I stopped in at the upholsterer the other day and found the Duncan Phyfe sofa stripped down to burlap and horse hair. It was actually quite fascinating. Seeing it in this state was a reminder of the era in which this sofa was built. But also, the tattered burlap, coarse horse hair and brass nails reminded me of the long history of the sofa. Unique among many of my antiques, it is a history that I am quite familiar with.
After my Great Grandfather passed away, my Great Grandmother decided to sell their house in the Hollywood Hills and bought an apartment in downtown Hollywood. She hired an interior designer to help her redecorate her new home for her new independent life. This sofa was one of the items the decorator purchased on her behalf.
After removing all of the pink satin fabric and the old cotton batting, the upholsterer assessed that the sofa is in good shape other than some uneven springs on the right side. She suggested that my Great Grandmother was likely prone to sitting on that side over the other, and thought that perhaps the lamp was on that side.
This insight brought me pause as I thought of my Great Grandmother, who I met only when I was much too young, settling into her favorite side of the sofa. The sofa was telling a bit of her story, a small detail, but nevertheless, a glimpse of a life once lived.
Before I left, I took one last look at the old burlap and horse hair because I knew I'd probably never see the sofa in that state again. I reveled in this secret glimpse into the bare bones of my Great Grandmother's sofa. After leaving her apartment, its next destination was to be nestled against a wall of green wallpaper in my Grandmother's house. That was my Father's old bedroom, and our playroom growing up. Now it sat laid bare, awaiting its next destination, and the next generation. Which side will we choose to sit on?
I can't help but feel drawn to sit on her side, the side where the springs are worn a little more. This is the side on which my Great Grandmother sat, night after night, in her glamorous Hollywood apartment.
The same steel springs that held her, will undoubtedly hold us.