Collecting Wrought Iron Furniture

One of our stores, Parterre garden Shop in Phoenix, Maryland specializes in vintage wrought iron furniture and garden ornaments. This year Parterre has shipped all over the country and the desire for these pieces seems strong. Buying these unique items for the store has required a great deal of tire rubber and fast food but the assembled collection is pretty strong and can be found on DGDHomecatalog.com or on Chairish.

The following is the best article on why to buy collectable vintage furniture. Below that is a list of what is considered to be the styles and names to collect.

Wrought-iron beauty from a more stylish age

  • By Bob Wyss Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

When Linda and Louie Saltus of Westfield, Mass., went looking for the perfect outdoor furniture for their brick patio, they visited everything from specialty shops to big discount stores.

They found what they wanted at a flea market.

“I wanted something fanciful, that would last,” explains Linda. “Look at this table; they just don’t make them like this anymore.”

She was pointing to a 60-year-old wrought-iron table with a glass top and six metal chairs. The set was built by John B. Salterini, who emigrated from Italy and from 1928 to 1953 made quality outdoor furniture.

“Salterini made pieces for the millionaires,” says Joni Lima, who, along with partner Joseph Spaider, runs Iron Renaissance in Damariscotta, Maine.

“The 1920s to the 1940s was when the absolutely best furniture was made,” says Mr. Lima. “It is far better than what you can find today.”

There are still some extremely talented individual craftsmen making great pieces, says Barbara Israel, author of “Antique Garden Ornament.” But she agrees that today’s mass-market metal furniture isn’t the same quality as that of an earlier era.

“What makes them so appealing is that the designs are gentler and more lyrical,” says Ms. Israel, who also owns Barbara Israel Garden Antiques in Katonah, N.Y.

American wrought-iron furniture of the first half of the 20th century was a product of craftsmen – many of them immigrants – in the New York area and portions of the Midwest.

Wrought iron is lighter than cast iron and more pliable, making it easier to wrap into a variety of fanciful designs. Many chairs and tables of that era feature metal acorns, intricate fern leaves, and grape vines, and have legs and arms that wrap into scrolls and cylindrical designs. There are even chairs or chaise longues that rise up in the back to create little roofs to shade one’s head. The designs resemble all of the popular styles of the day, from Art Deco to GothicRevival.

This type of wrought-iron furniture is often called an antique, although traditionalists might quibble because that label is usually reserved for something at least 100 years old. One has to look a little bit harder for this older outdoor furniture, and one also has to be wary. There are many cheap reproductions to be found, many of which come from Mexico or Asia. For quality and authenticity, proponents tout such names as Woodard, Florentine Craftsmen, Molla, and Leinfelder.

Israel says she sometimes regrets mentioning the Leinfelder firm in her book because it has become increasingly more difficult to find its work.

Based in LaCroix, Wis., the company began as a blacksmith shop that made large objects for customers. “But on slow days they would make this beautiful, whimsically designed furniture that they would sell through a New York retailer,” says Israel.

Another Midwest manufacturer of wrought-iron furniture was Woodard Inc. of Owosso, Mich., which is still in business. Lyman E. Woodard began the business in 1866, making wood products from window sashes to pine caskets. His son, Lee, branched into metal furniture in 1933. It was a risky move, especially during the Depression, but Woodard priced his products lower than many other metal craftsmen, aiming for a broader market.

In New York, Salterini specialized in the high end. Besides the traditional tables and chairs, the firm made several exotic pieces, including a double chaise longue with large metal wheels and elaborate wrought-iron spokes. In the back, metal braces swept up in an arching pattern to hold a large shade canopy. According to an old catalog, Salterini also sold benches, with pillows, including a sturdy rounded version that could seat six.

Molla

molla seashell outdoor furniture
 Ebay member eames14

Molla began in England in the late 1800s but moved to the East Coast to produce neoclassical cast aluminum and magnesium metal furniture that was saltwater resistant—suitable for the estates in Newport, Rhode Island, and beach houses on Cape Cod. Midcentury pieces featured Alumaloy frames that were advertised as being resistant to pitting and rusting—major issues with metal furniture kept outside. Metal finishes included special names like Pompeian, Old Pewter, Mediterranean Blue, Iridescent Green, Venetian Blue, Venetian Green, and Yellow.

What we collect

Molla began in England in the late 1800s but moved to the East Coast to produce neoclassical cast aluminum and magnesium metal furniture that was saltwater resistant—suitable for the estates in Newport, Rhode Island, and beach houses on Cape Cod. Midcentury pieces featured Alumaloy frames that were advertised as being resistant to pitting and rusting—major issues with metal furniture kept outside. Metal finishes included special names like Pompeian, Old Pewter, Mediterranean Blue, Iridescent Green, Venetian Blue, Venetian Green, and Yellow.

Notable Lines and Products:

  • Brighton
  • Diana the Huntress
  • Double chaise lounge
  • Greek key
  • Marina
  • Nassau
  • Neoclassical
  • Seahorse and Shell (pictured, photo courtesy of eBay member eames14)
  • Zodiac table

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.

Notable Lines and Products:

  • Andalusion
  • Chantilly Rose
  • Chateau Lorraine
  • Daisy Bouquet
  • Grapevine
  • Mayfield
  • Pacific
  • Pinecrest
  • Sculptura
  • Spun fiberglass
  • Trianon
  • Tulip-shaped aluminum

Location: New York City
Era: 1928 to 1953
Founder: John B. Salterini, who emigrated from Italy

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Notable Lines and Products:

  • Banana Leaf
  • Cheerio 
  • Clamshell by Italian architect/designer Maurizio Tempestini
  • Cubist
  • Della Robbia
  • Dogwood
  • French Provincial
  • Ivy
  • Laurel Leaf
  • Lily Pad 
  • Magnolia
  • Montego
  • Mt. Vernon
  • Palm Springs
  • Park Avenue
  • Peacock
  • Rambler: Vines, leaves and berries; art nouveau inspired
  • Ribbon by Maurizio Tempestini
  • Riviera by Maurizio Tempestini
  • Rose Leaf
  • Roslyn
  • Sea Island
  • Verdigre
  • Willow

Note: Salterini collaborated with Italian Architect Maurizio Tempestini and these designs are highly collectable as well as a collaboration with Russell Woodard.

You can check out our finds at our Parterre Garden Shop at 13801 Jarrettsville Pike in Phoenix, Md or on Chairish

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