In 2006, Nora Ephron published an essay called Moving On in The New Yorker about how she once fell madly in love with her apartment on New York’s Upper Westside. You may know Ephron as the screenwriter and director of rom-com blockbusters such as When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. That’s how I first got acquainted with her work as well, but when I discovered her lesser-known essays a while ago, I have to say I found a new appreciation for everything this woman has written. Nora Ephron’s writing style is dry, funny and relatable. In Moving On, she shares tells how she had to pay the previous tenant of her apartment a whopping twenty-four thousand dollars for the right to move in – and ended up spending an amount less than the price of one cappuccino. The solution Ephron had found was nothing short of brilliant. And that is exactly why I borrowed it from her when I recently bought a brand-new Vitra ID office chair and ended up buying a Vitra Repos lounge chair as well. Want to know how I did it? Let’s face it – you do.
Now, everybody knows that buying not one, but two Vitra chairs could cost you a pretty penny. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I figured I’d address the Eames elephant in the room first. Because we’ve all been there. It’s all fine and dandy to admire a well-designed piece from a high-end furniture brand that you come across in a magazine. But by the time you actually need, let’s say, a new office chair, the question that looms large is this: Are you really, really willing to part with a very hefty sum of money on something that you can literally buy for a tenth of the price at the blue and yellow big box furniture store we all hate to love? The answer, I have come to realize, depends on these three factors: one, your current chair, two, your age, and three, your disposable income. Before I went out and bought a new office chair, I used to sit on a Kartell Spoon. You would think that a 537 euro chair would sit quite comfortably, but unfortunately, you’d be sorely mistaken. God only knows why I bought it at the time, but I guess it was the bright orange color it came in that did it for me. Being the fickle creature that I am, I had it changed to dark blue before it even had arrived. But that’s a different story. Now, the Spoon wasn’t adjustable in any way, shape or form. Moreover, its back was nothing more than a hard and cold plastic shell and its seat a ruthlessly uncomfortable affair. I have to admit, however, that the Spoon was quite nice to look at, which is probably why I held onto it as long as I did. But when I started switching it for one of my dining room chairs whenever I had to sit at my desk for more than an hour, I figured the time had come to look for something better. And that brings me to factor number two. My age. When you’re in your twenties, you can be in good shape without really putting in an effort. Nothing to worry about! A word of warning though once you reach your late forties. Your back, well…it no longer has your back. Going to the gym and doing tons of lower back exercises is one part of the solution. The other part is getting a chair with decent lumbar support and all the other bells and whistles. Like with many things in life, bells and whistles are yours for the taking – but always at a price. And that, dear reader, brings me to factor number three that determines if you’re ready for the ultimate office chair. Money. Or, to put it more subtly: disposable income. I don’t know about you, but I tend to go through times when I don’t have a penny to share. And then at other times, the money river seems to burst its banks. After a two-year dry spell that came after my divorce, I realized last December that I finally had enough money lying around to go for it and splurge on the best office chair I could find. Enter the Vitra ID by Antonio Citterio.
