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The Van Winkle

by Caroline B.

There was a time, not long ago, among the artist caste of citizens, when furniture was never actually bought. As part of the creative process, found objects were simply re-purposed as functional décor. The warehouse buildings which housed the makeshift studios (prior to the faux studio concept appropriated by condo builders) and the neighbouring factories and stores provided a continuous cycle of raw materials deposited in nearby alleyways and dumpsters. These were low-rent areas, hardly appealing to refined tastes, but perfectly suited to painters and musicians requiring cheap living arrangements. It was logical, a genuine extension of one’s creativity, to make do with what was at hand.

The sleep box was, by necessity, the first item to be assembled. In our building, one Mexican still life painter became famous for his side business of quickly refitting large packing skids with industrial casters and fastening two or more together to create a rolling bedroom. However, his pièce de résistance was the Van Winkle, which allowed for a table top surface to drop down over the mattress area to create a workbench for paints and tools. As messy as that sounds, the convertible bed worked perfectly and even served as a dining-room table once the bottles of wine and pizza boxes arrived.

For a working artist, the mobile bed made perfect sense. You could roll it from one end of the room to the other, open those big industrial windows and start your day. Now that artists are an endangered species and greed has eliminated affordable existence, making a Van Winkle will likely devolve into buying a Van Winkle at your local condo-furniture boutique.

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