Preening Over a Peacock Chair

What were the odds my thrift-shop find would suddenly become a hot trend?

Chair-400There are just some people you shouldn’t go shopping with, right?

You know what I’m talking about. It’s those folks who, when you go with them to the garden center for a six-pack of petunias, somehow talk you into a weeping cherry tree instead. Or you run out to Kmart for socks and come home with a futon. It’s some sort of chemical imbalance that’s set off by being in the presence of certain other human beings, your Visa card and consumer goods. I should know better by now than to go anywhere near a shopping center with my daughter. But I don’t.

One time, we bought a Buddha statue together. One time, we bought a $100 stuffed brown bear. (Hey, it was Christmas!) One time we bought a dog, but that’s another story.


This time, we bought a peacock chair.

"Isn't this cool?" I asked Marcy in excitement as we stared at it in the local thrift shop, tucked away between old sewing machines and headboards.

"Really cool," she agreed, admiring the elaborate curlicues of wicker. "And it's only $15!"

But I should have realized from the struggle we had getting it into my Honda that I was also going to have trouble fitting it into my life.

The first thing I did with the chair was take it to Marcy’s apartment. She put it in a corner of the living room, and it was happy enough there, although the guys she lived with were confused by why anyone would want a chair that big that wasn’t really comfortable to sit in. But Marcy thought it was glamorous, like the Buddha. Alas, it didn’t fit in the next apartment she moved to, and her boyfriend, who's now her husband, didn't like it anyway. So home it came, to live in our garage with all the other stuff she couldn’t fit in her apartment. And I didn’t think anything more about it for months, really, any more than I thought about the kiddie rocking chair or the bunk beds or the extra dresser that are stuck in there.

But then one day not too long ago, I was reading the Wall Street Journal when I saw an article about the comeback of … the peacock chair! The article mentioned that peacock chairs just like mine had recently been featured in both British and American Vogue. There was a slideshow of peacock chairs and Hollywood stars — Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Brigitte Bardot in a bright blue number on the beach. The article even quoted actual interior designers saying things about my $15 thrift-shop chair like, “Like the male peacock, the chair commands attention. It wants to be seen.” Nobody was seeing mine, though, because it was in the garage.

Still, the fact remained that I didn’t exactly have anyplace in my house that was crying out for a four-foot-wide chair to fill it. Especially not a four-foot-wide chair that wasn’t very comfortable. (Nothing personal, peacock. You’re just not.) But that was before I saw this Reina chair at Anthropologie — for $598. It looked an awful lot like mine.

So I went out to the garage and reassessed what I had there. Sure, it was mousy and brown and dusty. But the bones were good, just like Brigitte’s. Off I went to Home Depot and bought four cans of glossy Spa Blue spray paint, having forgotten the cardinal rule of spray-painting, which is that old wicker sucks up spray paint like frat boys suck beer. Back I went to Home Depot for another three cans. (And wouldn’t you know it, I still missed a spot. Oh well.)

“What are you doing with that giant chair?” the little boy from next door asked across the backyard fence as I headed into Coat Three.

Well, not everybody’s going to love it. And that probably includes my husband when he gets home from the conference he was at for the entire weekend. I know it doesn’t include my son, who got roped into hauling the thing up to my office when I was done.

But there it sits, my thrift-shop treasure, looking entirely Brigitte- or Bette-worthy in its four coats of Spa Blue and its freshly recovered pillows. (Thanks, Emily Goulet, for the cool fabric! I told you I’d find a good use for it!) It may not be the most comfortable chair in the world, but damn, it’s cool — and trendy! I think it’s even nicer than Anthro’s $598 version, to tell you the truth; it’s more elaborate, and probably better made. So maybe it wasn’t a mistake to buy it after all. Even counting the paint, I came out way ahead. Not too shabby-chic!

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