Estate Sales

Ingmar Relling’s Siesta Chair: A Design Icon

Norwegian Ingmar Relling (1920-2002) designed his Siesta chair in 1964. The following year it placed first at the Norwegian Furniture Council’s design competition. Siesta gave Relling a premier spot in Scandinavian design history along with international acclaim. In fact, this chair is recognized as the icebreaker leading to Norway’s entrée into international furniture markets.
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair

The Vanishing Barcelona Chair

Last weekend we acquired a pair of low-back Siesta chairs of our own. I wish I could claim it was expected. Despite these Norwegian beauties catching our attention online earlier in the week, we opted to go to another estate sale for, what we thought, a bigger prize.

Friday morning we groggily stood in a line many miles away. Numbers 1 and 2 on the sign-in sheet. David, normally gregarious, communicated in monosllyabic responses. We were on a mission: Michael sent us to snap up a fetching Barcelona chair (or well-made reproduction) wrapped in a rich white leather.

Barcelona Chair repro
Barcelona Chair repro. Original designed by Mies van der Rohe, 1929. Source

The doors of the sale opened and we raced inside, only to learn a disappointing and infuriating truth: someone had removed the Barcelona chair the previous evening — before the sale began.

There’s no telling what happened. Was it removed by the family, as the estate agent apologetically explained? Or was it something more nefarious, as some dealers muttered darkly: a price agreed upon before the general public could lay claim to it? Bad business, indeed.

Oh, and the snappy 1979 red MGB with red piping on the upholstery seams that, unbeknown to us, had captured David’s imagination? It was no longer there either. David wanted to at least drool over it for a few minutes. He believes everyone should own an MG at least once. Fortunately he already has enjoyed that experience.

David texted our son, Michael, with the sad news that the Barcelona Chair had vanished. The two shared moment of shock and anger. Michael opined on one of his favorite estate sale topics: the need for a cohesive set of guidelines to bring order to a largely ad hoc business. We listened politely. But, taking stock of the situation, we had gambled on the Barcelona chair and miscalculated badly.

Enter, Siesta Chairs

We headed home to regroup. While I gulped down a glass of cold pomegranate juice, David phoned the estate sale with the “Westnofa” chairs. Surprise — they were still available. When we heard the asking price, we knew why. If they survived until 9 am the next morning, when everything at the sale dropped by 30% . . .

After talking it over that night, the three of us came to a decision: we’d buy them. David took the lead on this one, leaving at 7:15 am for a 45 minute trip across the St Johns River. He signed in as number 2 on the list. The doors opened and he made a beeline for the chairs and fended off another shopper who came in behind him. He kept the purchase quiet until he triumphantly returned with a pair of matching Siesta Chairs. Very exciting.

Sadly, it was too much to hope for matching ottomans. Not that we’re complaining. David likes the thrill of the hunt and the adrenalin rush of the purchase. He compared his adventure to a Deerslayer moment, with Ingmar Relling’s Siesta chairs in the sight of his imaginary long rife. And he got two with one shot.

A lot of craftsmanship went into the Siesta chair. This is a serious merging of design and function into luxurious comfort. Laminated, bent beechwood create the bones, while a soft leather seat welcomes your tired body. More interestingly, the color changes with the light. Here’s a shot of it around midday — brown, right?
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair
And in late afternoon light it appears burgundy:
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair

Look at the back! Cords and canvas offer trampoline-like comfort. We’re not kidding — not only is it incredibly light, the Siesta chair is also sensationally comfortable.
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair

Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair

Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair
Occasionally people claim that Westnofa manufactured these chairs. That would be wrong. Westnofa, created in the 1950s, was an umbrella Norwegian organization intended to promote trade in international markets. Vestlandske originally manufactured Siesta. In 1997 Ekornes bought Vestlandske. Currently Rybo produces this timeless chair.
Ingmar Relling Siesta Chair
We love Rybo’s description of Relling’s process:

