[From McCalls, April 1976, uploaded by jackie121467 on Flickr.]
Alert readers will have noted the oddly shaped chair pictured in one of the photos from Thad’s garage sale:
It’s a contour chair lounge, which was produced by the aptly named Contour Lounge Chair Co. of St. Louis, Mo., from the 1950’s to the 80’s. The above chair is probably one of the earlier models, which reclines when you depress a wooden lever on the right-hand side. Later models were motorized and sometimes included “thermonic heat and viveration” (vibration). What most interests me about the contour lounges is that they were some of the earliest examples of ergonomic devices. The chairs were custom made based on each customer’s measurements; the idea is that, when reclined, the entire body is supported and relaxed, feet above heart, back and neck cradled. This hilarious commercial from 1984 highlights all the features of “the most comfortable, most relaxing chair made in the world today”:
The chairs aren’t really collector’s items–designwise they’re interesting but flawed (those ugly arms!)–but they certainly have a following. I would put an approximate value of $150-500 on a chair in good vintage condition (the price would vary depending upon the upholstery and of course the location of the sale).
Those of you who know me or have studied the about page know that I used to own a shop. We sold home accessories, gifts, stationery, vintage items, and revamped old furniture. Two years ago I bought a contour chair from a living estate sale off of 119th St and replaced the torn seafoam vinyl with a durable navy blue Pindler & Pindler fabric (a single chair uses about seven yards of fabric, by the way). I can personally testify to its comfort level, because it lived in our living room for a few months before the store opened and it was reupholstered, and I fell asleep in it many times. (The only picture of the chair I could find is this photo on Manic Thrift Store Shopper.)
It turns out my friend Daniel owned a double contour chair that he and his wife loved but didn’t have room for. That thing was huge. So of course I bought it and had it recovered in red velvet:
Odd side note: Bonnie Bing featured the chair in a Wichita Eagle Valentine’s Day-themed fashion spread.
So what is the amazing and bizarre thrift coincidence involving the contour lounge chair? Well, guess who appeared at Thad’s garage sale and spirited away the space-conscious single-wide lounge? None other than Daniel and his wife, Pam. Surely the chair will bring them good luck and happiness, because it was clearly meant to be theirs.
I do not believe in anything so imaginative as thrifting gods, but if they did exist I could imagine them chortling over the master orchestration of this particular series of exchanges.
(Stay tuned for bizarre thrift coincidence #2, which involves Georges Briard, thrifted gifts, Anna’s house, and my own procrastination. Until then, happy thrifting!)