How to make an Entrance… Part II (A Bench to Build a Dream On)

by becauseijustdo

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Our sweet bench in its new home.

Two days ago I posted an entry about the nitty-gritty and how-to details of creating the entryway of my home.  In truth, there is an entirely other (and much more interesting) story to the evolution of that particular space.

That story begins with a quest.  A quest for a bench.  A bench that needed to be no wider than 40″.  I knew that once I found the proper bench that the rest of the project would come easily.  The bench would serve as the anchor piece, the roots of the area but I had no idea that finding the perfect bench would take me nearly 18 months.

My immediate thought was to purchase the classic Nelson Bench from DWR.  Unfortunately, this little gem doesn’t come any smaller than a 48″ size.  I scoured the internet:  Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, CB2, Room and Board, Restoration Hardware, Serena and Lily, but there just wasn’t anything original or all that interesting about the pieces I was finding in the usual places.  Also, did I mention 40″ is definitely NOT a standard size when it comes to benches.

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Nelson Platform Bench from DWR.

I toyed with putting a single stool next to a larger basket.  This way,  at least one person would be able to sit down and the larger basket could serve as a shoe receptacle.  However, in the long run I realized that a bench is just a more family friendly, warmer, welcoming piece of furniture than a single stool.

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West Elm Curved Storage Basket and Moller Model 80A Stool from DWR .

I went in circles for about 6 months with fruitless internet searches.  Then, one day while standing in my brother-in-law’s kitchen I saw this image…

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…and I fell deeply and madly in love.  Everything about this image appeals to me; beautiful, modern, brightly colored fabrics juxtaposed against the classic lines of a curved-back, antique sofa…it really did take my breath away.  Not to mention the incredibly clever name, Chairloom.  Brilliant.  “What’s up with this?”, I asked my brother-in-law.  He replied that a dear, old friend that both he and my husband had attended high school with had started this re-upholstery company.  Her name was Molly Andrews and she was living in Philadelphia.  I surreptitiously entered the names “Chairloom” and “Molly Andrews” into the Notes section of my iPhone.  Not that I would have ever forgotten them… that image was seared into my brain.

A quick google search found Chairloom‘s website and then a little digging on Facebook revealed a Chairloom fan page.  I discovered the following statement on the their website, “Once was lost, now is found.  At Chairloom, there are two guiding principles behind our work.  One: The value of being found.  We cherish the good bones beneath torn, faded or otherwise timeworn fabric.  Two: The importance of second chances.  Life is all about second chances and there is always the hope of being found when we are lost.”  Now I was not only drawn to that initial image, I was moved by their mission.  I learned the exact services that Chairloom was offering: fabric consultations, full service re-upholstery, vintage and antique furniture sales and refinishing, customization and repair.  Combine all of those together and you get a vintage or antique piece of furniture, repaired, refinished and reupholstered in a fabulous, current fabric.  Yes!  This would take care of the originality I was looking for and the customization that I needed.

One day while visiting the Chairloom website (something I did with ridiculous frequency), I discovered a link to something called the “magalogue”.  Intrigued, I clicked through and was viewing a gorgeous spread of before and after photos of refinished and reupholstered furniture, gift guides, amazing photos of fabric samples and a few pieces of vintage furniture for sale.  I also learned that Molly had teamed up with Tracy Jenkins of Super Rural to form a new entity known as Co-Lab.

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Cover of the first Co-Lab. magalogue… Photo by Steve Belkowitz. Click on photo to view all 3 Co-Lab. magalogues.

It was within that first Co-Lab magalogue that I came across the following photo:

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Rosewood Bench… photo by Steve Belkowitz. Taken from Co-Lab. magalogue, Holiday 2011 (page 35)

The description next to the photo told me it was a 39″ wide bench.  It would fit!  Immediately, I thought I had found my bench.  I composed an email to Molly, introducing myself and inquiring about purchasing that bench.  I mentioned that I was looking for a piece for an entryway and that it needed to have space underneath for shoe storage.  Molly wrote back the next day to tell me the bench was available and she was happy to set it aside for me but that she might have something she was working on that would be a better fit.

My mind continually drifted back to that rosewood bench pictured above but something about it didn’t feel exactly right.  It just seemed a bit too “heavy” for our small space.  A few weeks later I had an email from Molly with details about a new, custom bench she and her partner Tracy were creating through their collaborative project, Co-Lab.  The bench was being called a “This Century Modern Bench” and was completely customizable.  Again…YES!

I was thrilled. I sent Molly a few pictures of our living room, including photos of the other upholstered pieces in the room and she emailed me links to fabric websites for me to check out.  I lingered on the websites of Caitlin Wilson, Studio Bon, Michael Devine and Katherine Rally.  However,  I kept thinking back to the very first time I visited the Chairloom website.   The first fully reupholstered piece I came across on the site was done in a Hable Construction fabric called “Checker”.  It stuck with me and even as I swooned over all the other fabric choices,  I kept coming back to Hable.  I narrowed down my choices, then Molly sent swatches to me out in California.  The minute I saw the Hable Construction “Chocolate Checker” fabric, I knew we had a winner.

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Hable Construction Chocolate Checker fabric.

The rest, as they say is history and we became the first owners of the Co-Lab. Custom This Century Modern bench.

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Photos of our bench in the Chairloom showroom in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. (photos taken from the Chairloom website) Please note the amazing stenciled floor in their showroom.

The final dimensions for our bench were 40″W x 19″H x 18″D.  We used cherry legs and Hable Construction Chocolate Checker fabric.  It was easily transported from Pennsylvania to California since the legs simply unscrew making for a flat and easy-to-ship package.

Simple. Custom. Original. Perfect.

Check out all the other offerings from Co-Lab. Custom.

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