What You Need to Know About Vintage Patio Furniture

salterini wrought iron chairs
Wrought iron outdoor chairs by Salterini. Kenny K/K2 Modern
  • 01 of 10

    The Names and Brands Behind Collectible Outdoor Furnishings

    carole lombard in swimsuit
    American actress Carole Lombard (1908 - 1942) relaxing in a sun lounger, circa 1935. Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

    Historically, outdoor furniture has not been well documented. Because it was often viewed as having a short life due to its exposure to the elements—sun, wind, rain and snow—homeowners often replaced it every few years. Indoor furniture—built to last and decidedly more protected— traditionally has garnered more attention and praise. Through the years, labels and marques of patio furniture have fallen off. And thanks to the web and a plethora of "experts," misidentification of furniture...MORE manufacturers and lines runs rampant.

    In spite of the seasonal nature of outdoor furniture, a funny thing has happened along the way. Against the odds, many of these outdoor pieces held up through the years, and collectors began taking notice of certain manufacturers and lines or styles that they found especially appealing. Some survivors might have survived because the original owners often took better care of their possessions—that "pride of ownership" philosophy that may have been handed down from their ancestors. Remaining patio sets might have been stored in basements or sheds during the off season, and cleaned regularly or protected by overhead roofs or shade.

    Mid-20th Century Collectibles

    Others might have been used indoors. During the post-World War II housing boom, the John B. Salterini NEVA-RUST furniture company marketed its garden furniture in home and garden magazine ads, touting, "It's the decorative trend, using wrought iron furniture indoors because it brings into your home the freshness and gaiety of a flowery summer garden."

    Salterini also made a push for indoor use in magazine advertisements featuring illustrations of lean, long-legged homemakers in high heels and aprons serving dinner on their patio dining tables, with ad copy suggesting the furniture was perfect for budget-minded "young marrieds." Recommending that homeowners use the garden furniture indoors helped justify the higher price tags on these sets, which were sold at "finer furniture stores" and through decorators.

    West Coast-based companies like O.W. Lee and Brown Jordan focused on producing outdoor furniture that could be used year-round in climates that enjoyed the burgeoning patio culture, like California, Arizona and Florida.

    "The mid-century years in Los Angeles were a period of extraordinary creativity, nurturing designers and architects like Charles Eames, Richard Neutra and John Lautner, while a mild climate allowed people to redefine concepts of architecture and lifestyle," explains Stephen F. Elton, Chief Brand Officer for Brown Jordan. "Entertaining on the patio or lounging by the pool became a way of life. And Brown Jordan became synonymous with outdoor furniture of timeless design and enduring quality."


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  • 02 of 10

    Mid-Century Doesn't Always Mean It's Modern

    mad men patio furniture
    'Mad Men' cast members pose on vintage patio furniture from the 1950s. AMC

    While most of the more collectible lines of outdoor furniture are mid-century modern in style, not everything produced during that era was modern. Salterini designed the ultra-modern Clamshell line, but also manufactured more traditional pieces like the French Provencial set—same wrought iron material but an entirely different look.

    Prices vary widely for patio furniture—many sellers don't know what they have since it has not been well documented. Yes, it's possible to find more high-end...MORE pieces on sites like eBay or CraigsList for good prices, but don't expect the furniture to be in the pristine condition you might find on auction sites like 1stDibs. However, with research and vigilance, you might score something valuable that you absolutely love.

    We've researched and compiled a list of the most collectible brands of outdoor furniture, including their more popular lines. 

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  • 03 of 10

    Ames Aire

    ames aires furniture
    Vintage Ames Aire outdoor furniture. Flickr member Ethan

    Location: Minnesota

    Notable Features

    Lightweight outdoor furniture with zinc-coated tubular steel frames and vinyl cording or strapping that came in turquoise, lilac, orange, yellow and white, with black or bronze frames. Featured safety-tempered "Ripple-mist" glass on table tops. 

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  • 04 of 10

    Brown Jordan

    kantan by brown jordan
    Brown Jordan's Kantan collection, originally released in 1956. Brown Jordan

    Location: Started in Pasadena, California.

    Year Established: 1945
    Founders: Industrial designer Robert Brown and Hubert Jordan

    Notable Lines:

    • Bronze collection by Walter Lamb. Introduced in the 1940s and made using cotton cording and copper pipe salvaged from naval ships that had sunk in Pearl Harbor, the Bronze collection was popular through the 1960s and reintroduced in 2008.
    • Calcutta, aka Chinese Chippendale
    • Kailua
    • Kantan by Tadao E. Inouye in 1956
    • Lido
    • Mai Tai by John Caldwell
    • Morning Glory (for...MORE Bullocks Wilshire in Los Angeles)
    • Nomad
    • Orient
    • Quantum by Richard Frinier
    • Regent
    • "S" lounge chair by Walter Lamb
    • Sol y Luna
    • Tamiami by Hall Bradley, 1950s
    • Venetian Grotto
    • Waikiki
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  • 05 of 10


    homecrest recliner
    Homecrest vintage recliner outdoor chaise. Kenny K of K2 Modern

    Location: Wadena, Minnesota
    Year Established: Company was started in 1953
    Founders: Mert Bottemiller and Al Engelemann started Homecrest as an offshoot of a retail furniture shop when they attempted to design a better hassock (ottoman) than their vendors could supply. The business expanded into lines of indoor and outdoor furniture.
    Known for: Modern designs and Bottemiller's swivel rocker mechanism, which was patented in 1956.