Simplicity, minimalism, elegance and uncompromising quality are key concepts in all Relling’s designs. Sleek, clear lines, not to mention the obvious correlation between design and function, were essential for Ingmar Relling, who always was closely involved with the chair’s development after it left the drawing board. Even in the design phase, it was crucial for Relling that the chair should be eco-friendly – with optimized use of materials, wood from sustainable forests, maximum durability and reusability. This is typical of Ingmar Relling, who, as well as being a designer, was a dedicated humanist, interested in dimensions extending beyond the purely aesthetic. Source

Function equal to form. Comfort interwoven with responsible design. Something to ponder, maybe, after I melt back into the chair’s soft embrace. Ingred Relling Siesta Chairs


Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Pinterest.

Ann Marie and David

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More Top Posts From 2015

This is Part 2 of Iris Abbey’s top posts from 2015. Click here to see the top three posts. We’ve talked about furniture manufacturing history, estate sales, painting techniques, a paint review and a novice upholstery projects. To view any of the original posts below, just click on the titles you are interested in.

White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, Part 2
White Furniture of Mebane NC
Estate Sale Weekend, Part 1
Maya Man
Try This Painting Technique: Layering

American Empire Revival Style

Estate Sale Weekend, Part 2
Ceramic Mask
Diamonds for a Lady
Reviewing Amy Howard’s Tick Tock Paint
Amy Howard Tick Tock Paint
A New Realm: Upholstering Chairs

Reupholstering Cane Side Chair

We’re now on 1st Street at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery and it feels like we’ve finally found our place within the mall. Thanks to our many friends for supporting Iris Abbey. On to 2016!

Ann Marie & David


Tips for Identifying Waterford Crystal

David and I visited an amazing estate sale last Friday. Every estate sale is different, and this house overflowed with Waterford Crystal in the Colleen pattern.

We saw sets of wine glasses, champagne glasses, brandy snifters, sherry glasses and others that I cannot begin to name. I remembered Suszi, an owner of Avonlea Antique and Design Gallery, advised me to pick up some Waterford if I happened across any. “It’s quite popular at Christmas.” And why not? It’s ornate, breathtaking, cut glass that dances in sunlight and glows in firelight. Waterford Crystal would make a fabulous gift for  someone special.

I searched the tables of crystal, almost afraid to touch the pieces, and found two items that we could afford: a wine decanter with stopper, and a pitcher. You can see that a estate company rep wrote Waterford at the base with a nonpermanent marker. I appreciated that.

Waterford Decanter and Stopper Colleen Collection

Waterford Crystal Pitcher Colleen Collection

At a previous, sprawling estate sale I foolishly inquired about Waterford crystal. “It’s here but you’ll just have to pull out your magnifying glass and hunt.”  I thought he was kidding — and at that point not only did I not carry a magnifying glass, I had no earthly idea what to look for.

Clearly, I needed to learn more about crystal. I sought out another vendor in the mall, someone willing to share a little knowledge. I’ve had my first tutorial and I’m looking forward to continuing my lessons. But enough about me.

Waterford Crystal originated in Ireland and a factory still produces glass there, offers tours, and has the largest collection of Waterford crystal in the world. Since 1783 the company has undergone mergers and takeovers and a century-long closure. Most Waterford Crystal is now produced in Slovania, Czech Republic and Germany.

Identification of Waterford Crystal can be tricky. The most important step is seeking out a reputable dealer.

The easiest ID is a Waterford sticker. That’s their seahorse in the photo below, followed by an older variation of the sticker.

Waterford crystal label

Waterford crystal sticker

Here’s our decanter’s sticker:

Waterford Sticker

The other method of identification requires that pesky magnifying glass. Hunt for the word “Waterford” etched in gothic type. Using a strong backlight helps, but it’s still a difficult logo to find. Not only did the estate sale rep write “Waterford” in black nonpermanent marker on their crystal, she also circled the etched word.

