This is the 50th anniversary of the Eames lounge chair. Alfie Hume is in the business of making sure they don’t show their age.
An affable Brit who now lives and works in Venice, Hume lives to take things apart. “My father used to say that my toys didn’t come with instructions,” he says. “They came with destructions.”
Today, that talent has taken him to corner offices and design-minded homes containing Herman Miller, Knoll Bertoia, Eames and Nelson pieces that have gone creaky, cracked or otherwise flabby.
“Most of my Herman Miller pieces have been in the hospital at one time or another,” says production
designer Jeannine Oppewall, who amassed a midcentury furniture collection while working for Charles Eames at the original Eames Office in Venice and scouting yard sales and flea markets for pieces to use on film sets.
“Alfie knows these pieces backward, forward and inside out,” she says. “He gives great advice about how to preserve the value of your investments.”
Hume came to Los Angeles in 1994 to escape the rain, but then he met his future wife, Sheila Kaufman. Her
father, Jeff Kaufman, was VP at Jules Seltzer Associates — the largest Herman Miller dealer in America, which had just launched the Aeron chair.
Hume began taking on Aeron repair jobs, mostly as favors for friends and family, but afterward clients had a question: “I have an Eames chair I inherited from my parents. Can you fix it?”
“If they had the money for Aeron chairs, they had the money for Eames furniture,” says Hume, noting that in Jerry Bruckheimer’s offices, even the mailroom is outfitted with Aerons. “The business literally snowballed overnight.”
To serve a client base that’s often short on both time and patience, Hume has amassed an inventory of spare parts. And while Hume goes on service calls himself, he relies on a cadre of craftsmen that includes a refinisher, two upholsterers and a fabricator.
Although an appreciation of midcentury design has become a mark of sophistication for young Hollywood — his patrons include design buffs Courteney Cox and David Arquette — many of Hume’s clients are of midcentury vintage themselves.
“The people I enjoy working for the most are the old-school Hollywood people,” says Hume, who recently did some work for Charlton Heston at his home. “It’s quite amazing to see what money can buy.”
Alfie Hume is available at humemodern.com