Aug 23, 2013

Dining set - revisited

Finding the right pieces at the right time is not always easy.

You might remember we had some challenges with the dining set. This crucially important project seems to be eternally fluctuating between random progression and inevitable reverse, and is really not expected to be completed any time soon. However, being such a dynamic process it deserves some attention, and thus we thought a report of the current status would be justified. To revise the story so far you can also scan through these two posts: (1 & 2).

So, we did find another Cherner chair and once again Pekka invested several hours in restoration so the chair could actually be used for sitting again. Even if it most certainly is a stunningly beautiful chair, unfortunately it doesn't match the rest of the set. The wood used in plywood is birch, whereas the rest of the set is made of walnut. Another mismatch is the lack of upholstery. We would actually prefer the complete set without upholstery (at least from the visual perspective), however, considering dinners usually tend to take more than 15 minutes, a chair with at least some softness to sit on is just much more comfortable.

Because of these two issues, we decided to continue searching for two Cherners to better match the existing walnut set of four. As a consequence, we also decided to say goodbye for the beautiful single birch made chair, and were really glad that in the end, it found a new home with of a good friend and a true collector who really appreciates its beauty.

Two Cherners and a dacshund

Related to the picture above there is a funny story to share about Urho. As you might have noticed, every now and then we have kindly requested our beloved dachshund to strike his best pose and model in the blog shots. After a photo shoot he always receives a treat for a job well done. Apparently, the number of repetitions has reached a critical point, and the smarty sausage has figured out the link between camera and treats! Now, every time Pekka pulls out the camera Urho quickly arrives to the scene, extends his lengthy figure and models patiently in the front row. What a great team member!

But back to the Cherners. We are very proud to present the complete set of six! It took Pekka about eight months to find all of them, but finally a matching set of two armchairs and four side chairs is complete. Interestingly, all of these wonderful chairs arrived from the Sunshine state of Florida. We are quite happy!

The whole family

Just like the side chairs, the new armchairs have a walnut finish and black vinyl upholstery, and they were also manufactured during the same period (early 1960's). The are stunning - just like with so many vintage items, the decades of encounters with users have left behind characteristic marks and imperfections of life making them unique and beautiful.

Vintage beauty

There is slight variation in the level of shininess in the vinyl naugahyde upholstery between the side chairs and the newly arrived armchairs. Fortunately for Pekka (and his continuously growing toolkit of restoration necessities), this is nothing to worry about. The shininess can and indeed will be adjusted later perfecting this slight visual mismatch!

Arm- and side chairs

Having all six chairs finally around the same table feels like a mission accomplished - well, at least partly. The set really screams for a carpet, which would nicely define the dining area. One of the options we are considering is some type of sisal carpet, but this has not been locked yet. It also has to be admitted that we are currently in negotiations for a new dining table (fingers crossed). This is quite exciting of course, and something we will definitely return to later on.

The set (and the dog)

Last but not least - anyone noticed that the Bubble light by George Nelson which used to hang above the table has given way for another pendant? This also something we will return to shortly, so if you are interested in reading about a complete transformation of a vintage PH Artichoke by Poul Henningsen currently shining above the dining table, stay tuned...

Aug 14, 2013

Stretchy little Urho

A little while back we noticed Urho wasn't quite being himself. He seemed a bit slower and more tired than usually, even maybe a bit depressed. Eventually, when his daily evening dessert (Dentastix), which is normally inhaled in a split second did no longer appeal to him, we started to get really worried and took him to see a vet.

To make a long story short, the doctor's diagnosis was that Urho - for one reason or another - has a sore neck muscle. He was advised to take it easy for a few days, and if necessary, we could also give him some pain killers. Fortunately, no medication was needed as he quickly started to recover, and in no time was again fully back in business and enjoying life. We were delighted.

But just an observation - take a look at the picture below, showing Urho asleep in one of his preferred positions. Makes you wonder - if it was neck pain, could this "stretchy dreamer pose" have something to do with it!?

Do not disturb a resting dachshund!

Aug 12, 2013

Arena by Stig Lindberg

For a long time, we have been debating an important issue. The tableware.

The set we currently have is not really a set at all, but a collection of leftover pieces from the years past. Those have served us well, but eventually there comes a time when having a maximum of three similar plates makes setting a table up for six with matching tableware simply impossible.

So, the other day the solution suddenly presented itself in the form of quite an exciting auction find. Pekka came across with tableware called Arena, designed by Stig Lingberg for Gustavsberg (1973-1978). Lindberg was one of the most prolific designers in Scandinavia, and his eye for sculpture and proportion is evident in his ceramic forms from the 1950´s and 60´s. Lindberg worked at Gustavsberg pottery from 1938 to 1980, then moving to Italy to establish his own studio. When we saw the beautiful Arena set in a local auction this past Saturday, we immediately knew this was what we had been looking for.

