Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh



My grandmother's dining room chairs were all hand carved.

My grandmother’s dining room chairs were all hand carved.

In addition to being royal thrones and pieces of architecture and sculptures on display, for the most part chairs are practical, useful, and common pieces of furniture. The basics include potty chairs, high chairs, lawn chairs, folding chairs and rocking chairs.  If you want to make an elite statement, the Chippendale chairs continue to be the popular, collectible and outlandishly expensive choices.

Times change, and tastes in chairs—and thinking—also change. As Jean Kerr wrote, “When the grandmothers of today hear the word ‘Chippendales’, they don’t necessarily think of chairs.”

My mother and I have always loved chairs of all kinds. One of my favorite expressions I heard her say, as well as my grandmother, an aunt, and several older neighbors say, was “Come on in and sit a spell.”   What I loved best about the invitation was the word “spell.” Of course it meant to sit awhile, but to me it also cast a spell and became something magical. Being with friends, sharing conversation, ideas, and cookies with iced tea, hot tea or coffee created a special moment in time.

Which is why, for me, the best spell-casting chairs are created by hand. And to make these four chairs below extra special, they are all from the children’s section at the Chapman, KS library when I was there recently. To my way of thinking, when you combine excited young readers with happy, creative chairs, you create magic.  As author Stephen King said, “You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.”

giraffe chairTiger chair bird chairZEBRA chair





As H.Jackson Brown Jr. wrote: “A true friend encourages us, comforts us and supports us like a big easy chair, offering us a safe refuge from the world.”

This first week of May, I hope we’ll all be aware of the gentle rocking chairs in our lives, the given-new-life hand-painted chairs, and the true friends who encourage, comfort and support us, offering safe refuge from the world.

Our favorite chairs, hand painted for us by our daughter for our anniversary.  "Picasso" chairs with messages on the seats: (left) "It takes a long time to grow young."  And (right) "Everything you can imagine is real."

Our favorite chairs, hand painted for us by our daughter for our anniversary. “Picasso” chairs with messages on the seats: (left) “It takes a long time to grow young.” And (right) “Everything you can imagine is real.”




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61 responses to “SIT A SPELL

  1. juliabarrett

    I am loving those chairs! My goal is to paint a series of chairs. Many series of chairs. You’ve inspired me!

    • I found a little wooden chair that had been thrown away, Julia, and I have all kinds of ideas about painting it and using it for plants on the patio. Seeing these children’s library chairs inspired me. I really want to see the pictures of your “series” of chairs when they’re done! 🙂

  2. I remember the Picasso chairs from an earlier post, Marylin. I love them!
    My favorite chair has always been the rocking chair. I’m also a fan of the Adirondack chair.
    Speaking of “spells”, I fainted while having my ear pierced when I was 13 years-old. According to my sister, my grandmother told all of the shoppers who gathered around, “She’s having a spell. ” 🙂

    • The “spell” you had sounds much less magical, Jill. But when I was in my 20s and we first moved to Colorado, I volunteered to work the Pikes Peak Marathon…at the TOP of Pikes Peak. I was two weeks out of sea-level Kansas, totally alien to the altitude up above the clouds. When I hurried up the trail for more sliced oranges (to give to the runners) suddenly things went very dark, and I had a “lowlander’s spell” right there on the trail. It was the only time I’d ever passed out. Again, this was not the magical kind of “sit a spell” I meant in the post! 🙂

  3. Claudia

    Chairs…I love chairs. Some wrap right around us with comfort. Some hold us stiff and feel unfriendly. This last year our exercise group took old chairs and asked local artists to paint them. Then they were auctioned off to raise money for new Chemo chairs at the cancer building. $20,000 was raised on just old chairs. And I do love “Sit a Spell” too!

  4. I get to sit a spell when I read your blog. So enjoyable it is to sit a spell in your virtual room.

  5. I adore your grandmother’s chairs with their carvings of what looks to me like ‘The Green Man’.I’ve no doubt the children’s library chairs are really popular, bags I the Giraffe one.( Sorry, Northern saying, Bags I means I claim it) Of course your Picasso chairs are unique and are a wonderful, thoughtful gift from your daughter. Her style may now be heavily copied.
    Have a wonderful weekend. xxx Sending you Gigantic Hugs xxx

    • And now you’ve given me another great vocabulary lesson, David.
      Bags I=I claim it. I love it. I’ll use it soon and see what response I get.
      I had to use the Picasso chairs again because they’re just the most wonderful and thoughtful anniversary gifts, and Molly worked so hard creating them. We put them away for the winter and just set them out again, so the messages and cheery paintings welcome our springtime.
      Gigantic Hugs across the ocean to you, too, David.

  6. Thanks. Lovely celebration of domestic pleasures – so easy to overlook in the hurtle of living. I remember listening to my grandmother spin intricate stories to keep me fascinated from her home made rocking chair – always my ambition to sit in the chair and take the storytellers role ! Regards Thom.

