Do Not Buy the Table Before the Chairs

buy table before the chairs

My friend, let’s call her Sally, decided to buy a table before the chairs. Was she looking for a new table at the time? We were not friends then, so I don’t know if it was an intentional purchase or a spur-of-the-moment decision. You see, Sally already owned a perfectly good dining room table. Rattan construction, 3/4-inch glass top, carved pineapple motif, engraved chair legs with pretty floral upholstery. Unknown to me, and although she lives in Hawaii, she does not particularly like Tommy Bahama! In fact, she did not know before I mentioned it that her inherited furniture was Tommy Bahama.

Sally is also a creative and artistic type. The kind of gifted individual who would watch hours of You Tube videos about how to make a Fairy House. And then proceed to create such a production herself. She introduced me to The Great British Baking Show (which I can’t stop watching now) and to the intriguing concept of powder-blue kitchen cabinets. She also studied how to make exquisite desserts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and is a professional ballroom dancer. Whereas, all I know how to do is sell Sacramento real estate and write dark humor shit. You can see why I like hanging out with her.

Now, when I first viewed the table in question, it was situated in a corner in her den because no space existed in the dining room as she had not yet sold her existing set. Her previous seller had left all of the furniture in the house when Sally bought it, which is common in Hawaii house buying. She decided to buy the table before the chairs because she had a specific type of chair in mind. Out with Hawaiian decor and in with soft blue suede.

The table itself is a special type of wood, seemingly cut from a wide tree trunk about 5 feet across in the shape of the Mainland. Maybe mango wood, definitely not eucalyptus, like I first suspected. It features a bit of blue and green, most likely injected, and the artist who created this piece does a lot of work with wood on the Big Island.

All of this story leads us to the fact that within days Sally developed a dislike for the table legs. Not all of the legs, really, mainly just one that seemed off kilter. So she asked the artist to take the table back and reduce the size of the legs to a more visually appealing shape. Supposedly, it was finished shortly thereafter, but the artist dinged around for 6 months before returning the table.

I was often with Sally when the artist called to say, for example, she would deliver the table at 3 PM and then not show up. Next day, the artist would promise 3 PM again and not show. Different days, different types of unfilled promises for delivery. This went on for 3 to 4 weeks, maybe longer. At one point she promised to show up at 6 PM as soon as her husband got home, and then never called.

That’s because he went to the bar, I suggested, and perhaps he never came home.

Sally began to think that maybe she would never see the table again and should ask for her money back. It wasn’t cheap, this table. In fact, she found another table that she liked even better, but a sale was a sale. She begged and begged the artist to deliver her table.

Further, Sally also had a bit of a problem selling all of the furniture in her house. At one point, she had an inflatable mattress in the living room as her only piece of furniture. The last person asked for a lower price and Sally refused. Finally, since this is an island and there is no place else to go, the customer returned to Sally and paid her price. Sally is a tough negotiator and should go into real estate, except I doubt she wants to work that hard. I don’t blame her.

Then one day, as luck would have it, Sally and I were hanging out on my lanai when she received a text from the artist. The artist, husband and another male friend were at Sally’s house. They had brought the table. OMG. We immediately dashed down the street to discover the artist had let herself into Sally’s house by going through an unlocked back door and had already set up the table in Sally’s dining room. Which was kinda weird. Who walks into somebody else’s house? Not pono.

Those are the logs found inside the ohi’a tree, said the artist, about 30 million times, pointing to the new table legs. She explained the ohi’a trees are hollow except for these logs in the interior. We had no idea what she was talking about, and there was a language barrier as well. She claimed the wood was ancient, “at least 50 years” old.

The following day, Sally seemed very unhappy with her table. While it is true she did buy the table before the chairs, by now she had purchased two dining room chairs covered in a beautiful soft blue suede material. The first problem Sally noticed was the creatively shaped table legs had been replaced with four pillars that looked exactly like telephone poles. Maybe they are telephone poles. Big vertical cracks, and stained in a color that resembles shit. Of course, I did not share my assessment nor add fuel to the fire because Sally managed to do enough for the two of us.

Which brings us to the questions. Do you send the table back once again to ask for yet another set of new legs and take the chances of waiting another 6 months? Do you ask for your money back and return the table to get that dining set you truly love? Throw it out? Sell it on the open market?

This table was a love affair at first blush, apparently. I could see why Sally loved the table so much. However, when she tried to push her new dining room chairs under the table edge, she discovered the “apron” around the table prevented her. Not only would the chairs not slide under it, she obviously could not guide her knees under the table, either.

Rendering its purpose as a dining room table useless.

Meekly, I offered a viable solution: after removing the apron and legs, she could hang the table top on the wall, above her television. It is a beautiful piece of art all by itself.

I leave you to draw your own life lessons from this story.

Photo: Hemingway’s dining room in Cuba, by Elizabeth Weintraub

Elizabeth Weintraub

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