Good Old Desk by
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4 pieces of the 5-piece set

The summer before my senior year of high school, my mother decided to redo my bedroom for me. She bought a five-piece set of teak furniture (wide dresser, tall chest, night table, desk, and desk chair), plus a 6′ x 9′ Rya rug, and also had teak bookshelves mounted on one of my walls. The dresser, chest, and night table all matched. Those with a keen eye will notice that the desk had a different kind of drawer pulls, recessed in instead of sticking out, but the wood matched very nicely, as did the wood on the desk chair. I don’t know if she found a killer sale at a Scandinavian furniture store or what, but she bought all these beautiful pieces without even consulting me. Of course I was delighted with it, they were much better than the childish furniture I had been using all my life. But it did seem odd when I only had one more year of living at home full-time before I went off to college.

Teak chest was 5th piece of the set

Just before my senior year of high school, my mother redid my bedroom with a 5-piece set of teak furniture and a 6' x 9' Rya rug.

Many years later, when my parents decided they didn’t need their piano any more, and I was the only one of the three sisters who wanted it, they rented space in a moving van to take it from New Jersey to California, and since it was the same price whether they sent one item or many, they sent me the whole 5-piece teak set (which is why I was able to take pictures of it now). Four of the pieces are in my daughter Molly’s room (which used to be my older daughter Sabrina’s room, so she was the first to use the furniture), and the tall chest, which was in my son Ben’s room for a while, is now at the end of the hall, and being used for storage.

When I went off to college, I had dorm furniture all four years, of course, although I decorated the walls with posters – a combination of art reproductions and political slogans. At the beginning of sophomore year, my roommate Kathy and I decided to buy matching bedspreads and throw rugs and maybe even curtains, to class up the room a little bit. So we went off to Filene’s basement in Boston to see what we could find. Her favorite color was purple and mine was orange, and we didn’t think combining those colors would work, so we ended up compromising on a lovely forest green. Wish I had pictures of our room, but nobody had a camera in those days.

When I got my first job after college, and was moving into an unfurnished house in Cambridge, I needed my own furniture for the first time. For my bed, my mother took me to a little old mattress-maker in Nutley, New Jersey, and he made me a mattress by hand. It was a work of art. I still have it FIFTY YEARS LATER, and it is still comfortable. Here is a picture of it in my son Ben’s room, although not on the original platform that we bought in 1972. My roommates were impressed that my mother was progressive enough to get me a double bed instead of a twin – my father said “what does she need such a big bed for?” and I have no idea what my mother’s response was.

Two last items of furniture that have feathered my nest since I moved to Sacramento deserve to be mentioned. The first is this set of two wonderfully comfy chairs that are mushroom-colored and sort of mushroom-shaped. They were called Zurich chairs when I bought them, and that’s how we’ve always referred to them. But when I searched for “Zurich chair” online just now, to see if there was a definition, the pictures I found looked nothing like my chairs. So I just don’t know. But here they are. I have had them for more than forty years, and while they look a little beat up, they are still the most comfortable chairs in my house.

Finally, before I had my first baby, I bought a La-Z-Boy rocker-recliner. It was the perfect chair for nursing, and I often fell asleep in it along with whichever baby I was nursing. Sometimes I slept in it for half the night. We kept it for years after all three babies were grown, but we didn’t really have a good place to put it since none of the kids wanted it in their rooms. We ended up with it in our bedroom, but we were just piling clothes on it. So a few years ago we gave it away, courtesy of the Craigslist “free stuff” section. And now, writing this story, I’m wishing I had it back. Here’s what it looked like.

When it was upright, it was a rocking chair, great for rocking babies to sleep. Then, if you pulled on that handle on the side, a footrest would come out and the back would go way back, so that you could be almost horizontal. Very comfortable either way. I feel nostalgic for it, but in truth, if I had it back now, I still wouldn’t have a good place to put it.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: right on!


  1. John Shutkin says:

    What a great series of mini-stories about some lovely “feathering.”

    I do love that teak set and was delighted that you have been able to keep it/pass it on over the years. Its design is truly timeless.

    As to your dorm room, I actually recall the purple vs. orange dichotomy between you and your roomie, but am impressed that you went to Filene’s Basement for your furnishings. I thought all of us got ours either from the Goodwill store near the campus or from graduating upperclassmen.

