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Posted by Lisa Hallett Taylor on 15th Feb 2014

Location: Owosso, Michigan

Era: 1930s
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.

  • Andalusion
  • Chantilly Rose
  • Chateau Lorraine
  • Daisy Bouquet
  • Grapevine
  • Mayfield
  • Pacific
  • Pinecrest
  • Sculptura
  • Spun fiberglass (pictured; photo courtesy of Kenny K of K2 Modern
  • Trianon
  • Tulip-shaped aluminum

Outdoor furniture has not always been historically well documented. Because it was often viewed as temporary (due to its exposure to the elements—sun, wind, rain, and snow) homeowners tended to replace it every few years. Indoor furniture that is built to last has traditionally garnered more attention and praise. Through the years, labels and marques on patio furniture have fallen off. And thanks to the internet and a plethora of "experts," misidentification of furniture manufacturers and lines runs rampant.

In spite of the seasonal nature of outdoor furniture, however, many of these outdoor pieces unexpectedly held up through the years, and collectors began taking notice of certain manufacturers, lines or styles that they found especially appealing. Some pieces might have survived because the original owners took better care of all their possessions—"pride of ownership" may have been handed down from their ancestors. Remaining patio sets might have been stored in basements or sheds during the offseason, and cleaned regularly or protected by overhead roofs or shade.

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 interior 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.

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    Midcentury 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 Provincial 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 score a deal on more high-end pieces through sites like eBay or Craigslist, 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 find something valuable that you absolutely love.