Labor Day Labor of Love – The Backstory

I’m not sure what motivated my husband and I to redo our living room furniture this fall. There was a pervasive sense of optimism when we returned from our summer vacation to the Cape, the start of classes behind me, auditions for the eight fall shows relatively finished, cast lists posted on the callboard in the Drama Center. First hurdle behind.

And the fact that we embarked on this journey on our anniversary, Sept. 1, after 29 years of marriage, was a delight. Off we went to the newly discovered West Elm store in West Hollywood, where we worked with friendly Rachael to select the perfect couch, the perfect side chairs, a coffee table. I was like the proverbial pig in shit.

I like to renovate and redecorate my homes. I’ve always enjoyed it. The most extensive example was the complete gut and redesign of our kitchen in our last home. The least extensive is probably this foray into replacing our inherited furniture. Perhaps I am my grandfather’s daughter. John Marcy Coon, Princeton, Class of 1931, architect and business owner, John constructed the bridges spanning the highways and turnpikes throughout Pennsylvania. He also designed the Nesbitt Hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

He designed and built his home in the suburbs of Wilkes-Barre, set amidst the fields and forests of Shavertown, a beautiful white brick home with an elegant L shaped layout which cradled the back porch  overlooking an “infinity” field, the border of which w dripped off the back side of the hill on which the house was located. My grandfather rented the field to a local farmer to plant and harvest. Every fourth of July we would gather on the edge of this field and shoot off the fireworks assembled for our delight by Uncle Lou, my Mom’s sister’s husband – Roman candles, sparklers punctuated the night which was already aglow from the hundreds of fireflies which we chased and jarred with abandon.

John Coon was among the earliest adaptors of solar power, including a solar panel system over the kitchen back door, which powered  all the hot water in the house. He designed a large brick incinerator in the heart of the kitchen, which warmed our backs when we gathered for breakfast at the table overlooking the circular driveway in the front of the house, and burned the trash generated in the home. It sounds like a grand home, which it was, but it was also a cozy home. There was an upstairs bedroom and bath over the garage just off the kitchen where we kids would stay when we came to visit on those innumerable Christmases and summer visits. This was strategically placed at the completely opposite end of the house from the master bedroom and guest bedroom, where our grandparents and parents slept. However, there was little danger of our waking Nana and Grandad, who gathered each morning in the kitchen for breakfast, and watched the Today show at a loud volume, which usually cued us up and out of our beds in the garret bedroom.

The back side of the L which was the living room, faced on the one side onto the large patio, and on the other side to a broad expanse of grass, and the fenced in pool area, where every day after work (in the summer months), John would put on his bathing suit, walk out the gently curved slate stepping stone path to the pool, ascend the low diving board, and dive into the pool, gliding beneath the water to the shallow end; when he emerged, dragging his hand through his majestic mane of hair as he smiled indulgently at his grandchildren cavorting around him in the pool.

A  book-lined den was the exit point for the pool pathway, and in the den were two of the chairs which I still have in my home and which were the impetus for this Labor Day’s labor of love. I have recovered both chairs since inheriting them from my mother; the last time in some orange or rust colored fabric which seemed like a good idea at the time, but which after 10 years or so, are disgusting. The high wing back chair, too big for our new downtown condo,  I donated it to the School for use on stage. It immediately made its way into the furniture cast of Lady Windermere’s Fan, and I discreetly waved to it when it appeared in the third act, Lord Darlington’s study. It always was an attention-grabbing chair. I’m so happy I could assist it in making its stage debut.

The other chair, a comfortable reading chair, originally upholstered in a nubbly navy silk (at Grandad’s house), had been the chair which was in Chris’ room when he was still young and willing enough to be read to before falling to sleep. Both Jimmie and I read the entire Harry Potter series from that chair, and spent hours sitting in it waiting for Chris to fall asleep. I have bonded with that chair and am not able/willing to let it go. It currently sits in our bedroom which is accepting of the orange fabric, but I have a bolt of upholstery fabric (selected after the West Elm chairs and sofa) waiting to grace it.

So, imagine our delight, when, after careful perusal of the West Elm site, we entered the store and lovingly selected the beige fabric for the new sectional. I should say the entire reason for this reno really was my attempt to return to the edenic chaise that we had gotten rid of shortly after moving into our new condo. There is nothing I like more than plunking down on a chaise with my feet up after a 14 hour day in the theatre. What could be better, right? The previous chaise was banished due to the ungodly feline stench that remained after years of owning cats, who, as they aged, increasingly lost their bladder control. Nuff said. The couch had to go.

In the mean time, back at West Elm, Rachael expertly guided us through the selection of the Dunham sectional sofa with Linen Weave “Natural” color, the Two Veronica Taper leg chairs with Retro Ikat pattern in Blue Lagoon, and Chocolate Legs, the Rustic storage coffee table. I was giddy from the spree, and practically skipped down the sidewalk to the car as we left the store. Rachael had explained that the furniture would arrive in stages – the coffee table almost immediately, followed in late October by the chairs and in early November by the couch, which has an 8-10 week lead time but which would be delivered with their “white glove” delivery service…

4 thoughts on “Labor Day Labor of Love – The Backstory

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