Waterford pitcher with logo circled

If you had your magnifying glass and/or a bright light and tipped the piece just so, you might see this:

Etched "Waterford" in gothic type
Waterford assures clients that their patterns will never expire. If you want to replace a piece,  all you have to do is contact the company and your crystal will be handmade using wooden molds to shape the handblown, molten crystal. Master cutters would then take the piece and, using a diamond-tipped wheel, cut to specifications.

Waterford Crystal typically has a lead content of 32%. The lead makes it heavier than glass and easier to cut. The baseline for a piece to be classified as crystal is 24%. Now, with this  information I had to do more research. Just how harmful is it to use crystal?

If you are simply drinking a glass of wine, there’s very little chance of lead leaching into the liquid. The cautions I found focused on leaving food or drink in a crystal container for  prolonged periods. For instance, it’s unwise to use the decanter as a permanent storage place for wine or liquor. Similarly, avoid the temptation to store jam in a crystal jam container. Use the crystal for a single sitting, return and remaining contents to a container or jar, and wash the crystal by hand.

I envision enjoying these brilliant, shimmering pieces on special occasions, where you’ll find yourself transported to a magical world of elegance and grace.

Ann Marie and David
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Estate Sale Weekend, Part 2

See Part 1 of our Estate Sale Weekend here.

Saturday is (usually) 50% discount day!

David and Michael, our son, headed back to the Moorish mini-castle that we had muscled our way through the previous Thursday. Before we left I asked if the sale would run through Saturday. The sales rep said, “Not if we keep on selling like this!”

A line of native masks had caught Michael’s attention. He hoped they still hung on the wall two days later at new, affordable prices. I would have written them all off but he walked in and voilà! There was the one he wanted. He reached up, hoisted it down and wouldn’t let it out of his grasp.

Ceramic Mask
Ceramic Mask with Feathers


The guys looked around the slim pickings and — another surprise — found a deer skull with antlers (not the one I tried to buy).

Deer Skull with Antlers
Deer Skull with Antlers


I joined them for the next leg of the excursion. Michael had identified another estate sale out at the beach. It wasn’t on my schedule, but spirits were high.

Of all the estate companies in town, we know this one the best because we are regular customers. We like the couple that runs the sales and they like us. The house, tucked back on a golf course, had a thinner crowd.

I checked out the living room, dining room and kitchen while David and Michael hit the bedrooms. I took a lovely painting off the wall and studied it. The frame was fantastic, but even at a 50% discount, I couldn’t afford it. Later, when I announced I was ready to check out, the cashier said,

“Bring that painting over here.”

“Oh, no. I decided not to buy that. It’s a little too expensive.”

“Get it. I’m going to give you a good price.”

And he did.

Framed Autumn Trees by D. Tigh (?)
Framed Autumn Trees by D. Tigh (?)


Here’s what Michael selected:

Bassett Mid-Century Modern
Bassett Mid-Century Modern Dresser, Mirror, Headboard and Footboard
Mid-Century Modern Stereo Console
Mid-Century Modern Stereo Console
Stereo Equipment
Stereo Equipment


I picked up these two items. Check out these nesting dolls. Japanese, I think. Even the tiny one has a face painted on.

Nesting Dolls and Gold Frame
Nesting Dolls and Gold Frame


We decided to transport everything in two trips.

David and Michael drove back for the console and arrived around 4:30, which allowed time to get it out before the sale closed at 5 PM. Just as I settled in at home and put up my tired feet, David phoned to ask me if I wanted anything else. Because something unbelievable just happened.

The estate sale rep offered a 75% discount. That has never, ever happened. I cannot explain this miracle.

I mentioned a framed Japanese sketch and a lyre chair. David secured those along with an oval picture frame of a handsome-looking family.

Framed Japanese Sketch
Framed Japanese Sketch
Lyre Back Chair
Lyre Back Chair
Oval Framed Family
Oval Framed Family


I have not researched any of the items that are presented here. More study needed. But we had a great and exhausting weekend.

Thanks for stopping by.

