I Went to a Launch Party for a Chair

nicole's dream room

A few weeks ago I walked by this interior design showroom and was temporarily arrested by longing for a home that, someday, looked like the one in the window.

When I went to Inform Interiors‘ website, I learned that they were having a launch party for a chair on March 10—and so, curious to be around other people who shared this design aesthetic, I went. (You can see a picture of the chair here.)

I wore a thrift-store dress (eggshell, with blue and green polka dots) and my denim jacket. For any other launch party I might have attended—art, books, theater opening nights—that would have been more than appropriate. But when I walked into the launch of Fritz Hansen’s limited edition Anniversary Series 7™ chair, I realized I had chosen the absolute wrong thing to wear. In fact, there might not have been anything in my closet that was the right thing to wear.

Nearly everyone else at the launch was wearing black. More than that, they were wearing extremely high-quality clothing. The puffy vest jacket that was similar to, but nothing like, my $15 puffy vest jacket from Target. The unscuffed shoes under the perfect trouser break. Only a few of the men wore jeans, and the ones that did paired their dark denim with jackets and suspenders and vests.

And the thing is that I know plenty of people who wear vests and dark denim, or wrap dresses with muted prints, but these were not those fabrics or cuts. This audience, more than anything else, demonstrated that materials matter—and it was an appropriate match, as we stood and listened to a lecture about the history of famous chairs and the materials used to make them.

I also know that materials matter. You don’t have to convince me that a high-quality fabric will look better, drape better, and last longer than, say, my Old Navy fast fashion. But as I stood in the back and watched the lecture and the audience simultaneously, I realized that I’m not yet at a stage in my life where I can care about materials, at least not at this level. I’m still at the “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” stage. I literally superglued my Fitbit bracelet back together when it started to fall apart. I’d be willing to bet that nobody in that audience was wearing superglue as an accessory to an accessory.

But if you start to think about that too much, you start thinking in terms of us and them, the plucky writer in her thrift-store dress vs. all of those people in their beautiful clothes, and by positioning yourself as the antagonist to that you lose the humanity in the actual individuals who attended that event. It is inappropriate for me to think of a group of strangers as a unified “they.” Each of them has their own story.

So I’ll think about the furniture instead. It was lovely. More than lovely. And I’ll never own any of it, not even if I double my current income. You get a few harsh realizations in your life, and one of mine, as I walked slowly through this showroom, was that I will never belong in this world, not ever. I’ve been too plucky, and too thrifty, for too long. I know how to sit up straight and I know how to eat soup by pushing the spoon away from you and I know how to make dinner table conversation that makes everyone else feel comfortable, and I know how to read a story aloud in a low, soft voice, and I know how to behave with what might be called “class” and I am still, permanently, outclassed.

As I was putting my coat back on, a woman asked me if I had tried the bed. You know which bed. The one I saw in the window. I said I hadn’t, and she urged me to lie down on it—her daughter had one, after all. So I did, on the side, careful to keep my Duet Busy Day Ballet Crocs off the material.

It was a pretty unyielding mattress, all things considered. It reminded me of the year I spent in Los Angeles, sleeping on the floor. The material was harsh and stitched together in lumps like a futon.

The woman explained that the mattress was organic, and then said, laughing, “and it costs as much as a house!” I have no idea what that number could mean, since houses are so many different kinds of prices. I do know that my $189 Brentwood Encore 8-inch Pillowtop Inner Spring mattress is not the best bed I’ve ever slept in—that honor would go to the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed, which retails at $1046.25 for a full-size mattress—but I also know that this bed that costs as much as a house is never going to be mine, that I will always think of brands like the Sheraton as “high-quality” even though I have read Paul Fussell’s Class and know exactly what that means, and that there is a whole world of fabrics and furnitures and experiences to which I will never belong and I am just going to have to deal with it.

And then I went home and poured myself a glass of $4.99 Berenger White Zinfandel and ate my Near East couscous and Power Greens salad while watching old episodes of Parks and Rec on Hulu, because this is where I fit into the world.

It was a fantastic launch party for a chair. I’m so glad I went.

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