Ubiquitous chair goes from landfill to national glory

Posted: October 1, 2013

The Winchester Star

L'Auberge Provencale Bed and Breakfast owner Celeste Borel sits on the Red Chair that is making a coast-to-coast journey, stopping at inns along the way. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
The Red Chair arrived at L'Auberge Provencale Bed and Breakfast in White Post on Monday, on the initial leg of a journey that will take it across the United States, one inn or bed and breakfast at a time. Here, innkeeper Celeste Borel poses with the Red Chair in front of her establishment. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WHITE POST — Whether gazing across the Shenandoah Valley from a lookout on Skyline Drive or engaging with farm animals, “Red” enjoyed his three-day visit to the area, according to Celeste Borel.

Borel, innkeeper at L’Auberge Provençale Bed and Breakfast, knows the Red Chair well enough to call it by its first name.

The chair arrived at the inn in White Post on Sept. 23, on the initial leg of a journey that will take it across the United States, one inn or bed and breakfast at a time.

Rescued from a landfill in Massachusetts a couple years ago, the simple wooden chair — painted bright red — is spending time at some handsome and prestigious places.

Beth Colt, of the Woods Hole Inn on Cape Cod, Mass., has the background.

“It was very serendipitous,” she said. “I found it at the town dump, where we have a swap shop for gently used pieces.”

Colt took the chair to a local pond when she went ice skating with her children and snapped a picture of it, alone on the ice.

She posted it on the Web.

A photographer from Santa Barbara, Calif., saw the post, flew to Cape Cod and borrowed the chair for a shoot.

The chair was featured, facing a gray Atlantic, on a sandy beach with the traditional Cape Cod fence in the foreground.

“It was very magical,” Colt said.

That led to a tour of Cape Cod bed and breakfasts for the Red Chair, followed last year by an eight-week tour across Massachusetts.

And lots of pictures.

Borel met Colt at a meeting of the Professional Association of Independent Innkeepers.

I told her, I want the chair to come to my B&B, Borel said.

The idea was launched there to send it across the country.

“Over 130 locations, from Woods Hole to Santa Barbara,” will be hosting the traveling chair, Colt said.

Each innkeeper takes it to various locations in their area, snapping pictures.

Borel, now tour guide extraordinaire, said the Red Chair visited Old Town Winchester and several overlooks on Skyline Drive.

At Blandy Farm in Boyce, she photographed it in a bucolic setting with large, round bales of hay.

At the historic Burwell-Morgan Mill in Millwood, the chair was posed with the historic grinding wheel and made a short stop at the blacksmith shop.

The trip finished off in Middleburg in Hunt Country.

Borel said she attracted a lot of attention carrying the chair around and photographing it. She spent a lot of time telling its story and “everybody thought it was a riot.”

Back at L’Auberge, a very weary Red Chair shared a champagne toast with a dining couple celebrating their 42nd anniversary.

“I took a picture of it talking to my garden pig,” Borel said, and lounging by the pool with “a couple of other chairs.”

She even sat on it.

The Borels drove the Red Chair on to its next reservation, at the Woodward House in Front Royal, on Wednesday. It moves farther south and into North Carolina on Oct. 14.

Colt has created a special website, redchairtravels.com and posts pictures of the chair’s visits as they come in. Borel said the June and July stops are up now and L’Auberge Provençale’s hosting activities will be there in the future.

“It’s become a symbol and a connection” for the country’s inns and B&Bs, Borel said.

Figuring out where to take the chair and looking for great pictures brings out your creativity, Borel said.

“It’s fun. You kind of get into it and get the feel of it.”

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com