Dateline: At the intersection of a very large house and a moderate budget
Well, I’ve done it again. So to speak. When we went to buy the stove, Julio directed my attention to a very large, 1950s dining table set with 10 chairs and a credenza. “This is a very good piece,” he said. It was certainly a very nice piece, no doubt about it. Also very solid, likely crafted of walnut or mahogany, or perhaps tzalam, a beautiful hardwood grown in the south of Mexico. And large! Measuring 2.4 meters in length, it included 10 upholstered chairs and a three-meter long “trinchador,” or credenza, for storing dishes and exhibiting treasures. The price for the whole set? Oh, a measly $20,000 MXN, or about $1,000 USD.
“I’ll think about it,” I said. Internally I had my doubts. The finish was likely originally a dark, chocolate brown, but over the years had developed a greenish tinge. It was also solidly mid-century, a style I admire, but it’s not exactly Art Deco. Still, Julio has an amazing eye for combining furniture from different eras. And the table had nice details: brass feet on the table, brass pulls on the trinchador, and some brass inlays. And any normal-sized dining table would appear to be doll house furniture in my enormous dining room. Who was I to question his judgment?
Tuesday we met to discuss kitchen flooring. After looking at a few dozen photos I had on my computer, plus a bunch of pictures of terrazo on the websites of various retailers, we set out to a store that had proven very helpful, and had given me several quotes by email. This is not a small thing in Mexico, where email replies (if you even get them) usually run to, “It’d be best if you came by the store in person.” So I wanted to give them first shot at any purchase. This time, we brought along a fragment of one of the tiles from the kitchen wall. We looked around. “This one!” Julio triumphantly announced, holding up the tile next to a green terrazo with medium-sized aggregate. “And you can make a ‘cenefa,’ (decorative border) with this one,” he said, pointing to a white terrazo with similar sized aggregate.
And on the spot, I made the decision to go with his suggestion. This also meant that I’d made the decision to scrap my existing flooring in the kitchen, and thus would also be able to also level the floor. What relief! I won’t have to have a step between the dining room and the kitchen. And I can finally move on with my remodeling, which has been, more-or-less hostage to flooring decisions.
“So what did you decide about the table?” Julio asked.
“I’m 85% of the way there to buying it. You’re right, my dining room needs a large table, and it’s a great piece. Besides, it’s hard to lose on this. The price he’s asking for the dining set is so low, I could easily sell it if I don’t want it. But I need another day to decide.”
My biggest problem with this table is an emotional hang-up. When my mother and father married in the early 50s in Copenhagen, they bought a Hans Wegner Danish Modern dining table and set of six Hans Wegner CH23 chairs. When they immigrated to the USA in 1958, they brought this set with them, and it’s the set I grew up with. When we moved my mother into her retirement home, she made me promise that I’d hang onto the table. This was no problem as I’ve always loved the table. So I disassembled it, dutifully hoisted it into her 2005 Mazda Wagon and drove it across the country, along with the chairs. I had always imagined that this would be the dining set I’d have in my more-modern Mexican abode.
So if I bought another table, what would I do with the Danish set? It absolutely, positively, in no way goes with my Edwardian Boston home. Nope. I decorated it with a 19th Century British Gentleman’s club in mind. No way do you squeeze a Danish Modern table into that. Yes, the chairs are scattered around the house, but the table is disassembled in a closet. But it’d have gone well with an Art Deco house.
Anyway, today I broke down and bought the table here in Mexico City. I still feel like I have to ask forgiveness of my parent’s dining table, but the one I got today is a too good a deal to pass up. It’s also a smidgen like the Hans Wegner table in that the legs are in an X shape, which is great because when you sit by the leg, it’s not between your own legs. All I need now is a large, Mexican family to fill all the chairs.
I also bought a set of four aluminum patio chairs. To me these looked like some kind of designer chair, maybe Knoll. When I got home, I looked, and it turns out that they are Knoll Jorge Pensil Toledo Aluminum Chairs, which are quite collectable. I suspect mine are knock-offs, but at $37.50 USD each, who cares? They are very comfortable, and will provide some much-needed seating inside, for now, and outside for the long term. So for an additional $3,000 MXN, I got these four chairs. Mine aren’t polished aluminum, but painted instead. We’ll see if they can be polished to look like the below. In any case, I don’t care. The real thing is going on eBay for $695 USD each, so I got a bargain in any case.
My total bill was $23,000 MXN, about $1,150 USD. Not a bad deal for a dining set for ten, a three-meter credenza, and four stylish patio chairs. I’m really being showered with good luck here. I hope it keeps up.