For decades California governors have held important press conferences in a room at the state Capitol annex known simply by its number: 1190. The annex was completed in 1952 and -- along with the drab windowless pressroom -- could eventually get a face-lift with money in the new state budget. The room isn’t much, but there is one stylish thing in there -- the chairs journalists sit in.
At first glance, the bulky yellow, brown and tan chairs just seem impractical. They're heavy and hard to move and really hurt when they smash against your fingers. But, they’re also a classic midcentury design and in pretty good shape.
At a press conference in the spring, several journalists were discussing how much the chairs might be worth. After all, midcentury furniture is pretty trendy right now.
So I asked Sacramento appraiser Brian Witherell, a frequent expert on PBS’ "Antiques Roadshow," to check them out. On the upside, the fiberglass chairs were manufactured by Herman Miller and created by renowned designers Charles and Ray Eames. But, Witherell said, these particular chairs were some of the Eames' more basic work.
“Even though they were innovators in art and design, the production of the chairs was very much an industry," Witherell said. "They come with two different sets of bases. This is the least desirable base.”
It’s not entirely clear how the chairs came to be in the pressroom. Vito Sgromo has worked in and around the Capitol since 1984, including stints as the building’s curator and manager. He said the chairs were likely purchased in the 1960s when the governor was either Pat Brown or Ronald Reagan