October 15, 2007

I'd Much Rather Go Home with Spanish Than Irish

Interior designers throw the best parties. In part because they have better industry perks than architects but mostly because they can leave the office behind them and enjoy the evening. Also, they have free bars all night long. So when the invite came to go to the launch of the new Knoll office system, I willingly went. I like Knoll. I wanted to see the new system that I’ll never specify because I am an architect. I needed a free glass of wine. And Joe volunteered to go with me. All in all it was shaping up to be a good night.

As we entered the party, we were given name tags and shaken down for business cards for the raffle they were having later. I happened to have one, Joe happened to have one, so we entered. He dropped the card in with ‘I never win these things.’ And I dropped mine in with ‘Be lucky!’ to which the entire staff manning the door laughed.

We walked into the Round Room, which is the name of the venue, hence capital letters, to see the furniture on the far side and the bar on the near side by the cocktail tables. Guess where all the people were?

Dutifully we grabbed a glass of wine from a nearby waiter and went to have a look at the furniture. They had the hall of fame lit up quite well, the womb chair, the classic Eames chairs, a Saarinen or two hanging about. Unfortunately, it overshadowed the featured furniture, which was really nothing more than typical office systems cleaned up with funky colors. We were having a look when the speech started.

Breathtakingly boring but entertaining in that he had his hands in his trouser pockets. He was a bit nervous I suspect; his hands kept moving round in his pockets. It was really most unfortunate and included a badly put together slide show, mostly of the furniture in front of us. As he was speaking, I received a text from Whiskey Boy telling me he had to cancel our date, which had previously been rescheduled for the following evening. Luckily for him, that speech was lengthy.

After the designer finally finished (dear god he needs a public speaking course), Joe and I moved to the bar so I could self-medicate with canapés and vent. Just as I was building up a head of steam, they decided to draw for the two winners in the raffle. Grand prize: a white Barcelona Chair. Runner up? Who the hell cares, they were giving away a Barcelona?! The wine was free. There were canapés!

So they drew Una Johnston’s name and Joe and I clapped and cheered for her and went back to vilifying Whiskey Boy. We were interrupted by them putting her name back into the draw, at her insistence, since her company is a kissing cousin of Knoll. Doing the right thing never hurt her so much, I’m betting. It was a good night for Unas since that was the second name they called. She wasn’t there and you had to be present to win. Perhaps not such a good night for Unas.

So they drew a third time and called my name. I was so stunned Joe had to shove me out of the crowd. I actually looked over at him and asked if they had just called my name just to make sure I wasn't being obscenely greedy and more than a little delusional. He laughed and shooed me toward the stage. A smattering of clapping, the head honcho of Knoll asking if I had a way to transport it home and that’s when I turned around to see 1- the chair with still no real dawning of what had just transpired and 2- quite a hostile looking crowd of designers. Jealous bitches, all.

The next thing I know, he’s shaking my hand, all of the Knoll staff is lined up around me and being photographed. It’ll be quite a photo, I’m sure. They all look happy and I look like my wife unexpectedly gave birth to triplets. I even made him show me the card to make sure it was mine and not a mistake.

I must have asked Joe 8 times that night if it was really mine. It just didn’t process. Even when people started coming up to congratulate me. I know how Oscar winners feel now. This is probably the most coveted piece of furniture in the design world and I now own it. And it was free!

It was the most remarkable evening after that. Joe and I were out dancing at one point and I looked at him and said ‘It feels like it’s my party now’ and he laughed and said that it really was.

I was speaking with one of the Knoll employees and she was asking me about the color, saying that they had agonized over it, since architects only ever order the black, and they really didn’t want to see it end up on eBay the next day. Personally, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited if it were black. I love the white. It makes the chair more feminine and certainly more sophisticated and versatile. It’s the purest white you can have in leather and I adore it.

As we were chatting, a German guy came up and asked what I was going to do with it. The Knoll girl and I looked at each other for a second and then he tipped his card.

‘Are you going to put it on eBay? You know, because it’s not the good one, it’s the white one.’
‘So you can swoop it up for half the price?’ sheepish grin from German.

The chair here retails for 4000 euro. And that’s the entry level chair. There are two frames, mine is the expensive one, and then the quality of leather is chosen. My particular chair would retail in the US for around $6000.

The rest of the night, people came up to me and offered congratulations, introduced me as 'the girl who won the chair'. And then the strangest thing started to happen.

Men from all over the party started hitting on me. Men, who just 20 minutes previously hadn’t given me a second glance were actually lining up to talk to me. One even went so far as to offer to have sex on the chair with me.

It’s a chair, people!! It’s not a car or a yacht that we can go for a ride in, it is a seating option. And I’m pretty sure no sex you can offer me will compel me to give you the chair as a reward. I wouldn’t give it to Clive Owen if he offered to sleep with me. Well, I might think about it. Briefly.

Then people were taking it down from the display stand and having their photographs taken in it which I just cannot figure out. It’s not a rare chair, or the pope’s throne in St Peter’s, or even an Egyptian sarcophagus, which would render the photo contraband. It’s a chair; a rather expensive but quite common chair. And can I just mention the Polish girl who was photographed in quite provocative positions all night long with my chair? I just know it’s going to be on a porn site somewhere. (Never tell me if you find it.)

Architects are a weird little race of people.

Joe and I left at nearly 2am, quite drunk and very happy. I finally quit asking him to verify I hadn’t hallucinated the whole night and he wished me good night and congratulated me once again.

They delivered the chair to the house a few days later. It’s beautiful and easily the coolest thing I’ve ever owned. My sister has already claimed dibs on it upon my death, so don’t bother asking; she’s as tenacious as she is opportunistic. Joe likes to say I deserved the chair since I’d been dumped by not one but three potential dates within a week and the universe was making it up to me. I say, I’d much rather have the chair since it’ll last longer than any Irishman.

Besides, it appears I can cash it in for sex if need be.


D-Vaz said...

Congrats on the chair. It looks great. Don't worry, I won't offer sex for it. Not my style in personal manners or design for chairs. I won me a free video game in high school and you should have seen my victory dance. I was strutting! I can only imagine what it is you felt when they called your name?

B said...

In truth, I was stunned. Literally unable to process the fact that I had won the chair. It took several hours for it to sink in. No strutting, just lots of smiling and shaking of my head.

It is beautiful isn't it?

D-Vaz said...

Definitely. Although the chair is quite stunning, the girl sitting on the chair is drawing all the attention. I've been talking you up all day, showing everyone these pictures you posted on your blog. They are all so happy for you. My boss would love to have that chair. I told her of the propositions you have already received, smirked and quaintly backed out quitely.

B said...

Ah, thanks Vaz. Yeah, she's a bit of an attention whore, isn't she? :-)

Can't she get some interior designer types to give her a trade discount and then mortage her kidney for it?

The professor said...

Now you just need to design a house around the chair..:)
Maybe you can go to the next HermanMiller luncheon and press your luck for an Eames Chaise ...then go to an Aalto tea party for an Aalto Tea trolley ...
then finally you can go to Vitra's after hours party for a Nelson Star Clock

B said...

That's a lot of opportunistic party going there but it's not a bad plan of action.