Vintage Outdoor Chairs
Take a seat on the patio or in your house with stylish vintage chairs
By Michael and James Fry, Brown Button Estate Sales
At Brown Button we enjoy well-designed and unique furniture in the same way that many people appreciate a beautiful sculpture. Both creations require craftsmanship, creativity, and artistic talents to design and build. In many cases, furniture is the tougher of the two as it adds the element of function to the artistic form. Now that spring is upon us, we thought we would take time to highlight a few of our favorite outdoor chairs that offer imaginative, ground breaking design in addition to a great place to sit down. Five chairs, created by three designers, top our list: the Clamshell, Orange Slice, Sculptra, Bertoia Side Chair, and the Bertoia Diamond Chair.
First up are two Salterini chairs designed by Maurizio Tempestini: the Clamshell and Orange Slice. Salterini is often given credit for the resurgence of wrought iron furniture, which started becoming popular around the 1930s. They made high-quality furniture for the affluent, and it was built to last. The two mid-century pieces highlighted here are quite a design deviation from Salterini earlier works or fromprevious patio furniture styles altogether. The mid-century movement crafted furniture unlike anything previously created. These chairs are two of our outdoor favorites mostly due to our appreciation of their pioneering, unique designs. They can sell anywhere between $100 to $500 per chair depending on the condition and how sure the buyer is that they’re not reproductions. The fact that the originals were not marked is both a pro and a con for resellers. On the one hand, it makes it easier to pick up a fantastic deal at a garage sale or antique shop. On the other, it takes more work to identify a true original. Refer to photos of the original chair online to make sure all the details are the same. We doff our hats to Mr. Tempestini for his well crafted contributions.
Russell Woodard and his two brothers first started experimenting with cast-and-tubular-aluminum-constructed chairs at the very earliest stage of the mid-century movement. This experimentation resulted in their iconic Sculptura chair line. The following is a description of the chair in their own words from a 1950s brochure, “Three wonderful things about this new Sculptura chair of ours. You can leave it out-of-doors all the time. The woven wire makes it light and easy to move. And it’s very modestly priced.
Extremely comfortable too—and, we think, very good-looking. Comes in black, pineapple yellow, Ciel blue, antique pink, mocha, Pompeian green, and chalk white finishes. ‘Parkerized’, as is all Woodard furniture, for rust protection”. As the factory colors went out of style, many of these pieces were painted and they can be hard to find in pristine condition. The Sculptura line includes a simple garden chair, a lounge chair, rocking chair, and a settee. Prices vary per piece but can range between $125 to $600.
Arguably the most recognizable and iconic on our outdoor list are two creations by Harry Bertoia for Knoll. In his young twenties Mr. Bertoia developed a passion and talent for jewelry design. His high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail in this arena garnered him early recognition. He was able to take many of the skills learned from jewelry work and apply them to his furniture design. In the early 1950s, a former classmate, Florence Knoll, invited him to join her company as a furniture and sculpture designer.
At Knoll he focused his attention on design with industrial materials, transforming them from their everyday utility into something significant. It was in this season that he was able to create the Bertoia Side Chair and the Bertoia Diamond Chair. Harry himself compared his furniture work to art: “If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them.” Bertoia chairs are still in production today and can be purchased new from Knoll. The resell value of these chairs ranges from $100 to $1,000 depending on the style, age and condition.
Originals of these five chairs, especially those untouched by paint and rust, can command high prices for educated resellers … that is, if you can let go of them once you have picked up one of these beauties. If you do happen to get your hands on a Sculptura chair in pineapple yellow, or one of the others listed above, you must care for them properly. Experts recommend that you take them out in the sunshine and sit comfortably for many hours with a good book and a glass of iced tea. We hope your spring is full of satisfactory sitting!