By Bill Primavera
As I sat one morning in an old Hitchcock kitchen chair that had been hitting me at the wrong place in my back for more than 25 years, I grumbled to my wife, “Why do I subject myself to this agony every day?
She responded, “You’ve never complained about it before.” It made me ponder: Is my aging body not as tolerant as it used to be?
Whatever the reason, I ended the conversation by promising to go out and find the biggest, most comfortable kitchen chair for myself, and I didn’t care if it didn’t match anything else in the house.
It was not one of my best mornings.
I tend to fixate on things I become curious about. For the rest of the day, I thought about chairs, wondering how long people have been sitting in them. When sharing that apple, Adam and Eve must have sat on a rock or fallen log, but that would assume that trees fell to the ground in Paradise. I assume they didn’t, because everything must have been perfect before the first occasion of sin, right?
Or if you’re more evolution-minded, you might consider that our ancestor, the ape, had no rump at all for comfort and probably just squatted when he tired of standing.
But once man stood upright and developed an ample derriere, there surely was a need once in a while to “take a load off” his feet by sitting.
My earliest memory of a reference to sitting in a chair was when, as a five- or six-year old, I giggled uncontrollably over a comedic line from either Milton Berle or an old Marx Brothers movie where a Margaret Dumont-type character was told to sit down in order to take a load off the floor.
I also remember that my mother once told my older siblings and me that we must always sit in a chair when eating so that the food would not travel down and give us fat ankles! My brother, always a bigger wiseacre than I, responded, “But if we sit in a chair when we eat, won’t we get fat rear ends?”
While it isn’t certain when the first person crafted a seat with a back and sat in it, archeological evidence at Neolithic sites indicates bench-like seating areas. The earliest physical evidence we have of chairs is from the Egyptian tombs from about 2800 BC, but such comforts were normally reserved to denote higher elevation in society.
In the new book, “Now I Sit Me Down,” architect Witold Rybczynski traces the history of chairs, believing that the oldest chair probably folded. Think of the nomadic tribes in China, for example, where they would walk until they wanted to sit. Who knew your beach chair had such a backstory, he asked.
It wasn’t until the Renaissance in Europe that the chair came into more general use. Since that time, the style of chairs has reflected the times in which they were crafted. But it was during the Industrial Revolution when chairs could be machine-made that placed them into every household.
Almost from the beginning, chairs of plain utilitarian design sat alongside those of great style and beauty. Chair design came into its own in our culture when nurtured by our original settlers who brought style along with function from their mother land.
Today we have works of art realized in chair design, created with both ergonomic and functional considerations. But then, chairs were always functional. The original intention for wing-backed chairs, for instance, was to shield its occupants from drafts in the room. But long after drafts were a thing of the past, the design has survived until today.
Until recently I have been a traditionalist, living in antique homes and collecting antique furnishings, focused on chairs, ranging from early Queen Ann and later Hepplewhite to a prized barrel bank chair from the 1930s that I am told was the favorite of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in his City Hall office. If I ever want to run for political office, my plan will be to have myself photographed in that chair for good luck.
But lately I’ve been hankering to live my golden years sitting exclusively in modern, comfortable chairs with clean and simple lines.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.