That new, high-flying Ferris wheel downtown. Those limited edition Holeman & Finch hamburgers at Turner Field. Sometimes, successfully chasing down the latest “big” experience in metro Atlanta can be exhausting.
So why not give yourself a break and think small?
Very small, with a visit to a one-of-a-kind exhibition located inside a 19th century house in historic Stone Mountain Village.
Its formal name is Collectible & Antique Chair Gallery. Yet even its less inhibited marketing slogan — “World Record Miniature Chair Collection” — while accurate, hardly does its contents justice.
“I describe it as ‘Chairs with a different purpose,’” owner Barbara Hartsfield said of the gallery, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary and is open on Fridays and Saturdays.
Translation: Thousands of different chairs. Nowhere to sit down.
Part museum, part accidental passion project, the gallery features display cases filled with little chairs and chair artifacts (postage stamps, wristwatches with rockers and recliners where the numbers should be), that are organized along themes and spread across three rooms. Four, if you count the bathroom, in which cleverly arranged miniature chairs peep out from the bottom of a clawfoot tub.
What’s a miniature chair, exactly?Apparently, you’re not alone in wondering that.
“People hear ‘chair’ and they think big ones [for humans],” said Hartsfield, 67, a psychiatric nurse at Grady for 41 years, where she still works part time. “Or they think dollhouse furniture.”
While closer in size to the latter, “minis” have nothing to do with dollhouses. They’re their own thing. And no two are alike in Hartsfield’s collection, which had already hit over 3,000 when the Guinness World Records made it the leader of a newly-created category in 2008. Some, like the chair with an upholstered seat and a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King on its straight back, are only a few inches high. Others, like the armchair fashioned from old horseshoes are fist-sized, while pint-sized versions of old-fashioned wooden school desks rise ankle-high from the floor.
Hartsfield says she first “stumbled into” collecting miniature chairs some two decades ago when she was working on an article about pregnant mental health patients for a professional journal. To get herself into the right frame of mind for writing, she decided, she needed to have several baby dolls in small chairs propped nearby. Yet it wasn’t long before that initial search for the right-sized chairs morphed from a purely professional undertaking into something more personally exhilarating.
Even the veteran psychiatric nurse seems surprised at how it took on a life of its own.
“When I got a joy out of having one I didn’t have, I got hooked,” she said. “It just started to blossom from there.”
IF YOU GO
Open 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. $5 adults, $2 children (ages 5-12).
994 Main Street, Stone Mountain Village. 770- 498-8816, www.museumofminiaturechairs.com