06/10/2015 12:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2016

A Life in Furniture


At 20 years old, I bought my first piece of furniture. I used my rent money to buy a beautiful antique armoire. I fell in love with the graceful, deco flower carvings on the slim side doors and the heavy beveled mirror door in the center. It opened with a skeleton key that felt mysterious and important. I had lived in six different places in the two years since I left home. The armoire had a sense of permanence that had been lacking in the vagabond six-apartments-in-two-years life I was leading. The logic that my non-rent-paying self would now have nowhere to put that armoire did not occur to me at the time.

I got my first coffee table when I was in my late 20s. It was rustic and handmade by a guy in the valley. I paid $120 for it and had to drive into deepest Chatsworth to pick it up. This was an extravagant price at a time in my life when extravagances were low on the priority list. Coffee tables and their sidekicks -- coasters -- were for grown ups. I believed that these pieces of furniture were reserved for those who had their lives together. I was not one of "those." A stack of books or a pile of magazines heaped on the floor had always held my coffee up. I had entered a new phase.

Along the way, I borrowed a buffet and matching mirror from my mom. She inherited it from her mother. Inside the shelves were crayon marks left by my mom who, as a toddler, crawled inside to play. Years later, my son would add his own crayon marks to the left side. I have yet to return these oak pieces of family history.

I bought a dining room table and four chairs with a tax refund. A few months later, while traveling for work, I won $400 on a slot machine in Vegas. I knew immediately, I was using my windfall to buy the matching armchairs for the ends of the new table. This table allowed me to become a hostess for the first time. I threw baby showers and wedding showers and hosted Thanksgivings and Easters. It came with me all the way to our last house, where it was the center of our monthly potlucks. When we bought the house we are in now, we downsized with a smaller, round table. It has a leaf so that I can still crowd people around the table for holidays.

After the baby came, we gave up our coffee table for an upholstered ottoman with soft edges fit for a toddler.

Couches were never bought, always acquired: a futon from my folks, a grey couch borrowed from my friend Yolanda, a handed-down sleeper sofa with a southwestern theme. I finally purchased a brand new couch after my first divorce. It was an impressive size with down filled cushions and rolled arms. Sitting in it was like getting a big beige hug, perfect for that time in my life. Now we have a large, solid Chesterfield, purchased on Craigslist. It's perfect for a boy and a dog to jump on and over. The sofa holds an afghan, crocheted in the 1970s by Mr. Rosenberg's grandmother.

The bed we have now is wrought iron and enormous. We assembled it in the bedroom and its size makes it seem as if the bedroom was built around it. Like us, it's here to stay.