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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eames Chairs: A Frugal Gift

For those who know what an Eames chair is, the above title may seem baffling. Icons of mid-century modern design themselves, Rae and Charles Eames designed chairs and other items that are icons of mid-century modern design. Iconic rarely comes cheap.

My parents married in 1953 and craved mid-century modern, though I suppose it was just called modern at the time. Most desired was the iconic Eames lounge chair and ottoman, which now costs $3699.00.

My parents, with children born in (oops!) 1954 and (oops!) 1955, were in no position to buy much of anything for many years. My father was in graduate school and worked at Macy's at night. My mother struggled with two children.

At some point, they acquired a set of four of what was--and perhaps still is--the cheapest Eames chair:
Today these cost $449.00. Mr. FS and I now have these, awaiting a replacement of a small worn-out gasket. Obviously, these were a good buy, and, if you intend to get 40+ years of service out of them as my parents did, they still are.

As I said, my parents REALLY wanted the lounge chair and ottoman. I once bought my parents a book on Eames design from the Museum of Modern Art Gift Shop, when, as an art-besotted teenager, I would take a long train trip and visit museums several times a month. But, except for that tome and the 4 chairs, my parents did not succumb to their desire for Eames. And, of course, with each passing year, the chair got more and more expensive.

Duchesse rightly mentioned in a comment that families have different gift-giving protocols. My parents never gave each other gifts. I had a very close friend whose mother left strategically-placed clippings all over the house, with her desired items circled. I asked my mother why she and my father never exchanged gifts. She said that if she really wanted something, she would get it. She also said that she and my father didn't need to show they loved each other by giving gifts on designated days. My friend's parents, who had a marriage made in Hell, divorced as soon as their children finished high school. With just two examples, I cannot claim that gift-giving or not-gift-giving correlates to happiness in marriage.

After 25 years of marriage, my parents decided it was time to celebrate and get the lounge chair. But they had a small tiff. My mother wanted to buy one for my father. My father wanted to buy one for my mother. What to do? Each bought one for the other. Those chairs proved to be frugal purchases, going on 30 years now.

I know this sounds suspiciously like that O. Henry chestnut The Gift of the Magi.But it is, I promise, true.

So dear Readers: Do you have any examples of seemingly over-the-top purchases that have given so much pleasure and/or use that they are frugal? Please share!


FB @ said...

Hmm, that's a good point about wanting something for so long it becomes frugal.

I haven't had any of those purchases yet.. except maybe my laptop?

Oh and enjoy this cute picture of a puppy in an Eames chair :)

Frugal Scholar said...

@FB--Love the little pug!

Duchesse said...

I enjoy so many things about the story: the reciprocity, the waiting till the right time, the image of two now older folks in their matching chairs. (Do they know which is his and hers?) My Dad once gave my mother a box of Cuban cigars for Mother's Day (she did not smoke). She got him back on Father's Day when she presented him with a set of china.

I bought some beautiful things (without going into debt) when I was 40-45 because I knew I wanted to live with them a long time.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Thanks. No...they shared the chairs.

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