Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Burlap and Horse Hair

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. 

Catherine 

30 comments :

  1. I love your words and the visual of your grandmother sitting on one side of it. We do have connection to things that have been in our lives for a lifetime. I can't wait to see your beautiful piece. It truly will be stunning.
    xoxo
    Lisa
    Leeshideaway.blogspot.com

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  2. this is a lovely post one senses
    the deep respect and fondness you
    have for those who came before you.
    I join you in your appreciation for old pieces and their history it is
    part of their allure.

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  3. oh my goodness, I love this story! Looking forward to seeing the restored piece. Have a lovely week. ~ Jenn

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  4. fabulous, we have a Duncan Phyfe un our living room...don't know the history, Love your history!
    What a treasure to have this still in your family!
    Can't wait to see it in its new home!

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  5. Don't you feel so honored to have received it to your stewardship! Family pieces are so enriching in a home. I have my great-grandmother's beautiful Vose & Sons piano, and oh how I wish it could talk. We do know a lot of it's very rich history fortunately, and my Grandmother (who played this same piano when she was about 5 years old) still plays extraordinarily well at 96 years of age. Thank you for sharing your interesting stories on your blog.

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  6. A beautiful tribute to the memory of your great-grandmother! Can't wait to see her gorgeous piece when it's finished.
    ~Adrienne~

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  7. Yes, it will hold and comfort you all and it will remind you of here always! How wonderful is that? Lucky you! Christa

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  8. What a lovely story. I'd choose to sit on her side too for sure. BTW I can relate to the new title perfectly. I've been living 'in the fields' for ten years now and I've finally accepted the fact that I need to find something different. Suddenly the place I love is starting to have s temporary feel.

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  9. What a wonderful story. My grandmother lived in Hollywood when I was a youngster. It seemed glamours to me even then.
    Karen

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  10. How wonderful that you stopped by to see the bare bones of the sofa and to have this experience of your Great Grandmother! Thanks for sharing it. I'm looking forward to seeing the sofa when it's ready for your family.


    Jane

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  11. What a wonderful post... I love those minute connections with family past... it makes me feel richer knowing a bit about them as people, not just a face in a faded photograph...

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  12. Your post brings to mind my grandmother, her simple life, and my relationship with her. I only have one item of hers and it is an old tattered quilt. I display it proudly as if it is in its finer glory. And, like you, I feel drawn to her side as I touch the quilt she held in her hands.
    I look forward to seeing your beautiful sofa and thinking of you and your family sitting on her side of it.
    Take care,
    Emily

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  13. Your post brings to mind my grandmother, her simple life, and my relationship with her. I only have one item of hers and it is an old tattered quilt. I display it proudly as if it is in its finer glory. And, like you, I feel drawn to her side as I touch the quilt she held in her hands.
    I look forward to seeing your beautiful sofa and thinking of you and your family sitting on her side of it.
    Take care,
    Emily

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  14. beautifully said....and a beautiful piece of furniture........

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  15. I love this post and all of the warm family memories it brings. It is making me think of my grandparents this morning- thank you.

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  16. Thank you for cherishing your family's history, for that is such an integral part of preparing for its fabulous future. Your words are a tribute to your Great Grandmother and her love of beauty, something that continues to live on in you.

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  17. I just loved this post. My father was an upholsterer...and I grew up around burlap and horse hair and 8-way-hand-tied springs. He passed away 3 years ago, and I miss him dearly. Thank you for the memories your beautiful post inspired.

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  18. A lovely, tangible way to preserve something so special. Looking forward to seeing it in it's new home.

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  19. Oh if only the younger generation would have the same fondness for the history of older pieces. We have many pieces that have been handed down, each with its own story. Thank you for sharing. So many young people go to Pottery Barn instead of appreciating the "good stuff" and how its made.
    I look forward to how your sofa will be covered and how its new life will be.
    Nancy

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  20. I absolutely love this post. I also have many heirloom pieces of furniture, my favorite is my great grandmother's chair, though I think my great grandfather sat in it more, it's tall, there was a little foot stool for her. I inherited after my grandmother died in 2005, it is my prized possession. I am about to have it reupholstered...what will I find underneath the old fabric...history, mine!

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  21. your post really played my heart! I have so many things from my previous generations, it is wonderful to think of them and their preferences for one side or the other. Your blog is lovely and I'm your newest follower.

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  22. Thank you for sharing this. I really love those telling details, too. How glamorous that apartment sounds! Looking forward to seeing more, and also the children's project, too.

    Take good care, Em

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  23. It's wonderful catching up with you, so happy you've found a new blog home (the name is very sweet), along with your new home-home. I got all warm and fuzzy reading this post about your sofa and it's very special history, what a treasure, and by taking such good care of it now, your babies will be enjoying it in their homes one day.
    Happy mid-fall...
    xo J~

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  24. So beautiful...so true. How many many of these small diaphanous connections there are.

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  25. Hi Catherine--glad I found your blog! But will you REUSE the horsehair and burlap? I had a couch, similar to yours...THREW AWAY THE HORSEHAIR. Still haven't told my mother. She warned me...:(

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  26. Yes, we kept the horse hair for sure.

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  27. It breaks my heart when I see what some people do to..."a piece of furniture". It's so much more than that. It's NOT just a piece of furniture. It's love, comfort, peace, history, beauty, family, a lovely story like yours .... Were we born in the wrong century?
    Your sofa looks beautiful! Preserved with love for another generation. Not turned into an antique abomination like some ... yikes! thank you for
    the inspiration. :)

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Thank you for leaving your thoughts. Best, Catherine

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