Outdoor Seating with Style
Published in the Spring 2015 edition of Vintage KC Magazine
Written by Michael and James Fry
We here at Brown Button are overly impressed by a well designed unique chair in the same fashion that we are when looking at a beautiful art sculpture. It takes a similar type of creativity, craftsmanship, and artistic talents to make both. In some cases I think the chair might even be the tougher feat. In addition to the aforementioned traits it also needs to be an enjoyable place to sit. With spring on the horizon we thought this would be a good opportunity to highlight a few of our favorite vintage outdoor chairs. Five chairs created by three designers: Clamshell, Orange Slice, Sculptra, Bertoia Side Chair, and the Bertoia Diamond Chair – all five fall into the “sculpture” category for us. And since this is in fact the “Buy Sell” article, all five are well worth purchasing for resale if acquired at the right price.
Up first, two Salterini chairs designed by Maurizio Tempestini. Salterini is often given credit for the resurgence of wrought iron furniture popularity beginning around the 1930’s. 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 from previous furniture styles altogether. The mid century movement crafted furniture unlike anything previously created. It wasn’t a recycling of an old idea, but something altogether new. The Clamshell and Orange Slice chairs below are two of our outdoor favorites mostly for our appreciation of their pioneering unique designs. They can sell anywhere between $100-$500 per chair depending on the condition and how sure the buyer is that they’re not reproductions. The originals weren’t marked that has both pros and cons for us 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 as a true original. Reference 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 in their own words of the chair from a 1950’s 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 its 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. Heavy cotton slip-on covers also available for the chairs. ‘Parkerized’, as is all Woodard furniture, for rust protection”. I’m not exactly sure what “antique pink” looks like, but most of the time you see the chair it’ll either be black or white. They manufactured the design as a simple garden chair, a lounge chair, rocking chair, and a settee. Prices vary per piece but can range between $125-$600.
Arguably the most recognizable and iconic on our outdoor list, we have 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 some of his first recognition. He was able to take some of the skills learned from jewelry metal work and later apply them to his furniture design. In the early 1950’s former classmate Florence Knoll invited him to join her company as a furniture and sculpture designer. At Knoll he focused his attention on using industrial materials, wanting to transform 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 the chairs range between $100-$1000 depending on the style, age, and condition.
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