Pieces of Arena

The Arena tableware set we found has 34 different pieces. We really love the burned orange and dark brown colours and the timeless design. It is also quite unique but yet not too rare, as we are still missing some pieces and eventually some broken pieces need to be replaced. It has a bit of an retro twist, but it is not too glaring and can thus still be combined with for example additional white or brown tableware.

Gravy boat

Juice pitcher

All the pieces are in excellent condition, no scratches, dark spots or cracks. In addition to the plates, there are several trays, bowls and pitchers which (according to the manufacturer's label) can be washed in the dishwasher and put in the oven, despite of their age.

Thirty-four pieces of Arena

The set is, however, still missing something. At the moment, we are looking for tea cups, some more smaller plates and maybe coffee cups. Any leads and tips are welcomed - or maybe you have a few odd Arena cups in your possession just waiting to find a new home? In that case, please, let us know!

Aug 11, 2013

Early Edition 670 & 671

In the short history of the Olive Green Window, a story that has drawn the attention of most readers is the Eames Lounge Chair post written in January 2013. As this topic is clearly very interesting, we would now like to continue with this theme. It is also an acute topic - those of you who have recently visited the "past items" section might have noticed the late sixties lounger has moved out - yes, also one of the Cherner chairs is gone. More about that later. 

Left without a chair in functional and presentable condition, Pekka is now "forced" to finish the restoration of the early edition Eames Lounge Chair we have had stored away for more than a year. At the moment the chair pieces lay in the living room corner, disassembled and waiting the new leather upholstery and shockmount installation to be finished. Usually projects of this kind are performed downstairs in the Man Cave. Unfortunately, Pekka's beloved cave is now fully booked, as it serves a storage sentence of an undefined length due to downstairs renovation. So yes, Minna has to, once again, deal with piles of furniture components in the lounge. This is, however, nothing new to her - this comes with the package when you choose to share your life with a collector!

Pieces waiting to be assembled

We actually found this particular Eames piece when we were still living in our old apartment, so thus you get to see some pictures from there as well! Anyways, the story started last summer, and like so many times before, Pekka was conducting an extensive global search with extremely strict criteria. Finally he spotted this early edition chair through eBay, located in Chicago, US. It was a relatively risky commitment, especially when the decision needed to be made based on just a few pictures available in the internet. Once again, after some serious consideration, we just had to trust our intuition.

Two boxes from Chicago

After a purchase like this, the moments of unwrapping can be very intense - after all, this is the first time you see the item "in person". As expected, inside these two boxes were a disassembled lounge chair and a ottoman, extremely well packed. This is actually something we are delighted to see quite often - the effort and care put into packing demonstrates that people selling items like this appreciate their value and wish to protect them as well as possible for their journey. In this case, we had been given an option to send it back if not satisfied.

Ottoman with chair components

So, when the chair was assembled again it was finally time to inspect it at a close distance. We knew already knew it would be an extensive restoration project as the chair was more than fifty years old, but how extensive exactly? Luckily it was good news. The condition of the rosewood panels and metal parts was surprisingly good. There were also no unfortunate quick fixes, such as for example "fixing" a chair with collapsed backrest by drilling holes through the lower panel in order to to secure it with bolts. That happens, and would have been such a shame.

Early edition Eames Lounge Chair

When previously discussing the Eames Lounge Chair, we presented that based on structural differences found in these chairs, one could estimate the approximate year of production of each chair. However, one also has to understand that naturally these structural changes did not happen overnight, but rather gradually instead. Also, the background information we have is based on literature and internet sources, and sometimes there are differences between various sources. Against this background, it is understandable to argue with the logic of dividing the different chair generations to "series" as we called them. In essence, we believe the classification approach works best when considered more as a rule of thumb providing guidance, rather than exact, black and white metrics.

Our current chair has several features which are typically found in the Herman Miller made, american chairs from the '50 to early '60. Given the relatively small production series of the early years, it seems that this particular chair would fall among the first few thousands of chairs produced. We discussed about these features in more detail in the previous Eames Lounge chair post, but before launching the restoration saga let us briefly revise the different structural features and the general condition of this chair.

First, underneath the chair resides an intact metallic medallion glued to the rosewood indicating the designer and manufacturer. This type of label was one of the first labels used in these chairs.

Manufacturer label

Second, the wood used in the visible, top layer of the plywood is Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia Nigra). Like the length of ladies' dresses has varied through time depending on the moody winds of fashion, also the texture of the wood grain used in Eames Lounge Chairs has varied from decade to decade. The very dark rosewood, with only a slight variation between different grain shades is typical to early Herman Miller chairs. Thickness of plywood is around 10 mm, again a feature coinciding with chairs made during this period. Later, the thickness reduced closer to 9 mm.

Dark rosewood panels

Third, the armrests have a flat profile and they have three screws (vs. two) underneath - again, features of the earlier models. Later on the amount and/or type filling changed resulting in a puffier side profile, and the number of screws was decreased from three to two.

