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The Mad Rag
A Tale of Two Chairs
  Friday, January 20, 2012

Fire picture one

When I first saw this picture, published on the Holland Sentinel website, it blew my mind. The blazing inferno is relevant to this story so bear with me.

Mid Century Modern! Clean lines, quality materials, superb craftsmanship. Kaare Klint, born in Denmark in 1888, has been called the father of modern Danish furniture design. Klint studied human proportions to design furniture that adapted to the human body and is responsible for some very familiar furniture like the Deck chair and the Safari chair. Form follows function. Maybe Klint himself said that in his factory as he produced the marvelous Danish furniture that endures to this day.

But, this story is not about Kaare Klint.

In 1920, Grete Jalk was born, also in Denmark. She studied at the Design School for Women and also studied with Kaare Klint for a few years, adapting her work to the clean lines and style of Danish modern furniture. She was a close associate of Poul Jeppesen, apparently producing many classic designs under the label P. Jeppesens Møbelfabrik A/S. She is perhaps most well known for the plywood GJ chair.

Grete Jalk Chair

This story is not about her either.

This is a tale of two chairs, inspired by Kaare Klint, designed by Grete Jalk, manufactured by P. Jeppesens and shipped to the United States sometime in the mid-twentieth century. They came to reside in a house on Lake Macatawa in Holland. I first became acquainted with these chairs when I was approached to sell them for Mrs. D.

Front of chairs

side of chairs

Good tag

At 94 years old, Mrs. D was determined to stay in her house so the lower level was outfitted to accommodate caretakers. The chairs had to go. The upholstery was shot but the frames were absolutely pristine. Geez! What gorgeous chairs!! As I deliberated about details like whether or not to reupholster, selling venues, shipping, and yada, yada, yada, they were stored in a room between the attached garage and the house, carefully stacked and covered with heavy moving blankets.

Fast forward to February 22, 2011.

Fire picture 3

Fire picture 2

I received a call that Mrs. D.'s house had suffered a garage fire. Everyone was safe. The main house was still standing, with extensive smoke and water damage. The garage, however, was completely destroyed, along with the two cars parked inside.

Burned garage

The chairs, stacked in the interior room just beyond the inner wall still standing and covered in heavy moving blankets, had also suffered extensive smoke damage but, amazingly, were not charred or water logged.

smoked chairs

After sitting in a storage unit for several months to air out the smell of smoke, the chairs were turned over to Richard of Timeless Arts Refinishing. Every trace of smoke damage, poof! gone. Only the straps show the effects of the inferno on February 22...

Refinished front chairs

Refinished single chair

Refinished single chair 2

Burnt tag

...and, the tags. I'm still yada-ing about the details of selling these chairs. If they were mine, I'd keep them and appreciate them all the more for the remarkable story they tell. But, they're not mine. So, give me a call. They deserve a home!

Best regards,

John & Leslie