We are delighted to publish the first official blog post by the illustrious chair admirer and author Gun Bjerkander Handberg.
The perfect chair for enjoying flights of fancy! I simply couldn’t contain my excitement on seeing it. After all, it’s not every chair that arouses such emotions within me.
But let me begin at the beginning.
The positive sentiments generated by my book launch in the venerable surroundings of Hatchards bookshop in London had been followed by bubbly and bites at The Promenade in The Dorchester. I was staying at the hotel for a few days and, as the evening drew to a close, I took the lift up to my room.
Imagine my surprise, however, as I opened the door and was welcomed by a chair that I’d not previously had the pleasure of meeting. It stood there between the desk and the bed, positively beaming with pride. How strange for a chair to be placed in a room so late in the evening – and for the other one, which had stood there earlier, to have been removed.
This new acquaintance had straight legs, tapered and elegantly fluted, with carved rosette motifs on the corners of the rails; it could almost have been an heirloom from the late 1700s. A black lacquered beauty with a Hepplewhite feel, just a hint of Edwardian decadence and a new seat cover anchored firmly in place by a painstakingly aligned row of shiny brass-headed tacks. Early 1900s, perhaps?
The shape of the pierced splat and the lower rail transformed the chair almost instantly in my imagination into a hot-air balloon soaring up among the clouds. Recollections of Jules Verne’s adventure story “Around the World in Eighty Days” came flooding back and soon I, too, was there, gliding through the air high in the sky alongside Phileas Fogg in his balloon. The film of the book, with David Niven as the gentlemanly Fogg, first appeared on cinema screens towards the end of 1956. I was still a child at the time and, for me, the film opened the door on an unforgettable world of adventure.
But why, I asked myself, would anyone move furniture around at The Dorchester this late in the day?
I felt compelled to photograph the chair, of course. (It’s an occupational hazard, I suppose.) Then, to take a closer look, I turned it upside down to try to discover what type of wood it was and to search for any saw marks. Not a particularly polite way to treat so recent an acquaintance, I’ll grant you – as I’m certain the chair itself would agree.
The black dust cover was so tightly tacked, it left not even the slightest glimpse of an unpainted rail. However, my room number, 612, was written in white on the black cambric. There was no doubt that the chair was where it properly belonged. The other chair that had occupied its place earlier in the day must have been moved elsewhere.
My subsequent enquiries at the hotel seemed to suggest that “my” chair had been given a facelift – possibly by an upholsterer, as the handsome seat cover appeared to be in pristine condition. It had then been duly returned to resume its original duties in room 612.
The motivation for visiting London had been the launch of my newly published book, “Please Be Seated – More historic chairs and the tales they tell”. Now my enjoyable stay in the city had also afforded me the additional pleasure of becoming acquainted with yet another very special chair.
Chairs have a remarkable sixth sense for recognising someone who has shown an interest in their kin. Wherever you may subsequently find yourself in the world, they tend to turn up just when you least expect them – sparkling amid their surroundings as brightly as the brass tacks on the Dorchester’s balloon chair.
by Gun Bjerkander Handberg author of Please Be Seated – More Historic Chairs. If you enjoyed this tale, you can find 34 more fabulous chairs in Gun’s latest books online.