    And I am beyond amazed with your mattress longevity story, especially since, for some reason, I’ve heard a number of stories lately from friends my age of buying incredibly expensive mattresses and them wearing out very quickly — and, presumably, not due to excessive recreational use.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your comment, John. I had no idea there was a Goodwill store near campus! Where was it? The likelihood of finding 2 bedspreads, 2 throw rugs, and curtains that all matched would have been pretty slim. And Filene’s basement was cheap enough for our student budgets. I wonder what we ended up doing with all that stuff after we left Comstock.

      • John Shutkin says:

        The Goodwill was right on Mass. Ave between Central Square and MIT. In fact, I just checked and it’s still there (though the building itself looks a lot newer and nicer).

        As to what you did with that stuff, start at the beginning. Do you remember if you had any of it with you when you moved into Lowell House? And if you did, I hope you sold it to the next occupants of the suite, rather than having to haul it all down four narrow flights of stairs when you graduated. That’s certainly what we did.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    You have some fine items there, Suzy. I remember rya rugs well, though I never had one. Those teak pieces have held up very well over all these years. They still look great and I’m sure have been very functional for everyone who used them.

    I can’t believe that your mattress (and yes, your mother was very progressive on so many fronts, but getting you a double mattress is further proof) is still comfortable and functional after all these years. That’s impressive!

    I’ve never heard of a “Zurich chair” but I agree, they do look very comfortable! Who cares if they are a bit worse for wear? Finding something comfortable to sit in is so important, that’s what counts!

    Your La-Z-Boy sounds like the perfect place to nurse your children. I still have the chair that I used (it rocked and swiveled, but didn’t tilt); it is now in my study. I understand your desire for one now, but probably not practical to go purchase one at this time.

  3. Thanx for your nesting memories Suzy, and love the idea of using the highboy dresser for storage at the end of the hall!

    Must tell you again how wonderful Roshklahoma is! I’ve been sending it to friends proudly telling them about my friend Suzy in purple! I just sent it to my rabbi!

    • Suzy says:

      I wondered if that tall dresser was called a highboy, thanks for using that term. Does that make the other dresser a lowboy?

      Thanks for sending Roshklahoma to your friends, and especially thanks for sending it to your rabbi!

  4. Marian says:

    Great story, Suzy, and love the teak furniture. I still have an old chest from my youth furniture (real wood) as storage in my walk-in closet. I most envy your mattress and would love something handmade. I bought a smaller-sized recliner at the oft-mentioned White Elephant sale years ago, and we still use it in our living room. BTW, Roshklahoma is terrific, happy New Year!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Mare. I still love teak furniture and those clean Scandinavian lines, although that’s not what we have in the rest of our house. And I realized that the mattress was amazing when I read that mattress life is only expected to be ten years. Crazy!

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Your teak furniture is probably valuable today as the much-coveted “mid-century modern”. My folks had a fair amount and I ultimately ended up with some of it. Furniture carries so many memories. Also congratulations on the fantastic and now viral Roshklahoma–one for the ages indeed!

    • Suzy says:

      Ah yes, mid-century modern. Since the teak furniture was purchased in 1967, I guess that is squarely in mid-century.

      Glad you liked Roshklahoma – we did about 20 takes, and in some of them I did a better job of looking at the camera. In this one I am looking down at the music too much (although not surprising, since we had only gotten the music the day before).

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Those baby nursing chairs were the best! Wish I still had one. I’m so impressed that you have had a mattress for 50 years. I’m already hating the most recent one we bought. So many people have sent me that video, and I can proudly say that I saw it first because I know you!

    • Suzy says:

      Of course it’s not the mattress my husband and I sleep on. It was in a guest room for a while, and then my son’s room (where it is now) when he got too big for a twin bed, but he hasn’t lived at home full-time since he graduated from high school in 2006.

  7. I’m still trying to decode the mystery of why your folks bought you those nice teak pieces so close to the end of your home residence: was it perhaps to ensure that when you came home from college or after, you would feel fully affirmed and comfortable, and not coming back as a child? Were they that purposeful or strategic in their thinking?
    Thanks for a series of interesting riffs on the prompt.

  8. Love that teak furniture and those funny mushroom chairs. At times, having possessions for a lifetime can seem oppressive, but when they are beloved, and I’m sure that includes the piano, they carry a sense of comfort, stability, and familiarity, qualities much in demand in precarious times.

  9. Susan Bennet says:

    You certainly were mid-century modern before it was cool, Suzy. Your mother’s teak trade reminds me of the stories told by my mother, of her mother purchasing furniture while the family was out for the day and installing it before they got home. It’s Mom’s nest, after all.

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