Monday, December 16, 2013

I am Joel's Charmless Coffee Table

I've realized over the past few weeks that I have feelings about my coffee table.

This is new.

I've never really felt anything about my coffee table before. I've noticed it, of course. I see that it's messy, or needs dusting. It sits in the middle of the living room, so I'm aware that it exists, and sometimes I step around it. I store books on the bottom shelf of it, so it even serves a purpose, but again, I've never looked at it and felt something.

Am I supposed to?

This all started back on Small Business Saturday. While out looking at thrift shops and antique shops, I saw a coffee table. It was an antique wooden pinball type game, the thin kind that use to hang on a wall, and someone had taken the frame, added legs, and converted it into a coffee table. It was a little bit cheesy, but also a little bit charming, and I liked it enough to circle back around the store to look at it again four or five times. Priced at an even hundred dollars (which was probably negotiable), it's within my budget, and when I looked at it I just thought, "That coffee table is really me." But then I thought, "I already have a coffee table, though. Oh well."

Since then, I keep looking at my coffee table and thinking, and feeling that it is somehow inadequate.

My coffee table expresses nothing about me as a person, and I feel like that pinball coffee table would.

Back when I was in college, I had a friend who liked to go to Pier One. We would walk around and look at bibelots, and candleholders, and glassware, and sculptures, and I'd always say that someday, when I had my own place that was semi-permanent and didn't have to worry about things getting broken or lost in moves, I would have nice stuff. Interesting stuff. Maybe some antiques. Stuff with some character.

Fast forward to seven years ago, when I moved to my first grownup apartment. The only furniture I owned after years of being a hall director was a random collection of lamps, pressed wood bookcases, odd shelving units, a nice rug, and my childhood wooden toybox, inherited from my father's childhood. And what did I do?

I recreated the scene from "Fight Club" where Jack orders his entire apartment from a catalog:

I am Jack's Living Room

I went to Rooms to Go, where they specialize in selling you an entire room at a time rather than individual pieces of furniture, and I picked out a living room that matched my nice rug:


Including my coffee table.

And don't get me wrong: It's good furniture. It's seven years old, and still holding up well. The corners of the end tables are showing a little wear, and the chaise lounge, which I refer to as my fainting couch, is stained and starting to sink a little in the middle since I sit on it every day, but overall it's all still in good shape, and was probably a wise investment. It just has no character. There's no sense of individuality, except for the objects that I've placed on it. The table itself doesn't say anything about me, especially when it's sitting in a living room with nine pressed-wood bookcases from Target. Or it is saying something about me, and those things aren't very flattering.

I guess this is a part of adulthood that I've never really thought about: When do you fully establish your own style? And how long does the average grownup keep their furniture for? When should I buy some bookcases made of actual wood? Am I too old for prefab, pressed-wood furniture? What else in my apartment needs replacing? Is this even something I should worry about? Who cares what my coffee table looks like when I am averse to having people come inside and actually seeing it?

I don't know.

All I know is that lately I've had feelings about my coffee table, and they're feelings of dissatisfaction.


Justin Bower said...

"I want you to dust me as hard as you can...."

The first rule of Table Club is: you do not talk about Table Club.

The Second rule of Table Club is: use a coaster.

Marcheline said...

The fact that you're starting to have these feelings about your coffee table means that you're ready, Joel. You're ready to start a real relationship with your living space. You may notice hair growing in places it never did before, but that's really nothing to do with this comment. Don't be shy. Go straight back to that store and BUY THE DAMN PINBALL COFFEE TABLE. This is how we grow up, Joel. One piece of furniture at a time.