If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make you feel like a grownup it’s buying your first, very nice dining table and chair set. It’s a marked step away from the Sims-day-one vibe of your late teens / twenties when eating is either done standing up in the kitchen, off of your knees or by utilising 3 mismatched chairs and a patio table. Aah but those were simpler times.
Now, saying this is all very well and good but I will be the first to admit that my interior design abilities are seriously underdeveloped, which is a serious impediment when trying to choose and buy ‘forever’ furniture. And what doesn’t help is that there’s so much to choose from – ‘French Country’, ‘Minimalist’, ‘Rustic’, ‘Rustic industrial’ and on and on and on, and apparently most people seem to have a clear preference on which they can balance most of their design and purchasing decisions. However, I like elements from most styles and this makes it really difficult to actually find stuff I like, or to organise that into something that would make sense for one home, outside of having themed rooms (yack). The only thing I’ve ever been really sure about is what I don’t like – bright, primary colours, naff 70s prints, anything glossy, and those godawful inspiration quotes that people seem to like stencilling on their walls. So, historically my MO has always been to choose stuff that is a) affordable, b) comfortable and c) what I like, but that last point encompasses so much that if life and death decisions were made off the back of being able to give my style a name, the Earth’s population would be a nicely-rounded zero.
So, in the absence of any unified aesthetic taste, and to try to wean myself away from only shopping at one or 2 places (which I have done, mostly out of fear paralysis caused by being presented with too many options a la Ivan Braithwaite) I’ve had to adapt and put in place some controls to manage some of my weirder purchasing impulses whilst also broadening and solidifying my horizons a little bit. And what I’ve found to work the best are 2 little mottos that I’ve adopted into my life as follows:
Principle one – buy well, once
I am not adverse to paying a lot of money for nice things. But I only want to do it once. One bed. One sofa (set). One dining set. Etc etc. And then those things will be used until they perish or I do (whichever comes first). So they need to look timeless, be well made and suit the home they’ll be going to (pets, children etc). This gives you permission to spend money, but parameters in which that money will be spent. And if you buy something that’s made to last 30 years or more, eventually you will end up on the right side of that expenditure.
Principle 2 – waiting will weed out whims
The second principle is about sanity checking your own desires. If you’re not sure about something (or it’s really expensive), wait 3 months and if you still want it then, well, it’s not just a whim and you should get it. This way, you’ll catch yourself before you spend money on something unsuitable or help you put a plan in place to afford the things you really want. And while you wait, you can have a good think about whether or not that thing would really work in your life.
Principles in practice – levelling up our dining room set
These principles have actually been working out really well so far. They helped my buy our bed, and our dining table. And now they’ve helped my buy our dining chairs. As with the former, I spent about 3 months looking for chairs that fit our search parameters – must go with table, must have arms, etc – and then sat on my shortlist for another 3 months, waiting to see which ones fell by the wayside. And eventually they all did, except for this one design by Timothy Oulton that I keep rotating back to and which were ridiculously expensive but every time I saw them I fell more and more in love with them. So I did my principle-mandated thing of showing them to various people, trying to get a good selection of feedback and make sure I wasn’t just going mad but it was universally agreed that they were gorgeous and by that time they were also on sale … so ….
I bought the chairs!
This design is called “Mimi” and is described as being the “reinvention of a vintage 1940s French dining chair”, which I love, and then also this particular style incorporates a degraded blue paisley velvet, and flared and tapered wooden legs and arms which fit really well with our live edge oak dining table. I still have no idea what you would call this type of look but I am in LOVE, so in a way it actually doesn’t matter anymore.
One of the chairs has already been given to Errol to sit in and the others have been used 3 times between Christmas and now, thanks to lockdown. So, I’m looking forward to when we can have more people over and get some good use out of the set, because chairs this gorgeous deserve to be sat on.