The inevitable July/August migration has once again ensnared me and my English colleague, Michael Hughes, in it’s grip. However, instead of delving into the wonders of the northern, mid and far west, we have chosen to visit the extraordinary beauty of the American and Canadian northeast. Frankly, the entire continent  is extraordinary, so I need not laud any further.

Before departing, however, I went and kicked my chair once again to see if I could get it verbalizing anew. The chair duly noted my clumsiness and commented on my journey with Mr. Hughes. “That’s the chap that looks like a light bulb with ears,” the chair said. ” One of my favorites of your kind of people, because he really seems to care about my kind of people.”

“You are not people,” I said, “but you are right,” I agreed, “he is a dealer’s dealer and we are heading for Washington, DC and then north to Boston, Portland eventually up into Canada.”

“Hmmpf,” the chair mumbled.

“Do I detect a little jealousy?”

“Let me tell you where I have been,” the chair started to say, but I was ready to go.

“I’ll send you a post card from Halifax.” The chair was obviously miffed, but more amazing than that was that I said I would send it a post card! Clearly, anthropomorphism of some sort was entering my brain. I just hoped that no other objects were going to declare their humanity to me. One grumpy chair is enough.


I read an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day by Jack and Suzy Welch about how corporations are people. It reminded me of why I like English antique furniture so much. It speaks to me. The other day, as a matter of fact, I bumped into one of a set of eight chairs and I heard the chair say to me, “Watch where you are going.”. Now, I have to admit that I was surprised that the chair actually spoke, because what I mean about antiques speaking to me is not so much a voice, but about age and condition, patina and all those things about design that you learn in books. So I thought I might try and carry this conversation on just a bit as long as the chair felt like talking.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, “I guess I didn’t see you.”

“Well,” said the chair,”you should watch where you are going. I am, after all, only a temporary resident in your gallery and you need to feed and care for me to the best of your abilities. That doesn’t include bumping into me by accident. And if you wouldn’t mind, would you stop playing Pink Floyd and play a little Handel? I do so miss the baroque era.”

I put some Handel on and thought to quiz the chair on all it had seen. The craftsmen, the clients, the bums that it had supported, the gossip it had heard. What an opportunity! So I started asking a few questions.

“Gossip, gossip, gossip. I don’t wish to tell you any of it. All you would do is pass it on and then every chair in the world would have to sing for its supper. I would be in the hall of shame for my impropriety and then everyone would know that we are actually people.”

“You are not people,” I retorted. “People breathe, have organs, reproduce. You are just a thing!” I have to say I was a little indignant.

“Such a know-it-all” the chair replied, “all things are people. We all exist and that is what counts. We take up space and we are used and, occasionally, abused. Whether we are a bridge or a bicycle or a set of dentures, we are what we are. When people use us well, we thrill to a higher purpose. I mean we are just like corporations in that respect.”

“But corporations are focused on profits,” I objected, “they have no higher purpose. Look at all those banks fixing rates, laundering money and acting like whales. They aren’t people.”

“You don’t get it do you,” the chair shot back. “This is a dog eat dog world and as people we need to recognize this. I started out as a set of sixteen and now we are only eight. Do you think we did this on good looks alone? No, we had to connive to stay alive. People do that you know.”

I was so amazed by this philosophical chair that my gallery manager, Emily, startled me by saying, “Are you talking to someone?”

“No,” I replied, “I was just thinking of what a great set of eight chairs this is but how much better it would be if we had the original set of sixteen.”

“Eight’s enough,” Emily retorted, “we don’t have the space to have sixteen.” Just then, I thought I heard the chair choke just a bit, but I chose to ignore it. Too many life lessons in one day.


The untruths in politics these days, particularly by the candidates, are astounding. It doesn’t matter which side you are talking about, they are both up for huge rounding errors. I wonder if this represents democracy, a system that Winston Churchill called terrible, but better than all the others. I am not so certain he was right. Spin and lies dominate the political landscape and if the politicos don’t do it, there are plenty of partisans that will do it for them.

The 18th century, I am pretty certain, was not a better time to live in than today. Their spin was unsubstantiated rumor which I am certain could be devastating. But it was an era of great quality, at least in furniture manufacture. The reasons for this are many, the foremost being that most high end furniture was bespoke and the clients would not pay if they found fault with the product. There was enormous incentive to get things right.

The 18th century cabinetmakers were held accountable for their work. Manufacturers today know that for the volume they make and sell that some products will fail. Whether they make good or not, it is a rounding error, a function of economics. A lost customer is a byproduct of mass production and almost inevitable in the scheme of things. Politicians seem to work by this principle as well. Is there truly a lack of accountability or are the voters just not noticing? Either scenario makes you wonder.


There is a firm outside of Cincinnati that designs roller coasters who are world renowned for their skill of design. I read about them in the NY Times and, once built, there is a daily check of the track to ensure safety and replace pieces on the spot should there be a problem. The writer of the article was amazed by this as if working in wood is a rare skill that can only be undertaken by certified woodworkers. No, the repair needs to be done by someone who is a woodworker skilled in track repair.

Maintenance has to be big with roller coasters, but it is also important in the world of antique furniture. I stress maintenance all the time since problems can grow to be big through neglect. There is nothing worse than seeing a loose piece of veneer go unglued and see it torn off because someone could not organize a little glue. Maintenance sounds like hard work, but it really isn’t. It is about keeping your eyes open and acting on potential problems early, rather than late.

I was given Robert Pirsig’s book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, in the summer of 1974. I was attending the London College of Furniture and the lesson was not lost on me. Pirsig’s focus was about being in the moment, dealing with problems as they arise so that they would not affect one in the long term. It almost seems pedantic, but if you get over forty and you haven’t learned that lesson, it is unlikely you ever will. It goes without saying that if you are riding the wooden roller coaster, you want the track checker to be up on that lesson as well.