What to Look for When Shopping for Vintage Outdoor Furniture

  • 01 of 07

    Old Metal Chairs

    vintage metal lawn chairs
    Rusty and charming: a pair of old metal lawn chairs. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Breathe New Life Into Old Outdoor Furniture

    If you like outdoor furniture that looks like it's been left out in the garden—for decades, perhaps —then you just might find it at an antique store. While antique stores used to be the first go-to place for all things vintage, flea markets, online auction sites, and sources like Craigslist have put many antique stores out of business.

    But nothing beats seeing the real thing in person. Come along on a visit to a couple of antique stores in Southern...MORE California for a look at some amazing outdoor relics from the past. I'm not the only one on the prowl for vintage patio furniture and a good deal on a one-of-a-kind or rare find, I've often encountered bloggers, photographers, and an occasional set design scout from the movie studios.

    See the real thing in person—you never know what's in store!

    The thing about metal chairs like this pair is that, whether they are authentically vintage or reproductions, they still are going to rust and chip. Give them a few years, and you may not be able to tell the difference.

    Now, this particular pair is old—you can tell by the shape, design, punched-metal pattern, etc. Newer ones—considered "retro"—are usually more solid and are powder-coated in contemporary colors, like brighter reds, yellows, and dark greens. Depending on how much more you want them to weather, chairs like these would probably be better off if they were on a porch or under cover—rain and the elements will just give them an extra layer of rust.

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  • 02 of 07

    Cement Lawn Ornaments

    cement lawn ornaments
    Big-eyed cement children await a place on your lawn. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Two wide-eyed children are forever cast in cement, ready to sit on someone's lawn or in the garden. During the mid-20th century, cement and concrete-cast lawn ornaments and garden statuary were all the rage. On my first trip to the Northeast, I remember being enthralled at the sight of lawn-after-lawn of these cast characters I'd never before seen: gnomes, kissing frogs on benches under umbrellas, mushrooms, deer, geese, mirrored gazing balls and other earthly delights.

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  • 03 of 07

    Black Metal Glider

    vintage metal glider
    A vintage black glider made of metal. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    If you have a front porch, you have to have a glider. Preferably, the older or more unique-looking, the better. This curving metal glider for two was probably made in the late 1940s or 1950s, and is the kind that would make a noise every time you glide back and forth in it.

    After hiding behind walls and fortresses for many years, front porches and porch furniture—like gliders—are making a comeback. People are starting to enjoy the old-fashioned benefits of rocking on the front porch in the...MORE evening, watching neighbors walk or drive by.

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  • 04 of 07

    Wooden Lawn Chairs

    wood porch chair
    Hand-build wooden chairs were once a common sight on porches. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    While these may look like vintage Adirondack chairs, they aren't true Adirondacks, and are likely a DIY project from days gone by. How can we tell? The back of the chair looks like a portion of a wooden picket fence, and is not as smoothly contoured or angled as an authentic Adirondack.

    That's not to say these chairs don't have charm. Back in the days before do-it-yourself was an actual term and a badge of honor, our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers would get ahold of some...MORE chair-makin' instructions from a handyman's how-to book or magazine and whip up one of these fine-looking garden chairs over a weekend. Guys back then had skills—either learned from their male relatives or woodshop class—and it was the male version of sewing clothes for the family. It's just what you did.

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  • 05 of 07

    Patio Chair Plant Holder

    vintage chair planter
    A white chair seat gets covered up with. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Sometimes the seat part of an outdoor chair can get worn out or broken down. That's where something like this comes in. Adding lightweight potted plants covers up worn seat areas, serves as a warning for guests not to sit there, repurposes an old garden chair, and simply looks charming.

    Yes—that's a vintage red truck right behind the white chair!

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  • 06 of 07

    Green Metal Glider Chair

    A single-seat glider chair. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Two-seat gliders used to be popular for relaxing on the front porch on warm summer evenings. Single-seat gliders were a bit more unusual or maybe haven't survived the years. Like the two-seaters, this green metal glider chair has the same "spring" and rhythmic gliding action and still looks good after all these decades.

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  • 07 of 07

    Painted Wood Settee

    vintage wood settee
    Homemade pillows add charm to this DIY settee from many years ago. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Although this two-seat settee is reminiscent of Adirondack-style furniture, it's simply a homemade wood patio chair project from many decades ago. Adirondack or not, it is still charming and has loads of character—perfect for the garden, patio, porch, or any place in the yard. Throw on some homemade pillows in indoor / outdoor fabric, and you have a cozy, inviting place to relax.