Their stories are as varied as our own.
From around the world, each has its individual heritage and history. On their path to Sacramento, they may have traveled thousands of miles, picking up a few scars along the way. But their beauty remains untarnished.
OK, maybe they needed a facelift (or two). But that didn't lessen their value to those who truly love them.
Beneath their polished surfaces, they hold tales of abandonment and rebirth, neglect and restoration. But most of all, their stories are filled with longtime adoration.
We asked our readers to share stories of a favorite piece of furniture. More than 100 responded with heartfelt prose.
Tables of all sorts, rockers big and small, chairs high or low, desks and secretaries, dressers and high-boys, chests of all kinds, sofas and one loveseat, beds and cradles; we had enough to furnish a (most likely Victorian) hotel.
Many of the pieces had been used by multiple generations; that was particularly true of furniture made for children.
If this furniture could talk, its stories would probably reflect the families who loved them and nurtured them.
They embody generations of use. Some are works of art; others are no-nonsense work-horses. But each piece has something that makes it extra special. That's why they're so loved and admired.
And one glance brings thoughts of family members or times long since gone.
Trixie Meyer of Citrus Heights rescued her precious "Bear Chair" after it spent years in attics and garage rafters.
"The Bear Chair spoke to me the moment I set eyes on it," said Meyer.
Hand-carved by Meyer's great-grandfather in Switzerland with a large bear dominating its back, the chair caught the then-15-year-old's attention in her Swiss grandparents' attic in 1970. Her grandpa said she could take it home.
"It was strapped to the back of a rental VW Bug from Bern to Zurich to be crated and shipped to our home in Massachusetts with other family heirlooms," Meyer said. "I thought my mom would love it; she thought that it would be tacky where would we put it?"
So, the Bear Chair was banished to the garage rafters, where it stayed unseen for decades.
Meyer eventually moved to California. She asked her parents if they could bring her the Bear Chair.
"In my living room, unpacking the chair, my mom was awestruck," Meyer said. "She could not believe how beautiful it was and how foolish she had been to not unpack it for all these years."
Now, the Bear Chair offers a seat for Meyer's own teddy bear collection.
Tables made for sharing
Whether held up with four sturdy legs or a single pillared support, tables particularly big, sturdy, round ones are a favorite heirloom. It's not just about the wood; they represent family and togetherness.
"We were not a breakfast bar family; we were an everyone-sit-down-at-the-dinner-table family," said the Rev. Anne Slakey, who treasures her parents' Mexican mesquite table for what it represents as well as its beauty. "But a round table is not a hierarchical table, with Dad at the head and Mom at the foot. A round table is an everyone-has-something-to-say table, and we were all encouraged to participate in lively discussions."
Carri Stokes of Sacramento rescued a table that was part of her family heritage.
"The table was used as a butcher's block for cutting up meat on the (family's pig) farm," she said. "When the table arrived at my place about seven years ago, it was bloodstained, the top had numerous gashes and sections of the legs had rotted from it being outside for so long."
Stokes sanded and repainted the table and replaced the rotted "buns" on the carved legs.
"For being the piece of furniture that no one in the family wanted, it now looks beautiful in my home," she added, "and I was able to preserve a piece of my family's history."
Kathryn Canan of Citrus Heights could recount family incidents and history by the stains on her dining room table. It was used by her great-grandmother and grandmother in Illinois, and stored for years in a farmhouse cellar.
"The table was never treated as fine furniture; dark stains from milk and cream splashing from the cream separator into bottles still decorate it today," Canan said.
"But my father had an eye for beauty in unlikely places," she added. "When my grandmother moved into town in 1980, he rescued the table, refinished it to bring out the glow of the wood, and shipped it to us to furnish our first apartment in Chicago. Scars and all, a table for spilled milk and hard work will always have a place in our home."
Rockers for ages
Perhaps it's a maternal link, but rocking chairs hold special memories and significance. Several readers sent snapshots of beloved rockers, passed down through generations and with countless hours of family service.
Who knows how many babies they helped lull to sleep?
Some rockers hold history, too.
Barbara Ostrom of Lincoln has a special place for her well-traveled rosewood rocker. Inlaid with mother of pearl, the carved rocker likely made in the mid-1800s was a wedding gift to her grandmother in 1899 in Toronto. It traveled from Canada to Riverside to Oakland, and now Lincoln.
Mary Rogers-Jones of Paradise recalled the family history of her platform rocker.
