Sisterhood of the traveling chair: How the internet united a woman and her beloved seat

"I wasn't expecting this at all," Emily DelFavero told TODAY Home.
/ Source: TODAY

Never question the power of nostalgia. Or great furniture.

Emily DelFavero didn't — and neither did a group of over 2,300 Facebook users, who came together to unite the Syracuse, New York-based mechanic and guitarist with a Mackenzie-Childs chair that represents nothing less than "love" to her.

DelFavero with her chair, in its new home.Courtesy Emily DelFavero

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The story, which began on Labor Day and came to a conclusion a week later, is a combination of inspiring, unusual, hilarious and touching. DelFavero explained to TODAY Home that she spotted a painted kitchen chair on a Facebook group called "Weird Secondhand Finds" over Labor Day weekend. The chair was painted in unique patterns popularized by Mackenzie-Childs, an iconic home furnishings company.

Coincidentally, DelFavero has a tattoo of the same chair design on her leg. She let the group know that.

Almost immediately, members of the group sprang into action. Whether it was a combination of good-heartedness, boredom from being cooped up in quarantine, or needing something good to come out of 2020, it didn't really matter. Comments like "Emily needs this chair" transformed into GoFundMe pages designed to raise enough money to unite her with the furniture. The chair cost $699 at Second Chance, a Baltimore-based vintage store, while non-vintage chairs that look similar go for about $2,000 from Mackenzie-Childs directly.

DelFavero props her leg, which features a tattoo of the chair, on the chair.Courtesy Emily DelFavero

"I wasn't expecting this at all," DelFavero said. "I wanted to buy the chair, but I wasn't looking for donations. It was more like, 'It'd be great to meet up so I could get this chair.'"

The GoFundMe pages led to a separate Facebook group, "From Baltimore to Emily D," based around the planned journey of the chair. The group quickly swelled to over 2,300 members. Donations poured in for both the chair and for fuel to have it transported. Members DelFavero had never met volunteered to ferry it in seven stages from Maryland up to New York. The enterprise took on a life of its own.

Except one thing: DelFavero never owned a chair like this one. She'd seen it while visiting the Mackenzie-Childs studio in Aurora, New York, and spotted the chair in a dollhouse on display at the studio. Two years ago, she had the image of the chair tattooed on her leg. "Every time I look down at my leg, I have good memories," she said.

The Mackenzie-Childs dollhouse where DelFavero first saw the chair; you can glimpse it on the lower left-hand side of the picture.Courtesy Emily DelFavero

That's because DelFavero grew up in a house where Mackenzie-Childs designs were everywhere: dinner plates, tables, lamps. And while her living situation there wasn't great — she and her mother had to leave everything behind when they escaped an abusive step-parent — she says the designs stir up childhood memories of being cared for.

"I loved the look of the chair and how it made me feel," she recalled. "When we would bring home new friends, my mom would serve dinner on fish plates just like the chair. So it's always represented love to me."

Thea Lenna (who found the chair originally in a Facebook group) and Jen Garrard, both helped transport the chair up to New York.Courtesy Emily DelFavero

These days, DelFavero's love for her mother Amy remains strong. The two are close, though Amy is now being treated for breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy on Sept. 3 — just a few days before DelFavero spotted the chair online.

"My mom has been my biggest cheerleader through all of this," said DelFavero. "Maybe there was a part of me that was doing this all for my mom. The chair has always represented love, and some people aren't lucky to get that."

The chair ultimately was purchased from the vintage store (the owner lowered the price to $600) and transported over state lines. The process united a whole group of disparate strangers in a single act of random, if eccentric, kindness.

Pinkies Bakery & Cafe in Binghamton, New York even created cookies inspired by the Mackenzie-Childs chair.Courtesy Emily DelFavero

"Everyone has a uniquely tailored story about what this means to them," DelFavero said. "They're all expressing deep, personal stories to me. They've had a lot of sadness over these last months, and now the chair has brought them light and happiness. So many of the women on this journey have encountered abusive relationships, and this chair has brought people together for happiness, for good."

Call them the sisterhood of the traveling chair. A chair that found a new home on Monday will now live alongside DelFavero's music equipment in her home. She's already composed a bluesy "ditty" in its honor.

"I'm going to make beautiful music and art in this chair," she told TODAY. "I want it to make people think of unity and connection. This brought so many people together. The chair went on a journey, just like my mom did, just like we all do. It came from a store called Second Chance — and a second chance is what it really got. It's lived up to its name."