid Century Lane Dresser Walnut

Howards Restore A Finish Vintage Mid Century Lane Dresser Walnut

Howards Restore A Finish Vintage Mid Century Lane Dresser Walnut Burl

Howards Restore A Finish Vintage Mid Century Lane Dresser Walnut Burl

Howards Restore A Finish Vintage Mid Century Lane Dresser Walnut BurlWithin minutes I was hauling this bench out to the garage too.

Howards Restore a Finish Mid Century Furniture Slat Bench Walnut

Howards Restore a Finish Mid Century Furniture Slat Bench Walnut

Howards Restore a Finish Mid Century Furniture Slat Bench Walnut

Howards Restore a Finish Mid Century Furniture Slat Bench Walnut

Instant gratification. Taco Tuesday time?


Deep Bookshelf Thoughts

This bookshelf. Two things about it:books bookshelf styling color coded coordinated

1. Books sorted by color are for sellouts – And I am a sellout. My sister teases me for color coordinating my books, and I fully deserve it. I like to think I have a decent dose of integrity. But in this case, I am 100% sure I will look back on this with the shame bad decisions documented on the internet deserve. I’m not sure why I tried this or then decided to keep it this way when those are my honest feelings and I am embarrassed to put pictures up of it. I might as well start saying “that’s my jam.” (Barf. I won’t.) I can offer no excuse other than it looks less cluttered than organizing them by subject. At least my books are all good colors. So there’s that.

books bookshelf color coded coordinated

2. Getting rid of books is hard but good – Our family used to have a lot of books. This entire bookshelf was filled. And I thought I would never part with them because book are precious and prove you are cultured and you may need to reference them in the future and owning the written word is the freedom of speech manifested and blah, blah, blah.

But once I had kids, I started intentionally minimizing our stuff. One of my favorite parenting books ever, Simplicity Parenting, was the catalyst. It talks a lot about the “extraordinary power of less” in your quality of life and I’m a believer. (The greatest irony is that I’ve never owned that book, only checked it out so many times from the library, based on the author’s advice. I should float him some $$.) I’m sure there are some book people who would choose their books over anything else. I’m not one of them. Really, do I need my anthropology text book from college? No. Do I need every novel I’ve ever read? No. Do my kids need the complete catalog of Dr. Seuss? No.

books bookshelf color coded coordinated

books bookshelf color coded coordinated

Over the course of recent moves I’ve whittled down our book collection. What remains is a solid collection that is either truly enjoyed by us or truly practical. A handful of our favorite architecture, design, photography*, economics (not mine!), reference and fiction books along with a couple of sentimental items is all that survived the cut.

*may I recommend The New West by Robert Adams, one of the most beautiful things ever created

Some books were parted out to other rooms of the house. Car manuals, woodworking guides and technical art books were relocated to the garage, where they are referenced. Music books and guitar repair manuals are stashed with my husband’s guitar equipment. Health related books (homeopathic remedies, etc.) were moved to our medicine cabinet area. Most children’s books are in their room. Now, the bookshelf books have room to breath and hang out with pottery.

bookshelf2 - 07

books bookshelf color coded coordinated

bookshelf2 - 11

books bookshelf styling color coded coordinated
You can see more of this room, the den, in this post.

I’d love to hear what you think of color coordinating books…tacky or timeless? (I’m so sure it’s tacky, yet here I am.)

Random Updates

Excuse my slacker blogging the past few weeks. It has been a bit of a wild ride around here. Just normal everyday stuff like broken dryers and kids on Spring Break and mourning missed secret Neil Young shows…and then some actual heavy stuff with a youngin’ in my family that involved paramedics and lots of stress crying. Everybody is doing good now, so here I am.

I feel like nothing has gotten done around here in awhile, but that’s not entirely true. Proof:

Remember this load of a coffee table? Well, it got some better legs. They are a few inches shorter than the old ones and they are walnut. It’s looking real good, in case you don’t have eyes.

Mosaic mid century coffee table how to replace table legs vintage

This sweet little stool in our guest room got a reupholstering. My father-in-law found this at the swap meet for dollars and I’ve been on an upholsterer’s wait list forEVER. I finally got the call.

Heywood Wakefield Vanity and Stool

Our dryer died and we got a new one. I have been waiting for appliances to break so I can replace them for the very superficial reason that they are pukey bisque colored instead of white. I didn’t factor in the time of choosing new ones (and always finding them backordered) while you go without the broken thing. A dryer is the easiest appliance to live without, but it still threw me off big time. The makeshift clothesline in our backyard was getting to be a full time job. We waffled on the top vs front load. Long story short, we ended up with a used but fairly new front load dryer that is awaiting it’s match.

new dryer

And, in the midst of aforementioned chaos, this beauty unexpectedly came into my life. I mentioned before how I was waiting for a smaller, Danishier desk to fall from the sky. That’s pretty much how this happened. A house up the street was having an estate sale that I almost didn’t go to. I’m so glad I did. Not only is this desk exactly what I was looking for at the right price, I bought it from an old friend of the original owner of our house. Now that you’ve had a glance at my sentimental side, take this in:

Mid Century Modern Desk Danish Teak

After living in our house for 1.75 years, there is a mirror in our kids/guest bath…but still no light. We live luxuriously.

Bathroom mirror

And, mostly, I’ve been cleaning up stuff like this daily, just like every other mom. Our den is somewhere under this fort pile.

Den mess