Orange Juice, ETC

The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

Chester the Banana Slug

This is the story of Theresa’s dream couch. Also known as “1500 Ways to Lose a Buck”. I want you to know up front that this isn’t about how much money we have. It’s not about how blessed we are, although undoubtedly we often feel that we are blessed beyond what we deserve. No, this story is about 3 years, 3 months, and 13 days of blood, sweat, and tears. Sometimes literally, but mostly metaphorically speaking.

Saturday morning started innocently enough. Theresa and I got up at early to accompany her sister Andrea to 2nd Saturdayz. We were there primarily to drop off some cookies intended to satiate the sweet tooths of the hungry masses, and of course to peruse the vast selection of wonderful antiques and second hand goods. Little did we know an ambush had been carefully laid for us.

Theresa has long had her eye on this gorgeous Atelier Chesterfield from Anthropologie. However we are unwilling to go into debt for anything we don’t absolutely need. Because of this, even at the bargain basement (sarcasm) price of $5,998 it was going to take several decades, or at least a couple dozen raises before we could ever consider buying it.

As we wandered happily from booth to booth Andrea casually looked up and stopped dead in her tracks. Her exact words escape me at the moment, but something innocuous like, “Hey look at that cool couch…” casually dropped from her lips. I looked to my left down an aisle created by the booths and saw it shimmering beneath the dull lights of the warehouse; a shabbily regal yellow leather Chesterfield sofa. I knew instantly that Theresa was going to fall head over heels in love, and a few seconds later my fears were confirmed. I say fears, because I knew it was going to be expensive. I also knew there was no way we could afford it. We breathlessly made our way over to give it a closer look. A folded cardboard triangle beamed up at us saucily, “Yellow Leather Chesterfield Sofa, $1,500” scrawled casually in sharpie on its arrogant face. I could tell from the lovesick look in Theresa’s inquiring eyes that she was already hopelessly smitten.

The rest of the morning was quite delightful, but was largely overshadowed by the elephant in the room. After a lovely breakfast with Andrea at the Volunteer Park Cafe, we parted ways and Theresa and I headed home. After a few blocks Theresa looked at me with those irresistible blue eyes and said, “Well are we going to talk about it now?”. I was heartsick because I couldn’t in good conscience agree to a purchase of this magnitude if we couldn’t pay for it out of pocket without dipping into our hard earned savings. I was not looking forward to the impending conversation. I knew Theresa would be OK with whatever we decided, but I also knew how much she wanted that couch. Before I could deliver the fatal blow Theresa came to the rescue. A flash of inspiration light up her face and she exclaimed, “Why didn’t I think of it before! We have that whole drawer of cash!” And therein lies the real story.

For our entire existence as a married couple Theresa and I have been socking away little bits of cash whenever we come across a little extra. Instead of spending it right away we figured it would be fun to let it accumulate until we found something special, or in a worst case scenario, as a readily available emergency fund to cover unforeseen expenses. It’s impossible to remember where all of it has come from but the picture below includes everything I can remember.

We had been thinking of using this money to get a new computer, but the idea of spending so much hard earned dough on something that would be obsolete within three years has always kept us from making the plunge. After a quick inventory of our little stash we found that we’d have just enough for the couch. We headed back to 2nd Saturdayz with our hearts in our throats. At this point it had been several hours since our first visit and we were sure that it would be spoken for by the time we got back.

Hand in hand we walked through the front door of the warehouse scarcely daring to hope. It was still there. As we got closer we looked high and low for a “SOLD” sign, but there was none to be found. Theresa approached the lady in charge of the booth and told her we were extremely interested in purchasing the couch. “Oh, well this couple here is too,” she said, gesturing towards two snappily dressed people on the other side of the booth. She look at us with pity in her eyes and said, “I’ll have to give them first right of refusal, it would be extremely rude of me not to.” We were sure our fate was sealed. We watched for several excruciating minutes as the would-be sofa bandits spoke in hushed tones. A cell phone was hastily drawn from a handbag and more whispering ensued. Never have the words, “I think we’ll have to say no,” sounded so sweet. As it turns out the couple was planning to use the sofa in a bar they were opening, but couldn’t get in touch with the designer in charge of decorating. “Chester” as we have named him, was ours.

$1,500 sprouted wings and flew off happily to a new owner, and we headed home with a lovely piece of furniture that will last us years. More importantly, every time we are coddled in its leathery yellow embrace we will be reminded of the first three years of our marriage, and all of the side projects, scrimping, and saving we did together. There is something profoundly satisfying about being able to buy something this nice, this expensive, without a shred of buyer’s remorse, and to take it home not a penny in debt.

Special thanks to Deborah Burton of Ormolulu Vintage who sold us the sofa. She is a delightful lady, and you should swing by her blog ormolulu.blogspot.com to see if she’s coming to your area. And thank you to my long-suffering friend Keith Hodges who helped me lug the yellow beast up three flights of narrow stairs. I will seriously consider hiring movers when Theresa and I finally vacate our little apartment.

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24 Responses

  1. Mary Jane

     /  November 14, 2010

    Great couch……great apartment……cute couple! Thanks for not bringing up the encouragement from the mother-in-law, I am glad you look happy Elias…..are we still speaking to one another? You will love this for many years! Congratulations on the new bannana baby!

