Mid-Century Modern enthusiasts decorate outdoor living spaces with furniture produced from the late 1940s through the early 1970s by a number of different companies. Learn about some of these firms, along with the acclaimed designers who envisioned many of these classic modernist pieces that can be used indoors as well.
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Brown Jordan's Acclaimed Outdoor Furnishings
Founded by Robert Brown and Hubert Jordan in Pasadena, California in 1945, Brown Jordan is a name associated with quality patio furniture. Their lines are currently used by a number of well-known hotels, resorts and residences including Wynn properties, a number of Four Seasons resorts around the world, and even the White House in Washington, DC.
When it comes to Brown Jordan's mid-century vintage pieces sought by collectors, a number were designed by Walter Lamb. The prototypes for these pieces were made with salvaged bronze piping bent into curving shapes and finished with yacht cord webbing. It is not uncommon for the cording to be reworked on these vintage chaise loungers and rocking chairs.
Other Brown Jordan lines, such as the Elan Collection dating to the 1980s, featured oversized disc wheels on chaise lounges similar to those designed by Richard Schwartz for his 1966 Collection. Designer Richard Frinier also designed a bar cart for Brown Jordan in the 1980s with large wheels of this type.
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John Salterini's Wrought Iron Furniture
The John B. Salterini Company of New York, New York marketed a line of furniture known as NEVA-RUST to mid-century consumers. Many see these lines as the first wave of wrought iron outdoor furniture since those popular during the Victorian era. This includes a number of pieces that appeal to those seeking modernist furniture for outdoor settings.
Among the most popular with today's decorators is the Salterini hoop chair designed by Maurizio Tempestini. These are also referenced as "radar chairs" or "clamshell chairs" due to their unique round shape. They coordinate with round tables made of similar materials for dining, but look great as occasional chairs either for indoor or outdoor use.
In fact, Salterini pieces were widely advertised in home decorating magazines from the 1940s through the '70s for use both indoors and out, especially dining sets. Those seeking Salterini designs today should be aware that many pieces marketed as being made by this brand are actually more recent imported knock offs.
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Harry Bertoia Indoor/Outdoor Chairs
Many well-known modernist furniture designers conceived items that can be used not only inside a home, but out of door. This includes the acclaimed artist Harry Bertoia.
Among the chairs Knoll Associates commissioned Bertoia to design were his metal indoor/outdoor lattice models in the early 1950s. These recognizable designs are part of the Bertoia Collection, and they reflect his background as as an artist with their sculptural appeal.
Like most Knoll furniture dating back to the '50s, these chairs were made continuously for almost two decades. They were labeled Knoll Associates through 1969, while versions made since then will say Knoll International on the labels (when they are still present.)
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Richard Schultz Patio Furniture
Richard Schultz started designing for Knoll Furniture in 1951. He began by assisting Harry Bertoia on his Wire Collection as an indoor/outdoor line of home furnishings (see above).
Schultz first explored the idea of his own innovative outdoor lines in the early to mid-1960s. His Petal Table, available in three versions, was an award-winning hit that came out in 1960. To compliment Bertoia's designs, his 715 Chaise Lounge was made in 1961. This piece is now a part of the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.
He also introduced a collection of aluminum furniture in 1966, at the urging of Florence Knoll, that was durable yet sophisticated. The 1966 Collection includes a grouping of lounge furniture as well as dining furniture with several chair and table options.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Woodard's Sculptura Furniture
Woodard started making outdoor furniture in the 1930s. It wasn't until 1956, however, that the company began production of their welded wrought iron Sculptura chair credited to Russell Woodard. This was "the first manufacturer to construct a sculpted chair without using expensive molds," according to Woodward's website.
The Sculptura chair was added to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s permanent collection in 1994. The line remains popular today with those seeking vintage modernism flair for outdoor living spaces.
There are a number of versions of these chairs with and without arms and/or rockers, and they have a familiar flair about them when compared with Eames chairs made from molded fiberglass during the same era. Woodard also made coordinating footstools and tables out of welded wrought iron with metal wire mesh.