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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Treasure Hunting

Mid-century modern comes home

This mid-century modern office chair was made by the United Chair Company in Leeds, Alabama (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
This mid-century modern office chair was made by the United Chair Company in Leeds, Alabama (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

With a few minutes to spare, I stopped by an estate sale on my way to pick up my daughter from school. The bungalow, located on a street that links the regal Rockwood neighborhood and the up-and-coming Perry District, was full of people and not a lot else. I could tell most of the finds had already been found. And, that's ok with me. I'm not a get-there-an-hour-early-and-stand-in-line kind of treasure hunter. I hate the pushing and shoving when the door opens and, besides, I'm not afraid of leaving empty-handed. If something there is meant to go home with me, it will wait for me to find it.

After walking through the house, I went around to the basement. There were the usual things - garden tools, Christmas decorations and clay flower pots - but a chair caught my eye. It was a 1960s office chair. I loved the clean lines of the piece; the mid-century modern look to the slim strips of finished wood for arm rests, green nubby upholstery fabric and a wide roller base. I asked for the price of the unmarked chair. The man in charge of the basement sales asked me what I would pay. I asked what he had in mind. Neither of us said anything else for a minute.

Finally, the man said he would like to get $15 for it. I sat in the chair and liked the way it fit me. There was a good feel to the structure. It rolled easily and tipped back just enough to keep one from feeling like they were sitting in an upright kitchen chair. The fabric seat and naugahyde back were in excellent condition.

A woman walked into the basement and noticed the chair, and my attention to it. "I'll give you $5 for that chair," she said. I glanced up at her and then at the man as he refused. She walked on.

I didn't really need a new chair, but I haven't been happy with the chair in my office. I thought I might have found a better option. I offered the man $10 and he accepted cheerfully.

When I got it home and turned it over to do wipe away the basement dust, I noticed the United Chair Company tag on the bottom of the chair and smiled. I have a friend who spent many years as an administrator  at United Chair in Leeds, Alabama before she left to go to work at the new Nissan factory.

So, my 1946 Spokane Cape Cod got a $10 dose of Southern-made, comfortable, mid-century modern style with a dash of nostalgia. Not bad for a 10-minute stop at an estate sale.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."