Read time: 6 minutes
Part of a month-long series on what makes a home in both the literal and abstract sense.
I didn’t mean to fall so hard. And truly, in hindsight, the whole affair was kind of ridiculous.
I mean, I’m a grown-ass woman, right? Divorced and just the right amount of jaded, I moved my kid out of the city so we could have a quieter life and he could be in a smaller school. I had even started to fancy myself as maybe having become a little… pragmatic.
But… no. Because once I was freed from the confines of living in a city-sized apartment, something new in me was unleashed: The Home-Decor Diva.
Without even realizing it, I was falling deep into a long-nurtured fantasy I’d been carrying around, tucked deep into my subconscious, since my 20s.
Suddenly, I was ordering highfalutin wallpaper samples by the dozen, to tape up on the walls of my living room and consider in different kinds of daylight. After much searching, I bought a massive, taupe velvet-covered modern sectional sofa that had a rakish angle to it instead of the classic “L” shape that filled my large great room perfectly.
I ordered a custom light fixture for over the dining room table, working with the artist to pick just the right chemical aging on the copper tubing featured in its design. Without even realizing it, I was falling deep into a long-nurtured fantasy I’d been carrying around, tucked deep into my subconscious, since my 20s: When I am a grown woman, I will have a beautiful house, filled with beautiful things, and I will know I have arrived to the Grownup Place.
The Search Is On
As my home décor folders filled up, I was maybe a little worried things were getting out of hand, but I shoved that trickle of concern into the back of my mind because I just had a few more items to get before my living room would be complete. Top of the list? A coffee table.
A coffee table should be easy. You need it to be the right size to sit in front of your sofa, and for it to be a flat surface on which to set your drinks, your coffee-table books, and your feet. That’s all it needs to do.
But I was frozen. Everywhere I looked I saw big, chunky, squared-off coffee tables. No, no, no. I needed chic! Chic is what my grownup life was going to be, and even though I was past 40—and therefore, quite arguably already a grownup—that voice in my head that had been with me all these years was determined to get what she felt she deserved.
A coffee table should be easy. You need it to be a flat surface on which to set your drinks, your coffee-table books, and your feet.
I needed a coffee table that wasn’t wood: I already had an ebony dining room table and dark wood chairs in the dining area. I wanted some metal, preferably gold, for the shine and the sparkle, to counterbalance all that dark wood. I wanted a glass top, so the coffee table would float in the space, letting the light of the ivory rug shine through and keeping the table from being giant visual lump in front of the giant visual lump of my monster-sized sofa.
I wanted the table to be a piece of sculpture, a dynamic focal point for the whole room. I wanted the table to be a finishing touch that would be like the perfect statement necklace on a well-tailored outfit. I wanted the table to be everything to me and everything to the room, and I didn’t think that was too much to ask.
It was after uttering the sentiments above, however, that my boyfriend asked me to stop talking to him about the coffee table. But truth be told, he knows me well enough to tease me about my inherent “fancy,” which he believes was genetically passed to me by my somewhat grandiose Southern mother. In retrospect, he was probably more aware of what I was seeking than I was.
Finding My Treasure
And then I found it. I found it! An absolutely glorious piece from the ‘70s, a piece of Brutalist design that looked completely ridiculous, and possibly even ugly, until about six years ago, thanks to the ever-shifting tides of design and style. It’s a table made up a gilded steel base, the metal sliced and molded by fire into boldly sinuous curves that fanned out like petals on a chrysanthemum. It managed to look both orderly and chaotic at the same time as it balanced a perfect oval of glass.
It was a work of art. Literally. And it cost $3,600.
I was way in over my head. But I was also head over heels in love. And determined. I knew I had found the path to that Grownup Place of my dreams.
I was way in over my head. But I knew I had found the path to that Grownup Place of my dreams.
And so I unleashed my internet-shopping ninja and searched for sisters and brothers of this sculpture-meets-coffee table that I learned was designed by Silas Seandel. And waited. And searched. And waited. And searched. You know what it’s like when you’ve met “The One” and it is the only thing that will do.
I unearthed and considered and rejected dozens of other Silas Seandel coffee-table styles. I was on eBay, Etsy, 1st Dibs, One Kings Lane, Chairish, and the websites of dozens of expensive vintage furniture merchants—where I certainly had no business being.
I even tried to break up with The One, making serious efforts to find Mr. Almost-Good-Enough, or Sir Maybe-This-Will-Do. I printed out the photos of a few of these guys and kept them on my dining room table, waiting for my heart to leap when I looked at them. But nope. One by one, I turned them all face down and went back to waiting and searching. This coffee table had to carry the weight of all my young-adult dreams, and there was no compromising.
And one day, I got lucky. I got so lucky, that I was sure that this table had to be a mess. It was the right size. It was the right shape (oval) and in good shape, with the gold finish not having worn off. I looked at all 11 photos of it as if I were a forensic scientist, magnifying them until they were pixilated, trying to find the flaw or the fault or the damage that would explain why this table cost less than half of most of the tables I had come across in my two years of waiting.
And then, instead of emailing the eBay seller, I went to bed.
I spent the next week looking at myself in the mirror in the morning as I brushed my teeth, asking myself, are you really someone who will spend a small fortune on a coffee table, just because it delights you to the core of your very being?
Turns out, yeah, that’s exactly who I am.
Taking the Plunge
When the table was still available after more than a week, I decided it was fate, as all magical relationships are in the retelling should they last. I reached out to the seller, asked a bunch of questions, and received some additional photos. I was ready to be united with my Mr. Right.
Grownup life has so many compromises built within it, but this table is a gorgeous screw-you to all that.
Less than two weeks later, the carefully double-layered, cardboard-clad, bubble-wrapped packages arrived, monstrously huge. I slowly and carefully undid the packaging. And—I’ll be damned—It. Was. Perfect.
It is perfect. It is still perfect. It has all the qualities I knew I needed. This coffee table was for me. Grownup life has so many compromises built within it, so many disappointments we have to shoulder with grace and grit, but this table is a gorgeous screw-you to all that, a blazing statement of shimmer and because-I-can frivolity that I wanted to hold onto: My long-ago idea of what my life would look like.
And yes, it is most likely the fanciest piece of furniture I will ever own—but that doesn’t keep me from putting my feet on it.