"My great-great-grandfather owned a leather tannery in Mississippi before the Civil War," she said. "It was burned to the ground during the war. After the war, he opened a furniture business. This chair came from that store."
Mickey Tucker of El Dorado Hills in- herited her well-worn "Grandma's chair," with a gargoyle carved into the back.
"It sits in the corner, watching, ever watching and waiting for someone to sit and rock and fill the room with 'squeak, squeak,' " Tucker said. "A scary chair indeed, you either love it or are frightened by it."
Like her Grandmother Mabel, Tucker rocked her children and grandchildren in this fearsome rocker to its squeak-squeak-squeak. She added, "Four generations so far and who knows how many more to come?"
Several pint-size rockers were made for children. Those kids now have grand-children, even great-grandchildren, who love the itty-bitty rockers just as much.
Woodland's Lynn Flowers cherishes her mother's tiny rocker. She used it, too.
"I've kept it in my home for the past 40 years," Flowers said, "and now my grandson, Frankie, loves to sit in it to look at his picture books."
Maryann Sanfilippo Parkison has a baby rocker made for her by her father, Sal, in 1941. Used by three generations, it still rocks great.
"As a testament to my dad's craftsmanship, the chair has miraculously never broken," she said, "and the varnish is just as shiny and smooth as when I first laid claimed to the chair as mine."
Pat Biasotti almost lost her precious baby rocker.
"Teddy bears now nestle in my little wicker rocking chair, but 84 years ago it was a gift for my first birthday from a doting grandmother," she said. "When I was away at college, my father decided it was a useless piece of furniture and gave it to the two little girls living in the apartment below us. A few days later, their mother met mine in the hallway and thanked her for the rocking chair. Mom had the awkward task of telling her that my father had no business giving it away that she was saving it for her grand- children-to-be!"
Those grandchildren (plus two more generations after them) have enjoyed the chair.
"Now it's my great-grandchildren who unceremoniously dump out the teddies, clamber in and laughingly rock away," Biasotti said. "And the memory of my beloved grandmother and how her gift has delighted generations warms my heart."
Although most experts advise preserving original finishes as much as possible, some pieces look much better with a makeover.
Marilyn Rice got a cupboard from her grandmother's Iowa farm kitchen.
"My grandfather paid a local carpenter $1 in 1903 to make the cupboard," Rice said. "It was originally stained a dark brown, but in succeeding years, was painted green and cream. My husband and I spent about two years taking off the old finish, which revealed a beautiful yellow pine with wainscot sides."
Since she was a teen, Paula Sheehan of Folsom has had an unusual cabinet, which now houses china and glassware in her dining room.
"In the '70s, my mom bought this cabinet at a garage sale for $7," she recalled. "It was painted a bright-orange and fit very well in my yellow teenage bedroom."
After college, Sheehan spent $120 to restore the cabinet. Gone is the orange paint in favor of a beautiful wood stain to go with its leaded glass door.
"Over the years, many people have thought it is a very unique piece and have offered to buy it," she said. "I have always said 'no' as it is a special piece that I have loved all though my teenage and adult years."
History and family
"George Washington didn't sleep here, but he could have sat here," said Marsha Powell Sarras of West Sacramento. "My chair was the last remaining chair from his Mount Vernon dining room set."
Passed down through Sarras' family, the chair graced her entryway for half a century, but not now.
"I was a guest on (public television's) 'Antiques Roadshow' with the chair," said Sarras, a direct descendent of John Marshall, Washington's cousin. "The following month, an Internet buyer purchased the chair for $10,000 with the prospect of returning it to its rightful sitting place. John Marshall's family crest read 'Honor and Justice.' It was an honor to own it, and justice was well served by returning it to its place of honor in Mount Vernon."
Some pieces embody California's pioneer spirit.
Wendell Alderson has a Mission-style sideboard, originally owned by his grandmother.
"When she was first married in 1915, they bought a ranch in the Elmira area," Alderson said. "They shopped from the Montgomery Ward catalog for their furniture. The entire house full of furniture was delivered by train to Elmira."
The sideboard still has its shipping label.
Paul and Ann Freeman of Cameron Park have the original 1902 Sears catalog ad that likely prompted his Minnesota grandfather to order a solid oak bedroom set, priced at $15.75. They have the furniture, too.
"We feel so fortunate to have this beautiful bedroom suite," Ann Freeman said. "We are amazed that with all the moves, all three pieces are in excellent condition."