In Their Own Words

A Letter From the Editor

Anthony Barzilay Freund

I write this from a particularly special spot in my home, one that has become my new temporary command post during this strange, unsettling time: my living room’s formidable Gustav Stickley Morris chair, which I bought nearly three decades ago at the Michael Carey Gallery in New York’s Soho. I would visit the shop — as I did the many other design and art emporiums that once populated the neighborhood — on most Saturdays, drawn as much by the panoply of American Arts and Crafts treasures gathered under one roof as by the Bernese mountain dog that sleepily guarded the entrance.

Gustav Stickley Morris chair

The early-20th-century furniture maker Gustav Stickley was the leading proponent of the American Arts and Crafts style, which promoted simple, honest construction and a reverence for natural materials. These qualities, inherent in the stained-oak armchair (aka home office) of 1stdibs editorial director Tony Freund, have taken on a new resonance during these complicated times. Photos by Thomas Barzilay Freund

In the years since, I’ve often wondered about that purchase (at the time, the most expensive investment I’d ever made in an antique) and what it was that compelled me to bring the chair into my life. As its style fell somewhat out of fashion, I considered selling it, especially since the spaces I subsequently inhabited didn’t always easily accommodate such a large, blocky piece in dark-stained oak. But something inchoate and deeply rooted made me hold on — a sentimentality, I think, both about the person I was when I first fell for the chair and about the piece itself, so simple and sturdy and looking back, too, at an earlier (preindustrial) time, when the hand, not the machine, created objects of timeless appeal.

At this challenging moment, when we are all hunkered down in our homes, concerned about the well-being of our loved ones and ourselves, as well as that of the wider world, and focused on just getting through one day and then the next, I find great comfort, both literal and emotional, in this clunky old chair and its sturdy embrace. Indeed, beautiful old things that have endured periods of both war and peace, hardship and prosperity and the small personal crises and triumphs of the people who have used and lovingly maintained them have also long given those people a life-enhancing sense of being anchored to a place, a reassuring connection to the past while offering a pleasing perch from which to contemplate a bright future.

That’s why I’m grateful for my Morris chair, and for the continuing commitment of everyone at 1stdibs not just to telling the stories of these remarkable objects but also to shining a spotlight on the extraordinary creators, dealers and designers around the world who produce, promote and deploy them in such a personal and passionate way.

Even as the editors and contributing writers at Introspective and The Study, like so many other folks, are working from a motley and scattered assortment of chairs, sofas, beds and the like, we feel both honored and duty-bound to continue to share with you weekly online narratives that are inspirational and instructive and that celebrate the visionary and resilient design stalwarts who compose the 1stdibs family.

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