Vintage Patio Furniture: Spotlight on Brown Jordan

In between a swim meet, two soccer games, two lacrosse games, the annual town carnival, and a looming deadline for an e-design project I’ve been working on,  we did actually manage to get some spring cleaning done in our yard this weekend! There’s still quite a bit to do, but it’s all the fun stuff–planting the flower boxes, maybe stringing some party lights across the deck like this:

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Photo via Coco Cozy at http://cococozy.com/great-outdoor-spaces-patio-porch-ideas/

…and then of course there’s setting up the outdoor furniture, which brings me to this week’s post!

Over the years I have found some vintage patio and lawn furniture that I really like, but in my heart of hearts I know the quest for what I’m truly looking for isn’t over yet. There are some key pieces I keep hoping I might find at an estate sale or church rummage sale, somehow preserved in amazing, pristine condition even after all these years (because let’s face it, that is the biggest problem with vintage outdoor furniture–it’s most likely been outside for a long, long time!). The other challenge is price. Unfortunately, the pieces I like are also ones other people like, and if a piece is in good condition and the seller knows what s/he has, it can be sold at a premium. Still, you never know what you might find out there, hidden amidst the lawn mower, rakes, and old planters in a garage somewhere! And so, today I want to highlight one of my favorite outdoor furniture brands in case you’re lucky enough to find a vintage piece for your own home.

Brown Jordan

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Photo via Pinterest (Brown Jordan Kantan II)

Everyone’s got a favorite of a favorite, and this is mine. So if you’re ever at an estate sale with me and there just happens to be a Brown Jordan Kantan lounge chair and ottoman sitting around, you better clear out of the way…fast, because I’m going to do everything I can to get my hands on it!

Started in 1945, Brown Jordan revolutionized outdoor furniture when it introduced its “Leisure” collection in 1948. Made from lightweight aluminum and vinyl lacing, this new species of outdoor furniture was comfortable, practical, and available in an array of fun, bright colors. It was a huge hit in the company’s home state of sunny California, where outdoor living is a year-round pastime (so jealous!)…but its popularity soon spread to the rest of the country as well.

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Photo via Retro Renovation (Tadao Inouye’s Kantan chair was designed in 1956)

Tadao E. Inouye designed the Kantan chair in 1956. The U.S. Department of Commerce selected the chair to be part of the 1959 Industrial Worlds Fair Exhibit in Tokyo.  I love the low-slung lines of this chair, and I bet if I lived in Palm Springs I’d have a much better chance of finding it at an estate sale somewhere. The design of it just seems perfectly suited for that mid-century, pool-side vibe.

Brown Jordan celebrated its 70th anniversary several years ago and re-issued a few of its most popular designs, including the Kantan:

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Photo via Retro Renovation (re-issued Brown Jordan Kantan Chairs)

the Tamiami line (probably the most recognizable line, particularly here on the east coast):

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Photo via Chairish (Vintage Tamiami)
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Photo via Retro Renovation(re-issued Tamiami)

And the Walter Lamb Bronze Collection:

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Photo via A Room Without Walls (Walter Lamb Bronze, circa 1947)
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Photo via A Room Without Walls(re-issued Walter Lamb available through Design Within Reach)

The history of the Walter Lamb Bronze Collection is really interesting (this line is also very collectible). The prototype for the chair was made using materials salvaged from naval ships that had sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The base was made form copper and bronze tubing and the strapping was made from cotton yacht cording. Today the frame is made from weather-proof brass and strapping is UV-resistant cording. You can purchase the new version through Design Within Reach (if you’re able to shoot the lock off your wallet!)

And last but certainly not least, there is the Brown Jordan Calcutta Collection (insert a long admiring sigh…). This wrought iron furniture is more traditional and feeds my love of all things Chinoiserie, Hollywood Regency, Faux Bamboo, Palm Beach style…

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Photo via 1st Dibs (vintage Brown Jordan Calcutta)

I’d love a set like this, freshly powder-coated and with some new cushions in a fun, modern fabric! If you do come across a vintage set that needs some TLC, there are companies that specialize in restoring outdoor furniture. One I’d like to check out in New England is The Chatham Refinishing Company in Plymouth, MA. Not only will they powder coat your vintage Calcutta, Kantan or Tamiami pieces in the color of your choice, but they can also replace the vinyl strapping if it’s missing or has become brittle. And, if you’re in the area in August, they have a “Restored Classics” sale where you supposedly can scoop up some good deals. I’d love to head to that sometime!

So yes, while we can all go out and buy brand new Kantan chairs (or Tamiami or Walter Lamb) in whatever color we’d like, isn’t it more fun to be on the look out for their vintage counterparts? That perfect piece that just might come along someday…and finding it will be so rewarding!

While you’re hunting, keep your eyes peeled for two other vintage outdoor furniture brands I love: Woodard and Salterini. I hope to highlight them in a future post…stay tuned!

Hope your week is off to a great start and that you have a wonderful Mother’s Day next weekend! Thanks so much for stopping by!

–Jen

2 Comments

  1. Another informative and fun blog. So interesting to learn the history of this outdoor furniture I’ve come to admire.

  2. OMG we had those green Tamiami chairs in our backyard when I was growing up! We got rid of them when we moved. I had no idea they were anything to pay attention to! Your knowledge of furniture and art is so impressive. Teach me your ways!

Would love to hear your thoughts!