  2. kmon

     /  November 14, 2010

    I will gladly move it again for some more of those magical ginger snap cookies!

  3. Thanks Mom, You know I got my love for a good couch from you :) I think I might kind of miss our old one though…

  4. Hey, Theresa & Elias . . . what a FABULOUS write-up on the “banana slug”! You two were truly the best part of my show, and the Chesterfield looks beyond beautiful in your place. Thank you for your purchase and appreciating the value of that investment! May it bring you many years of JOY. Be sure to check out my new blogpost featuring YOU and banana slug!

    xo Debi

  5. Ahhh—so in love with Chester!! (and that awesome globe in the last photo. but that’s besides the point.) Anyway, YAY for the totally rad yellow sofa!

  6. Great story…great reward…great goodness for years to come. Now it’s back to the stashing more cash in that drawer to draw from when another gift looms lovingly before you…and it’s too true Elias that the joy of bringing home such without even a hint of ‘buyers remorse’, nor a penny of debt, is incomparable. Its also the stuff of greatness, delayed gratification that is, for it speaks of freedom. Freedom found in self-governance, a type of self-denial that in due season yields its fruit…in this case, Chester’s years-to-come of banana “appealing” embrace!

  7. This is what 2nd Saturdayz is all about. It is why all of us do it. You guys are the best. Thank you so much for being part of the junk tribe. See you next month. L

  8. Andrea

     /  November 15, 2010

    I love LOVE that this couch is yours.

  9. Thank you everyone for the nice comments!

  10. Wow. Clearly you and that couch were destined to meet. Nicely done.

  11. omg…you two are so freaking adorable and this simple, yet sweet story damn near brought tears to my eyes…i think at the point where T said, “well are we going to talk about it now?” i imagined her being so softspoken and sweet, coy even…like a child hoping for a piece of chocolate…even after mommy said no. i think maybe i sense, more than anything, that you two are an amazing, loving, understanding couple…that you listen to each other and just…love each other so much.

    i love this! and i’m so glad you got your couch!!!

  12. Ha ha, thanks Paige. You’ve about nailed it with Theresa. And we do love each other “so much”. No doubt about it :)

  13. aurorasuzette

     /  November 15, 2010

    Well, this was a lovely story, and I’m glad you had a drawer full of cash to buy your sofa. I came to your story via my friend Deb @ Ormolulu, btw. It really does seem like fate, and I applaud your goal not to go into debt for things like the original sofa. Think how smart you are environmentally too!

  14. Thank you all for the kind comments and thank you to my sweet husband who is the kind of guy that will go along with buying an awesome couch instead of some sort of gaming device and big screen tv, or a crotch rocket (nothing wrong with these things, I just really like my couch). He really is the best!

  15. What a lovely post and gorgeous photos! I absolutely love this story! So much more fun than financing your soul to some franchise……….

    Debi’s always got great goodies, she has a fantastic eye for the unique and fabulous~I’m glad she shared her experience with her link!

    Enjoy your Banana Slug~!
    (Thanks for the Tear (aw shucks) and the smiles!
    Shell

  16. fyi: visited your blog for the first time and read this post. totally inspired me. my husband and i get extra money for random stuff all the time. + sadly its probably just gone to extra shots of coffee lol
    so since i read a few weeks ago i’ve already got a stash building! thanks for the idea! we havent even noticed i stashed it! :)

  17. rebecca

     /  March 20, 2011

    You guys are so precious! Please be sure to always nurture that lovely relationship, as it is the most valuable thing you own! I hope I find something this lovely and nurturing in my future!

  18. Thank you for sharing the sweet sweet story of Chester the Banana Slug. What a great and wonderful way to buy something you can both cherish for many years and will only get better with age, just like your love!

  19. Wow, this is the most magnificent Chesterfield I have ever seen. No wonder you fell in love with it, and it looks like new. I remember these couches being extremely popular in The Netherlands in the eighties, either in maroon or black. But this one is THE BOMB. Because these couches were actually used as office furniture earlier, they were kind of uncomfortable, so people started customizing the pillows with duck feathers to make them softer. One of my friends had one and her cat just ripped the whole thing to shred, insides coming out and all, but she still did not get herself to get rid of it and called the “thing” her “character piece”. Well, that it was ! The price you payed for yours was wow wow way way too grand to leave behind. I am so happy for you guys. And no strings attached because of paying cash, well done.

  20. Macrina

     /  March 21, 2011

    very, very cool,

  21. I found you from poorplaces and followed you from there to your blog to your etsy feature and back to this post :) My husband and I just bought our first couch and we have been married almost three years. (and 5 moves, one international) It was $87.00 at a tent sale, but is new and part of a sectional and we love cuddling with our two dogs on it. We recently also just got a dining room table for $75. Having these two pieces of furniture makes everything finally feel like a home. I remember that the first 5 weeks of our marriage we lived in a hotel, and the first 9 months after that we slept on the floor :)

    I love your couch, the way you saved, the way this blog is presented and most of all, the love that shows through all of it and the way you speak about your wife, etc. Highly inspiring. What are some words of advice that you have to give to young married couples?

    Continue shining on you two! :)

  22. Thank you for your kind words Katie. I will have to think about your question on advice. It isn’t a question I’d want to answer lightly.

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