Flat armrest profile with three screws 

Push-on rubber boot glides of the ottoman

Old style cushion clips

All the plywood panels have two sets of numbering (written and stamped) indicating they are the original parts of this chair. If this was not the case, it could for example mean that a broken chair panel had been replaced with a new one.

The stamped number "95" in the panels is a code to keep the panels of a single chair together during manufacturing. This is important due to aesthetic reasons, as the texture of different slices of rosewood varies. Therefore, to create an uniform entity, it is important to select panels with a similar texture for a single chair. The numbering written with a white crayon, however, is assumed to serve the same purpose than the stamped, but it has probably been added much later when chair was returned to Herman Miller for maintenance, maybe because of broken shockmounts and/or the exchange of leather upholstery.

Panel numbering, stamped and written

Generally, our chair is in pretty good condition. However, it is an old chair, and thus it is only natural it will need some restoration. Our philosophy in collecting vintage furniture is not to have an in-house museum, where items are kept on a self or otherwise on display just to be viewed at, but rather finding beautiful items which can also be used in everyday life. Given this, some of the most delicate structural element of the chair will have to be changed completely in order to return the full functionality, including most of the upholstery. Even though we believe that the leather is not original, it is still old, very dry, widely cracked and literally turning into powder.

Cracked seat

After opening the cushion zippers carefully we found some old tags indicating the ingredients and the manufacturer of the filling material. Stephenson & Lawyer, Inc., the manufacturer, was apparently not the very first contractor to provide Herman Miller the cushion fillings. Nevertheless at certain point in time, a vast majority of fillings used to came from them. It seems that the cushions have been rebuild by Herman Miller as the back panels of both the seat and ottoman cushions are not original. It might have been that the leather upholstery, back panels and the filling were all changed at the same time.

Back cushion label

An other element desperately in need of replacing are the shockmounts. They are actually one of the most delicate structural elements of the whole 670 assembly. These parts are the elements in which the metal brackets holding the seat panel together with the backrest panel, screw in. Considering the shockmount structure, the most delicate detail is the glued attachment between the shockmount and the wood panel. If (and eventually when) this bond gives in and you happen to sit down on the chair, there is a big chance the chair will break. When one side is damaged the whole weight of the back panel is supported just by the other side resulting in a side swing of the backrest. Given the weight of the backrest this often literally breaks the rosewood panel in pieces.

Front shockmount with a crakced glue

Like the upholstery and cushion back panels, the shockmounts - even if they are genuine - are not the original ones either. The inside of the rosewood panel shows signs that somewhere along the way they have been changed. Given the age of the chair this is not surprising at all. It is, however, unfortunate that the person who changed them also sanded some wood away resulting in a thinner and thus structurally more delicate panel. Fingers crossed.

The same applies to the rear shockmounts, they are not the originals either. However, for now they seem quite firm, and thus they will be left as they are. They will be inspected periodically and exchanged in due time. The challenge with the the rear mounts is that in the older, US made chairs they are actually mounted on a curved wood, making it much more difficult to attach a new shockmount which requires a perfectly flat surface.

Rear shcokmount

Please, if you have an old 670 make sure to check the shockmounts every now and then by listening to any suspicious sounds when sitting down and leaning back. Periodically, it might also be a good idea to take the chair apart and visually inspect the condition of the glue seam. If you find any signals of the issues mentioned above and don't have sufficient experience to fix them, please contact a specialist who can help. It is not difficult, but requires special knowledge, experience and the right tools - otherwise you might end up with even a greater problem than you originally had.

This is a short introduction to our current Eames Lounge Chair. In the next update we'll start with the actual restoration - so please stay tuned!

Aug 2, 2013

Five piles of slate

Suddenly the slate is here.
On our backyard.
Lots of it.

One day these uneven pieces of grey river rock from Argentina will form the downstairs floor both inside and outside the apartment. At the moment, however, this huge pile of stone (95 m2 / 4600 kg) is partly located on our neighbours' side, because that was as far as the truck driver was able to drop his delivery. Just thinking of moving any of it by mere manpower makes ones muscles scream...

Five pallets of slate

We decide to go with slate as it is very durable, not slippery even when wet and visually appealing. In addition to the colour, which needed to be just the right grey to work well both inside and outside, the size and thickness of the slate also influenced our choice. The material to be used inside the house is 1-2 cm thick, whereas the outside material is 3-4 cm thick. We also preferred a natural layout instead of a more geometric cut.

Sample slate

The floor material has really come a long way from South America to Finland, and it was ordered via Liuskemestarit. Hopefully it will deal with the Finnish winters well, as part of the slate will need to wait in piles for next summer. At this time we are focusing our efforts inside the apartment, and leaving the whole backyard for next year. After all, we need some time to finalise the backyard layout, a project which has not really even been properly started. Except the slate, of course.

Made in Argentina