Ann Marie and David

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Estate Sale Weekend, Part 1

We visit a lot of estate sales. Usually they are well run, orderly and pretty routine. The estate  rep’s job is to get as much money as possible for the client. My job is to select the day(s) we visit, seeking the widest selection at the lowest prices. It’s a dance. Sometimes a slow waltz, occasionally a fluid tango, and rarely a manic tarantella.

This weekend was crazy, so I thought I’d share our challenges and triumphs.  Part 1 begins on a Thursday.

Sale #1

San Jose House

We entered the wrought-iron gates of a lavish, Moorish mini-fortress. A family crest with swords hung above the gates. Beyond lay two oversized oaken gates. This residence, stretching on forever, seemed more like a castle than a sleepy suburban home.

Such an intriguing structure ensured a mob of rabid shoppers who surged with first-day, first-hour passion. Opening day, by the way, offers no discounts.

Along with many others, I had pored over the photos posted on and knew we’d find this home brimming with treasures. Religious icons from around the globe: a replica Russian synagogue, Byzantine icons, crucifixes, rosaries. And antlers, masks, Spanish furniture, metal works, sculptures and paintings —  just a few of items that drew eager shoppers from other states.

Usually an estate sale company provides holding pens of some kind. As shoppers select items, they place them in a plastic container or on a clearly designated table. Everybody respects the holding pen, typically located very close to the cashier.

Picture the press of people, too numerous to allow any coherent flow of traffic, bumping and jostling while continuously repeating “Excuse me” with little sincerity.

Among this crush of humanity — and a full room away from the cashier — I caught sight of something underneath a card table filled with merchandise. Wading though a sea of frantic people, I bent down and pulled out deer antlers.

This innocent act brought immediate wrath from a nearby shopper who quickly shoved her way next to me and angrily declared all of the items off limits.

“Somebody’s already claimed everything down there.”

She turned to another woman, “Didn’t that man say he wanted those?”

Her friend immediately picked up the refrain, “Yes, I’m pretty sure he said they’re his.”

Turning back to me, she explained, “Because I’m was interested in the one you’re holding but that man has already claimed it.”

That’s ridiculous and I don’t like hearsay. I need primary sources. These ladies were loud, pushy and utterly confident in their assessment. Like a fool, I set down my antlers and in two steps found a sales rep. Nope, she said, those aren’t being held for anybody.

I spun around to see the first lady holding my deer antlers — and with no interest in surrendering them. “Well, I wanted them first,” she said, matter-of-factly.

I kept mouth shut and pulled out another set: ram’s horns and pretty cool looking. I think they may be upside down in my photo.

The steep prices prevented us from buying much, but here’s what we walked away with:

Ram's Horns
Ram’s Horns
Faux Gold Crown
Faux Gold Crown From a Church Statue
Maya Man
Maya Man

Sale #2

This next one was a private sale, open to all, but the family had chosen to forego a professional estate-sale company. They were on their own. I don’t like private sales because things can go wrong quickly.

My dislike of private sales was further cemented after David and I found a small, beat-up Kittinger chest with numerous problems. A couple decorations were missing, but we found them in a drawer. OK, they could be reattached. The molding presented a bigger problem: an important corner piece was missing. David would have to create his own mold, fashion a replica and seamlessly attach it.

We debated for 20 minutes. The sticky-backed tag read “$75 — As Is.” The family member sitting in the room — the homeowner’s mother — acknowledged that it was a good price for that poor piece.

I took the tag to the cashier’s table, intending to ask for a $10 discount.You know, go bold or go home.

“This is for the small chest in the back room.”

“Can you describe it? I’m not sure which one.”

“The small Mediterranean one.”

“I can’t picture it . . . ”

And my BIG mistake: “The Kittinger.” (NEVER admit you know something about a piece.)

As soon as I said the name, the homeowner, sitting next to the cashier, snapped to attention.

“That’s not the right price,” she said, grabbing for the tag. I pulled it close to my chest, unwilling to surrender.