    Notable Lines and Products:

    • Bermuda
    • Caribbean
    • Carousel
    • Casino
    • Chiquita
    • Cour...MOREting swing
    • Edina
    • Grenada
    • Hilo table
    • Holly Hill
    • Jamaica server
    • Kingston
    • Leisure
    • Martinique
    • Montego
    • Nassau glider 
    • Riviera
    • Siesta chaise (pictured; courtesy of Kenny K of K2 Modern)
    • Summer Set
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  • 06 of 10


    molla seashell outdoor furniture
    Seashell and seahorse outdoor furniture by Molla. Ebay member eames14


    Molla began in England in the late 1800s but moved to the East Coast to produce neo-classical cast aluminum and magnesium metal furniture that was saltwater resistant--good for those estates in Newport, Rhode Island, and beach houses on Cape Cod. Mid-20th-century pieces featured Alumaloy frames that were advertised as being resistant to pitting and rusting, which are major issues with metal furniture kept outside. Metal finishes included special names like Pompeian, Old Pewter,...MORE Mediterranean Blue, Iridescent Green, Venetian Blue, Venetian Green and Yellow.

    Notable Lines and Products:

    • Brighton
    • Diana the Huntress
    • Double chaise lounge
    • Greek key
    • Marina
    • Nassau
    • Neo-classical
    • Seahorse and Shell (pictured, photo courtesy of eBay member eames14)
    • Zodiac table
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  • 07 of 10


    rattan bar
    A vintage curving rattan bar with matching barstools. Wicker Paradise/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Sometimes mistakenly referred to as bamboo, rattan furniture was made by many manufacturers in the mid-1900s, with a big push after World War II. Why? Troops who fought in the Pacific Theater were exposed to the exotic appeal of the South Sea islands and tropics, and wanted to recapture the better part of their wartime experience with furnishings, accessories, clothing, music, and food that reminded them of these far-off destinations.

    The following is a list of companies that produced rattan...MORE furniture during its heyday. Pieces tended to be large and were better indoors or under a covered patio. Collectors favor strands--what look like poles--and the more strands, the better. Past collectors include Bruce Springsteen and Diane Keaton.

    • Franco Albini 
    • Heywood Wakefield
    • Paul Frankl
    • Ritts
    • Seven Seas
    • Tropical Sun
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  • 08 of 10


    salterini wrought iron chairs
    Wrought iron outdoor 'Clamshell' chairs by Salterini. Kenny K/K2 Modern

    Location: New York City
    Era: 1928 to 1953
    Founder: John B. Salterini, who emigrated from Italy

    Notable Lines and Products:

    • Banana Leaf
    • Cheerio 
    • Clamshell by Italian architect/designer Maurizio Tempestini (pictured, photo courtesy of Kenny K of K2 Modern)
    • Cubist
    • Della Robbia
    • Dogwood
    • French Provencial
    • Ivy
    • Laurel Leaf
    • Lily Pad 
    • Magnolia
    • Montego
    • Mt. Vernon
    • Palm Springs
    • Park Avenue
    • Peacock
    • Rambler: Vines, leaves and berries; art nouveau inspired
    • Ribbon by Maurizio Tempestini
    • Riviera by Maurizio Tempestini
    • Rose Leaf
    • Roslyn...MORE
    • Sea Island
    • Verdigre
    • Willow
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  • 09 of 10


    tropitone vintage set
    Vintage Tropitone patio furniture. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Location: Established in Sarasota, Florida. In 1970, the company moved its headquarters to Orange County, California
    Year: 1954
    Founder: Started by retired engineer Burt M. Baker as the Sarasota Redwood Furniture Co.

    Notables Lines and Products:

    • Aegean
    • Boccaccio
    • Brasilia
    • California Redwood
    • Cantina
    • Cayman
    • Colony
    • Coventry Manor
    • Down East
    • Jai Alai
    • Leilani
    • Manele Bay
    • Marrakesh
    • Orleans
    • Pagoda
    • Orleans
    • Seychelle
    • Southampton
    • Verrazano
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  • 10 of 10


    homecrest spun fiberglass vintage furniture
    Spun fiberglass vintage patio furniture by Homecrest. Kenny K

    Location: Owosso, Michigan
    Year Established: 1933
    Founders: Lee Woodard began making handcrafted metal furniture in the 1930s. His three sons, Joe, Lyman and Russell, built the company to become a leader in outdoor furnishings.

    Notable Lines and Products: