Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Beach Chair Revival, Part II

As I wrote in Part I of this essay, several weeks ago we dropped off three vintage wooden folding beach chairs at Sausbier's, an awning shop in Hudson, New York, to have their torn seats replaced.  We have since picked them up and transported them to Nantucket, where we are renting a house overlooking the ocean, and where I am writing this post to you, Dear Reader.

Our chairs and umbrella set up on the beach

We are quite happy with the way the chairs turned out.  While the Sunbrella awning fabric we chose is handsome and colorful, it is admittedly not quite as attractive as what was used when the chairs were made in the 1930s/40s.  However, as I wrote in Part I of this essay, the modern-day awning fabric we chose is sturdier and far more resistant to splitting or ripping than what was available when the chairs were made.  And besides, it was in stock.

I decided to post this series not only because it is a fun before-and-after story, with an attractive subject, but also because there is a lesson to be learned here, Dear Reader.  And that is, with but a little planning and foresight one can find far more attractive and green alternatives to what is generally available in big-box and other mass-market retailers.  And one needn't pay an exorbitant price to do so, either.  Of course it would have been easy for us to go to Target or similar (we are most decidedly not Wal*Mart shoppers at Darlington, at least when humanly possible) and pick up some cheap and cheaply-made beach chairs.  But then I would have cheap and cheaply-made beach chairs whose likely near-term fate would be to wind up in landfill in the all-too-short time it would take for them to fall apart.  And not only that, but for the brief period I owned them I would be annoyingly confronted by their pedestrian ugliness.

Boy's crushable Borsalino, ideal for beach and travel, on his chair

Instead, we own attractive, sturdy wooden beach chairs covered with good looking awning fabric.  The chairs are not only a delight to look at, but they are fun to sit in as well, because they are--as I wrote in my last post--attractively beachy in a 1940s way.  And for Reggie, that's a good thing.

By re-using and reviving the chairs I believe we are doing "our part" for the environment, and are being far greener than if we had bought new ones.  And while we did put new, petroleum-based synthetic fabric on them, we did so to extend their lives for many more years and to provide honest income for a small, independent family-owned business rather than the shareholders of a global conglomerate.

The photographer's shadow sur la plage

Now, Dear Reader, I know that you are wondering: "So, Reggie, how much did all this good-feeling-inducing work actually cost you?  How much did you have to pay to get such chairs to loll upon oceanside at Fancy Land by the Sea?"  Well, the answer is that it did cost more than what it would have had I bought the cheapest alternatives available.  But that is not Reggie's objective in life.  Reggie's goal is to live in an alternate world to the degraded, cheap, mass-market vision that is generally foisted upon us today, and that in many areas of this country is driving out what was once unique, regional, and attractive.

We had the beach largely to ourselves

Reggie aspires to live in a world of grace and honest beauty, and prefers to spend his dollars with local, independent businesses, when possible.  And that is why, more often than not, I buy used, vintage, or antique furniture and furnishings.  Not only is the craftsmanship better than what is generally available today, but it is usually more attractive, and can often be purchased for less than what new choices cost today.  In addition, I am confident that I am acquiring something whose production hasn't contributed to today's environmental woes.  And on top of that, I know that once such goods pass out of my hands they are not likely to wind up in landfill, but will be recycled and re-used by future generations of appreciative owners.

The surf was perfect for frolicking

Now, to answer the burning question of how much Reggie paid for all of this.  He spent a total of $50 to buy the chairs at assorted tag and yard sales, which he admits was a score, and another $270 to have them tightened and recovered.  That works out to a total of $320, or a little more than $100 per chair.  That seems like a very reasonable price to me because what I got for that is three honest wooden folding beach chairs covered with striped awning fabric that will last another fifty-plus years, and not some junky mass-market alternative that will wind up in landfill in only a few.  And what else did I get?  I also got two posts out of this subject that I have the pleasure of entertaining you with, Dear Reader.

Off for a walk

All photographs by Boy Fenwick


  1. Love the chairs! And worth every penny. Enjoy Nantucket!

  2. Is the smallest chair for Pompey? They turned out wonderfully well.

    There is a company, just a hop, skip and a ferry ride from Fancy Land by the Sea (hee) that makes a chair very similar to your vintage charmers: Cape Cod Beach Chair Company.