As you may or may not remember, I visited the famous Vitra Campus in the German town of Weil-Am-Rhein two years ago – tempus fugit! – and came back duly impressed with everything that I had seen. Let’s face it, Vitra is a brand we all love. It has an interesting history, its designers and craftsmen have a ruthless eye for detail and its products last a lifetime. Vitra’s range of office chairs is nothing short of impressive, but since the ID Trim chair comes in dozens of different fabrics and colors, my mind was made up fairly quickly. It was also the only office chair to feature a beautiful-looking padded back – a major plus if your desk is slap bang in the middle of your living room, like it is at my place. Office chairs can look awfully office-y and I didn’t want to ruin my carefully decorated room with one of those massive black executive chairs. Choosing the color that I did want, however, was a different ballgame. I must have changed my mind dozens of times when I found out I could fully configure my perfect office chair online. Orange. No, green. What about bright blue? If Vitra noticed an unusual spike in traffic on their website last December, your mystery is solved: it was me. I finally gave up and figured I needed a second opinion. My local Vitra dealer turned out to be my savior. After recovering from the initial shock of the photos I showed them of my all-pink living room, we decided to turn things down a notch and go for a lovely shade of dark blue and ivory fabric. I had already made up my mind about all the extra features the Vitra ID Trim was available in. Adjustable seat depth, a leather headrest cover, integrated lumbar support, 3D-armrests, forward tilt – I wanted them all. After all, if you’re going to spend an arm and a leg on your back, you might as well go all the way, right? I finally ordered my ideal office chair and all that was left for me to do, was to wait for it to arrive. When it finally did last week, I was so relieved that I had made the right choice. My new Vitra ID Trim looks beautiful without being too present. And more importantly, it is comfortable beyond belief. Together with a new pair of computer glasses, and a new ergonomic keyboard and mouse, my home office setup has improved a thousand per cent. I can’t believe how much time I can spend at my desk without getting an inevitable pain in my lower back. Long story short: I really should have done this a long time ago.
Me being me, one new chair wasn’t enough. I ended up buying two. Although I have to say in my defense that I really didn’t set out on buying a new Vitra lounge chair as well. As with some of the best things in life, it just sort of happened. I love a good bargain – in fact, and I’m not kidding here, I bought eleven cans of cereal last night that were on a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer and had an additional thirty-five per cent off. As my mother said when I called her to tell the good news, I have learned from the best. So, here’s why I bought a lounge chair to go with my office chair. I prefer not to pay the full price when I don’t have to – hey, I’m Dutch! – and hunted the internet high and low for a discount on my Vitra ID Trim. I found a few options on Vitra Circle, a Vitra-run website and bricks and mortar store that sells showroom models and custom-made items that didn’t get sold for some reason at a considerable discount. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t find the perfect Vitra ID Trim Chair I had in mind. During my search, I did, however, find a bright yellow artificial leather Repos chair that I fell madly in love with. It would look so good in my pink living room, I kept thinking to myself. Besides, it would be a lot more comfortable than the vintage Kho Liang Ie chair it was supposed to replace. And then I did the unimaginable. I went out and got it. After all, who in their right mind could pass up a one-of-a-kind chair that not only looked stunning, but was heavily discounted as well? Opportunity knocked and I opened the door. End of story. But how on earth would I justify spending so much money on not one, but two Vitra chairs? I thought long and hard and then suddenly remembered Moving On, the Nora Ephron essay I had read a while ago. As I told you in the beginning, Ephron had paid an astronomical twenty-four thousand dollars to the previous owners of the apartment she was moving into and came up with a train of thought that I, for one, could definitely board. Let me quote her directly: “It seemed to me that if I lived in the building for twenty-four years the fee would amortize out to only a thousand dollars a year, a very small surcharge. I mean, we’re talking about only $2.74 a day, which is less than a cappuccino at Starbucks. Not that there was a Starbucks then. And not that I was planning to live in the Apthorp for twenty-four years. I was planning to live there forever. Till death did us part. So it would probably amortize out to even less. That’s how I figured it. (I should point out that I don’t normally use the word “amortize” unless I’m trying to prove that something I can’t really afford is not just a bargain but practically free. This usually involves dividing the cost of the item I can’t afford by the number of years I’m planning to use it, or, if that doesn’t work, by the number of days or hours or minutes, until I get to a number that is less than the cost of a cappuccino.)”
And there you have it. Just like Nora Ephron was going to live in her apartment in the Aphtorp building for at least twenty-four years, my two Vitra chairs are going to last me at least as long if not longer. I spent exactly 1,356 euro’s on my Vitra ID Trim Office chair. I’m not going to tell you how much the bright yellow Vitra Repos set me back, but suffice it to say it was considerably less than the original price of 3,610 euro’s. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because my two chairs are going to be with me for the rest of my life and I’m sure they’ll end up costing me less than a cappuccino a day each. Now, who couldn’t pass up a bargain like that?