“That’s what it’s marked.”

“It should be $175. Somebody wrote it wrong. I called out the price but they wrote it wrong.”

“Look, I’m willing to pay the amount on this tag. $75. Because that’s what’s marked. I can pay for the piece and walk out with it right now.”

“No. It’s mine and I’m telling you that you can’t have it for that price.”

Defeated and steamed, I waited for David and Michael, our son, to come downstairs. I delivered the news and we knew what to do: leave immediately.

Sale #3

This large, charitable estate sale opened its doors 3 hours before we arrived. Every single piece of antique furniture that I was interested in lacked a price tag. That means somebody had already grabbed the tags and planned to buy the items. The buyer was either in line or still shopping.

Well, it turns out that antiques were unavailable because our State Attorney’s representative, who waited 1.5 hours for the doors to open, was buying in bulk to furnish their new offices in antique style. I just read about an Illinois Representative who found himself in hot water after he had his office decorated in Downtown Abbey’s style (because the decorator donated her services, but it counted as a gift). Is a trend forming in public buildings?

Anyway, this man purchased at least 11 big pieces. Good for him but so sad for me.

But this estate sale wasn’t a complete wash. Michael found a couple pieces of Mid-Century Modern by Dixie and we quickly pulled off their tags. I picked up a wooden cigar box from Honduras just because it looked quirky.

Dixie Mid-Century Modern Bedroom Set
Mid-Century Modern Dresser and Nightstand by Dixie

Cigar Box Honduras

Michael stopped to look at another Mid-Century Modern cabinet but, again, no price tag.  After a while, however, it became apparent that nobody was purchasing it. A friendly sales rep  scurried to find an answer.

Sold. The man running this sale had purchased it on behalf of his housekeeper and  forgotten to affix a Sold sign to the piece. Ewwww. Sorry, Michael. He was discouraged about that, but he’ll still be able to strip and stain his lovely MCM furniture and sell them.

The Estate Sale Weekend . . . continued here.

Thanks for visiting. We hope to see you for Part 2.

Ann Marie and David

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Rainy Day Magic

David and I are still in the acquisition, repair, and painting phases of our new business. Of course everything takes longer than expected. We’re still debating our grand opening online. January? November (obviously that didn’t work)? December? February? To repeat, everything takes longer than expected.

I want to share a bit of what goes into acquiring our furniture.

Just look at that gorgeous hardware.
Just look at that gorgeous hardware.

We woke early one recent Saturday morning to driving rain. Not so unusual in Florida’s hurricane season. Rather than roll over and pull up the covers–so tempting–David and I headed to an estate sale over an hour before the doors opened. We had rain jackets and umbrellas and anticipated a long line of eager, soggy buyers.

I knew an hour in the downpour would drench us. But this was the final day of an estate sale, which translated into 50% off at that particular sale.

Drexel Heritage Armoire Hardware 1

Small magical moments began to happen. We were the first in line. We stood under an overhang. The rain couldn’t touch us. I sat in a lightweight, folding chair that we brought. Fifteen minutes before the doors opened the seller peeked out. My determination must have charmed him because he promised me a 10-second head start. That is big.

I had scoped out the merchandise the previous afternoon, right before closing time. I knew the two matching pieces I wanted, where they were, and exactly how much they’d cost. Drexel Heritage. Solid. Beautiful.

Even without those 10 seconds I would have reached them before anybody. My choices disappointed the person third in line.

Next, we needed to transport them. That’s where our good neighbor, Jerry, came in. Jerry has a pickup. The guys drove over to load up the pieces while I cleared space in our study, where these beauties now keep me company. The dresser came with two attachable mirrors and the and the armoire is a true wardrobe armoire, not an entertainment system.

Drexel Heritage Dresser

Drexel Heritage Armoire

I love them. After I clean them up, I’m inclined to let the buyer choose the paint colors.

In the meantime we are almost finished with four other pieces.

Ann Marie

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