  7. Don

    Marylin, you made me think more on that little phrase and that little word “spell” than ever. 🙂

  8. Marylin, when I moved into this house I inherited an old recliner belonging to Jim’s father. How many hours I sat in that comfortable chair and read to my children. Many, Many.
    What fond memories (and a few pictures) I have of those moments.
    Thank you for a lovely post. 🙂
    xo Joanne

    • Those are the best kinds of memories for me, too, Joanne. I have pictures of me holding my daughter Molly and sitting in my dad’s recliner, too. And also of her as a little girl sitting with my brother as he helped her hold her new baby cousin. And a final one in that same recliner, of the baby cousin grown into a young man and napping in the chair. Those are some of my favorite memories of that old recliner.

  9. Lovely post. We had a favourite young children’s tv show in Canada. It was called the Friendly Giant or just ‘friendly’ as our daughter called it.

    At the beginning of the show the Giant would place chairs in a room by the fire with words something like “here is a chair for one to curl up in, and another for two more, and here is one for someone to rock”. He was a very gentle man with a couple of glove puppet animal friends.
    The show was a welcome time and place for children and parents to ‘sit a spell’

    • I can’t paste a link. But if you Google ‘Friendly Giant’ you can see a youtube clip on the opening of the show. Nothing slick. Certainly not high level production techniques. Just genuine.

    • We didn’t have the Friendly Giant television show here, Rod. I wish we had; it sounds wonderful. Any program that welcomes children and parents to “sit a spell” together and enjoy themselves is a welcome change from usual programs.

  10. calvin

    Firstly, more kindling of warm memories to Just Rod’s comment (no need for youtube clip for moi, the show is engrained in my being). I grew up watching the Friendly Giant, with Gerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Rooster; I doubt there was a show I missed. Every aspect of the program built around comforting, friendliness and kindness to everyone and anyone. Laughter and smiles a key component.

    Yet another post of yours that strikes a chord in my inner tune. We all have those important chairs in our lives. Be they rocking chairs used to rock babies on colicky nights, old wooden chairs or chrome with shiny vinyl covered backs and seats, to metal chairs just like yours positioned in a row for four old maids under a willow tree.

    And when it comes to writing an art in general, the similarities with the ‘spell’ chair come to light, at least for me and I suspect yourself. What a device, what craft, that which invites one in to rest a spell and reflect.

    • Absolutely, Calvin. There are chairs that hold so many memories for me that just thinking about them is revisiting old friends. It is, indeed, a magical spell they are able to cast.

  11. Jim

    Marylin, I love the variety of pictures in this blog and the way you offer chairs as a symbol of the support we gratefully receive form others, even to include Nature as a refuge, I might add.

    My current favorite chair is the old, cheap, red folding chair I keep in the back of the 4Runner. I take it out for breaks during 4-wheeling adventures in the mountains. Sometimes I carry it into the forest a little way from the road and just sit quietly for a while. My mind settles down when I use that chair because we are old friends. I just sit and listen to the voice of the forest in the pine branches. A distant bird sings its praises. A deer may even appear and graze nearby, unafraid because my chair and I belong to the forest for a spell.

  12. We just furnished our living room with 3 new chairs. We must have sat in 100 until we found the Goldilocks one for each of us. (The “just right.”)

    Chairs indeed are like friends; and good friends are like chairs. I love this post, Marylin. Thank you.

    • “Goldilocks” chairs being the “just right” chairs is a delightful description, Tracy. Some of our chairs have taken numerous searches to find, while others appear in the most unlikely places when we we least expect them.
      Chairs are like good friends, and vice versa.

  13. Chairs can hold precious memories. My mother thought the world of my father’s armchair after he died. And I am very attached to my rocker. The Picasso chairs are brilliant. My Welsh grandmother used to say ‘cwtsh down by here’ which was an invitation to cuddle up on the sofa next to her. Fond memories.

    • Oh, Andrew, I can just see your Welsh grandmother saying to “cwtsh down by here” to have you cuddle up on the sofa next to her. I’m not at all sure how to pronounce “cwtsh” but I can feel the sweetness of the invitation to her grandson. 🙂

  14. Hi Marylin, Wonderful post, thank you

  15. After my mom passed away I sat in her recliner every day until I had to return to the U.S. I had wanted to buy her a new chair but she liked the old one. I cried when my niece told me that the old recliner had landed in the trash,

    • Oh, Gerlinde, I also remember a favorite old recliner that just sitting in made me remember my dad there, reading the paper and watching the news, and then all the children and grandchildren who sat there, too. When we moved my parents to their apartment in the assisted living, we also moved the recliner, but then his Alzheimers required a protective hospital bed be put in the place of the recliner.
      Hold tight to the memories of both your mother and how it felt to sit in the chair she loved. They’re all valuable memories.

