Monday, October 3, 2011

The Marimekko that got away

The ginger jar by Arabia of Finland that started my obsession with Scandinavian design at a very early age.
When I first started my search for a new (antique) dining room table and chairs about 18 months ago,  Danish teak furniture listing on Craigslist were plentiful and the prices were low. Lots of listing came up, but I couldn't make up my mind, or there would only be four chairs instead of six (I need a bare minimum of five). I wanted rope seats because they would easy to clean, so I passed up beautiful sets with upholstered chairs. Clearly I was not the only one searching for mid-century teak furniture because I noticed prices started creeping up, posting were less plentiful, and were mainly from dealers instead of adult children trying to unload mom and dad's old stuff. But I continued on my quest, undeterred.

About a week and a half ago I was doing my daily cruise of Craigslist when I came upon a posting for an estate sale. The first item listed was a GORGEOUS teak dining room set which included eight chairs with the original leather upholstery. I clicked on the estate sale company's link to see photos of other items that would be available at 9 a.m. the next morning when the sale started. One photo caught my eye. There was an ugly yellow naugahyde loveseat, and hanging above it was a fabric print on stretcher bars. The print featured bulbous waves in various shades of blue. It was totally my color and style. I knew then and there that I had to have it.

Saturday morning I took my time getting ready. Having never been to an estate sale before, I didn't know what to expect, but I figured I should get there early. I pulled out the booster seats in the minivan, completely assuming I would be driving home with that fabric print, if not a new dining room table and chairs.

I pulled up to the first ring suburban house at about 9:30 and (miraculously) scored a parking spot right in the front. This had to be a good sign. I walked up to the front door, amazed at the number of people there. Within minutes of entering the house, it became clear that all of the furniture was sold. Okay, so the dining room table wasn't meant to be mine. I could live with that. I made a bee line to the basement stairs knowing that the blue print had to be down there.

There it was on the wall. It had no price on it, but no sold tag, either. I gingerly pulled it off the wall and started scanning the back. An original Marimekko print from the late 1960's.  My heart was racing with excitement. It was in pristine condition thanks to spending a lifetime in a basement with no sunlight. No blemishes, no rips, just a little dust. And it seemed to be mine! I dragged this ENORMOUS canvas up the narrow basement stairs all by myself, dodging fellow estate sale shoppers. This thing must have been 6 feet long and about 3 feet high. Let's just say it wasn't my most graceful moment.

I was up the stairs and heading to the pay station when this guy looked at me and said "that's sold - and if not, it would be mine." Who bought it, I asked? "The blond woman with the red-haired kid" he replied, "and it's for sale." Then I asked him if he knew how much she paid for it. "Twenty bucks." I was felt sick to my stomach.

Seconds later, I found the blond woman with the kid. I ask her if the fabric print was for sale. She said yes, but not right now. She needed to do some research on it - figure out its value. She didn't think it was a Marimekko (so she knows nothing about fabric and checking selvages). She told me it was her son (maybe 12?) who picked it out. He thought it would make a good headboard (OMG, please don't turn it into a headboard!). My heart sank. I wasn't going to get the print today (or probably any other day).

The blond haired woman turned out to be a vintage furniture dealer I already followed on Facebook. She told me she spent the night in her car (it was in the 30's that night!) and was #4 to get into the sale. She wanted the dining room set, too, but it and nearly all the rest of the furniture was sold by the time she got in the house. Yowza! I left the estate sale empty handed (even though I should have bought the Denby set and a solid teak dresser that were both a steal), disappointed, and a little bit disgusted by the whole idea of vulturing over deceased people's stuff.

As I drove away, the Marimekko was strewn in the grass despite the morning dew and sunlight.  Would I have gotten the print if I had arrived at 9 a.m.? And how I lamented the injustice of it now being owned by someone who didn't truly love it or appreciate its value and design history. During my drive home, between deep calming breaths, I realized it's just stuff. For the last 39 years I've been absolutely fine without a 6 foot long Marimekko print. Did I mention it just happened to be my 40th birthday?

Happy sewing!
-Annik

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