  3. "Reggie's goal is to live in an alternate world to the degraded, cheap, mass-market vision that is generally foisted upon us today, and that in many areas of this country is driving out what was once unique, regional, and attractive." (what he said.):)

  4. We've always been "green" but we didn't know it -- preferring to buy old and reuse. Partly because for the price it was better quality than what was offered new and partly because we like the old better than the new (remember that plastic carved Spanish/Med furniture of the early 70s -- ugh)

    Pricewise, sometimes it is a bargain -- sometimes not. But the quality is ever so better in things that were made long ago. For they were made to last -- not throw away (remember the small appliance repair shops? Your toasted was meant to last "forever". Who fixes any of that now?)

    You are smart, Reggie dear, and I commend you for it -- the chairs are far better than any you could find anywhere else. And you will have them "forever"!

  5. oh Reggie Darling, move the umbrella over just a bit and save that chair for me.

  6. I applaud your decision to repair rather than buying the cheap and simple fix, and I especially applaud your supporting local businesses. If we don't want these treasures to disappear, we have to support them! And the cost of the chairs over the length of time you will have them actually works out to cost less than the plastic chairs, and are a far more elegant solution.

  7. Bravo! Love how the chairs turned out. And please tell me that third chair is for your darling Pompey.

  8. You always do it with such incredible style.

  9. I wasn't wondering how much you spent as much as I was wondering how you actually transported these all the way to Nantucket...did you have to ship them ahead or did you actually hand carry them on and off the ferry and all?

  10. Positively posh and pleasing chairs you have dear.

  11. I agree with you completely. They are not only environmentally correct, but they are darn cute. Now you need a Woodie to stash them in. :)

  12. My dear Mr.Darling

    It is 97 degrees here in Georgia and the 52nd consecutive day of oppresive heat in the 90-98 degree range. Those chairs look awfully inviting and I would pay thousands of dollars to be there and not here. I will have to say I chuckled when I saw them for they reminded me of Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear's chairs! They are very handsome indeed. Have a nice time.

  13. chairs look great-
    the company did a good job with the stripes -

    john in nc

  14. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love you.

  15. Shortly after your first post on these chairs, the Mister and I were in a picturesque little town in north Florida, and I spied a pair of old wooden beach chairs in a shop window. Unfortunately, the shop was closed, but the Mister promised we would stop by the next afternoon after our rafting trip. Good to his word, he made sure I was able to return to the shop before closing time the next day. So in I go, to check out the chairs--only, wait, they were no longer in the window. I asked the proprietor, and she said that yes, she'd had four (!) of them, and they had all sold for $25 each! The fabric on the chairs was the most beautiful shade of turquoise with a red and brown stripe. I probably don't have to tell you that I am still thinking about them! Yours look terrific, and your second post has inspired me to keep looking! I hope you've had a wonderful stay on the shore!

  16. Hello, Dear Reggie-

    The stripes are divine. Color is retro and so appropriate to the chair style and date.
    They will give your pleasure for years. Cost per use...practically free.
    I love the criss-cross effect and the wise support on the back and seat. Even arms!
    They are handsome--and a bargain at twice the price.
    Perhaps the real luxury was the deserted beach, the handsome house off in the distance, and glorious sunshine, small waves, pretty sand, no person in sight, and privacy, the world's great luxury.
    happy days and cheers, DIANE

  17. I hope there was enough extra yardage for a matching monogrammed beach tote!

    Greeting from Hudson.

  18. Nice work Reggie! I hope Boy won't mind if I put the top image in my i-scrapbook. I'm longing to visit Nantucket. Or is it just the way you've styled it?

  19. I love the look of the chairs. I see ones just like it when in the Outerbanks by a local company.
    Now give us a post about the house and how much that cost to rent.

  20. Are you still on that beach?

  21. Reggie,
    Excellent reveal! And now a question, Reggie and Boy have the proper straw hats, how about
    Pompey? Don't forget the suncreen.

  22. I just gave three of those chairs to a sister after having stored them for 3 years & not deciding what fabric to use. I bought them at a historic house auction. Love your style! -M

  23. Reggie, the beach chairs are wonderful and I love the fabric you chose. They will be enduring.

    Art by Karena


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