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Monday, October 6, 2014

Goodbye Tulip Chairs, Hello Catifa 53


When form and function meet in perfect alchemy, there's no feeling like it in the world. I knew that I would have these chairs in my home some day. And that day has come. The tulips are out and the Catifas are in! Why?

I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with the Arper Catifa 53. It was January of 2011. I was working for a nonprofit in a donated office within a swanky health PR firm that was filled to the gills with stunning iconic furniture and pop art. Their clients were the likes of Pfizer and Ely Lily - you know the kind. My chair was a boucle-covered red swivel on wheels, with sleek chrome arms. Not only was it the most comfortable office chair I'd ever sat in, it was also the most beautiful, and it swiveled and rolled with well-oiled perfection.

It's not that I had fallen out of love with the Saraanin-style chairs we had been dining on. I will always admire the unfurling shapeliness of the tulip chair:

The Old Saraanin-Style Knock-Offs

It's that mine were poorly made knock-offs - whose bolts fell out with regularity and had to be screwed back in (approximately every 6 weeks).

I didn't end up with these reproductions by accident. I knew they were knock-offs when I had them delivered from a showroom in SoHo that specialized in such goods. But I had just moved into my apartment in Carroll Gardens and spent all the Renov8or dough on, you've got it, renovations, and these were what I could afford at the time. I had found an original pedestal table on Craigslist for $175. But, though I waited several months, checking classifieds, no tulip chair turned up that was within my budget. So, taking a feather from Newmod's cap (We Committed a Carnal Sin), I sprang for the knock-offs.

Do I regret it? Well, no. In spite of the constant mechanical adjustments and in spite of the $50 I spent on all new hardware and white lithium grease to try and fix that defect and in spite of the one pedestal that rather scarily snapped in two the night my nephew joined us for poker (I did warn him not to tip his chair back like that), I genuinely enjoyed these chairs for about 7 years before I felt ready to graduate to some real furniture. 

And even when I did, I kept the two in best condition for re-use. in our office:




But when the day came that I could finally have any chairs I wanted, I went searching for my true love the Catifa 53. 

Once again, I turned to Craigslist. And I found this perfect set of four in white, listed by a guy living in a fabulously decorated apartment in Washington Heights - he had just moved to a larger space and was trading up to some leather Arpers! Ross and I brought the chairs home carefully wrapped in blankets in the back seat of the Mini Cooper, top down - it was one wild ride down the West Side Highway and across 57th Street with our finds! And though they were spendy even secondhand, it was still less than half what I'd have paid to import them new from Arper in Italy.


No, they are not the red boucle that I first fell in love with, nor do they have wheels or arms, office-style, but they are the same sleek well-designed chair, a pleasure to sit in and so perfectly suited to their surroundings.

And solid! I will never need pause before offering a guest - even a back-tipping, poker playing nephew - a seat at our table in these babies.