  16. Your rhapsody on chairs is fabulous. I too love chairs. In our home mingled among the ordinary chairs is a strange blue Van Gogh-ish chair our son Joel made in an art class and a stool on which husband Cliff has lacquered a cartoon of Joel on a bike shooting a pop gun at about age eight. I may just use this theme sometime on a post – intriguing!

    I agree, it takes a long time to grow young.

    • Marian, I really do hope you’ll sometime feature your son’s art class Van Gogh-ish chair and the cartoon stool your husband lacquered. They sound like such fun and great memory makers.
      However long it takes to grow young, it will be worth the effort, don’t you think! 😉

  17. I must admit I had never heard about that expression. It is fragrant of olden days and I wonder if it will fit in the present day life in a perennial fast forward mode. And yet, there is something to chairs that H Jackson Brown Jr’s quote has captured so well.

    • H. Jackson Brown Jr.’s writing captures so many simple and beautiful truths, but his quote on chairs is one of my favorites. “Come on in and sit a spell” was one of my favorite welcoming expressions, one we rarely use any more, and it’s a shame. Maybe we’re too busy and living at frantic paces.

  18. I remember these Picasso inspired chairs – I loved them the first time around. My grand parents had similar chairs to your carved ones with what looks like the Green Man and of course, I love the Van Gogh simple raffia seated one. I only wish we could find some comfortable sofas to replace the ones we are currently suffering. Bought on a whim in a sale, we gave them little consideration and have been regretting it ever since. A decent chair requires thought. I shall remember this next time!

    • I don’t think you’re alone in making that mistake, Jenny.
      So many times after a house sells–or sometimes just for no apparent reason–we’ll see chairs and sofas left at the curb in front of a house or apartment, with signs taped to them saying they’re FREE. And some look to be in really good condition. I have a friend who furnishes small apartments who people down on their luck, and she says some of the best finds are left at the curb by buyers who bought them on a whim. 🙂

  19. Marilyn … Your Picasso chairs and sayings are adorable. I also recall my family saying: “Come on in and sit a spell.” It is a comforting, loving phrase. 😉

  20. Ah, Judy, I’m glad someone else remembers this. I didn’t think it was a common expression just in Kansas and Missouri, but you’re the first who remembers hearing it, too. What part of the country is your family from?

  21. Jane Thorne

    Marylin, I sat a spell and read your post…oohhh, how I love that phrase. I love the seats your Grandmother had with the carvings on them. My favourites are the anniversary seats from your daughter…she has inherited your creative and loving touch. Huge hugs, ❤

  22. What beautiful chairs, Marylin! I love them all, especially the “Picasso” ones. 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracy. As you probably remember, you featured my grandchildren’s hand-drawn Picasso “portraits” of me–and directions for how they did them–in one of your wonderful children’s art posts. That was so much fun!

  23. You have a hit with the chairs, especially the colorful, cheerful, ones. What a great place to ‘sit a spell’. Was that grandmother southern? It sounds like something mine said.

    • No, Renee. My grandmother was a Brethren lady, a “Pennsylvania Dutch” woman who loved having visitors and making them feel at home. I think this was just a charming expression from our grandmothers’ generation.

  24. Oh Marylin, I really needed to read your lovely post today about friendship and about ‘sitting for a spell’. Love that. I always look forward to reading your posts because I know I will come away blessed, encouraged and uplifted. The painted childrens’ chairs are a delight, and so are you. The quotes are perfect. Thank you so much for this…

    • And I love having you “sit for a spell” and leave such sweet comments, Sherri. I’m so glad if you feel blessed, encouraged and uplifted, because that’s how your comments make me feel. 🙂

  25. One of my current projects is to sand and cheer up a couple of old yard chairs. You’ve inspired me to also paint a picture or a phrase on the seats!

    • And once you decide to do it, Darla, you’ll be amazed at the number of pictures and phrases that come to mind. It’s such a fun way to come up with all kinds of ideas!

      • I might do the same with the backyard picnic table that is in need of a paint job. See what you’ve done, Marylin? What I thought would be a chore is now going to be an art project.

      • I want to see pictures of the picnic table when it’s finished, Darla. I loved your post on art by children ~ now it’s your turn to rise and shine! 🙂

  26. Molly

    Sorry for my absence from commenting on the blog. Trevor’s dad has been battling some major health problems, so had his best friend Mike.

    I have continued reading the blog, just have been tied up too much to comment. But, as usual you have been sharing some wonderful stories/memories of Grandma. Now, more than ever, with the scared we have had I am so grateful to have all these memories of Grandma documented for all eternity.

    Thanks for doing this for all of us.

  27. I am late to add comments for sitting for a spell but do remember how you added comments to my post about ‘sit’ and ‘set’ and this may have come up awhile back. Your examples of imagination evoking chairs is so fantastic. I love the idea that the library has them and makes me think classroom chairs could be made enticing, this way.
    I liked the words your daughter, wrote and painted on your Picasso chairs. So original! Takes after her mother and grandmother, too.

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