I grew up in a house full of navy: we had navy silverware, navy plates and even a navy Kitchenaid mixer. The most memorable navy decorations, though, were my parents’ velvet chairs from the 1980s. We moved around quite a bit when I was a kid, but the set was a constant. The chairs were cozy and soft, but more importantly they were a refuge from our awful dog, Jackie. When playing with him, I always knew that at any moment he could turn on my siblings and me. And if he did, my parents knew where to find my sisters: perched on the set of blue seats trying to escape his chompers.
When I was in my teens, I wasn’t interested in interior design as I am now, and I lacked an appreciation for the memories furniture can hold. So I’m not surprised I let my mom get rid of the two chairs at one of our garage sales. Up until recently I was under the impression that they were sold, but apparently my mom actually hauled them to a secondhand shop because (shockingly) no one wanted them.
I have such fond memories of those chairs, and I really hope they went to a family that loved and lived in them as much as we six Flemings did. I only wish younger me had the forethought to keep them. They would be such a nice tether to my family’s past. Scroll down to read more about the chairs, see some goofy pictures of me as a kiddo, and learn about the ways I’d modernize the set if I had it today. Enjoy! —Garrett
Illustration by Nanna Prieler
When my mom helped me track down some pictures of the chairs, she and I realized they were in several of our Christmas photos. Together they act as a visual timeline; showing our family growing and changing. The photos above start with me as a toddler in the late 1980s, then came my sister Meredith in 1990 and those glam white-and-blue outfits. Elizabeth was born in 1993, sometime between when the third and fourth photos were taken, and the last picture shows us celebrating one of my brother Gordon’s first Christmases (around 1998).
Photography above by Carolina Mariana Rodríguez
I always remember liking the two chairs, but clearly I underestimated the influence they had on me. Around 2015, about a decade after we got rid of them, it came time to buy myself a new sofa. What did I end up with? The blue velvet one as seen above in my first Chicago apartment. I was ecstatic when it was delivered. Being able to afford adult furniture that was brand new was a big deal. There I was: living in a new city 1,000 miles from home, and I, Garrett, could afford a sofa.
If I still had the two blue velvet chairs, I’d use the pair as a canvas, constantly changing them up to fit the latest design trends. My mom’s a great sewer, and I’d ask her to make me either a buffalo plaid cover for the seats or help me attach kilim scraps to the back, giving them a bohemian flair. Or maybe I would do both and turn them into a mismatched couple? Why not?!
For more velvety inspiration, check out our roundup of 15 Velvet Sofas To Inspire Your Next Upholstery Project.