When my brother, who is visiting from Nashville this week, saw this patio set in my backyard, he told me the story of how he spotted an almost identical one in the depths of a secondhand store recently, and even though he had no idea of its make or value, scooped it up–six chairs and a large table in white–for $40. He just needed a cheap patio set. Turns out it’s the once-popular line of upscale patio furniture from Brown Jordan, called Tamiami and first introduced in 1961. I told him I fished my set (above) off a curb several years ago from people who set it out for garbage pickup. I liked the lines and it was super lightweight and obviously held up well over the years. I also had no idea mine was Tamiami.
We sat down together today and looked it up on Ebay and were astounded by how much it sells for now. Then I checked out the Brown Jordan web site and saw they just re-introduced this line–Tamiami II–and are selling the chairs for $300 a piece! Get out! Even though we might be gloating a bit, the point is that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to have the quality and amazing lines of well-made and -designed patio furniture. I recently read this post on outdoor chairs on the L.A. Times Home and Garden blog, which featured some of the hottest designs for patio furniture, many inspired by mid-century and Italian design. Who doesn’t drool over this stuff? But it usually costs a laughable fortune–nearly $2K for this chair and ottoman. As the article points out, you can find less expensive alternatives, at places like CB2 and Ikea, but I’m not confident they would hold up under brutal outdoor conditions.
This old stuff, however, seems almost indestructible. My friend Jill, who lives down by the beach, scooped up this chaise when an older neighbor was shedding some of her furniture. Although she saw herself lounging in the midday sun with a martini in one hand and ciggie in the other, she didn’t have the right space for it, and offered it to me. YES! It’s currently on the balcony outside our bedroom. Check out that aqua color and those lines! The trick to finding vintage patio furniture, besides having generous friends’ with a keen eye, is to develop a sense of what you like so you can grab it when you find it in unexpected places. A good place to start is by browsing Ebay or Craigslist–“vintage/old patio furniture.” Remember, you can always have the webbing redone–or replace it yourself.
I pulled these off the side of the road (next to the garbage) driving up to my house. I spotted them out of the corner of my eye, and circled back for another look. I had never seen anything like them, and I wrestled them into my car even though they were awkward and heavy. A coat of Rustoleum (powder-coating is more ideal and longer-lasting), and they are now among my favorites–especially because they bounce and swivel. But I never would have known that had I passed them by. Yes, I live in an affluent coastal town in Southern California, but I’m pretty sure this stuff is all over the country. (I realize this style isn’t for everybody, but it seems simple enough to work with almost any garden design, if used in moderation and you like it.)
Another great way to score vintage furniture is to help your friends and family when they need to unload their cast-offs. Some friends were getting new patio furniture and offered me this set they inherited from their parents, and without any clue what it was, I loaded it up and brought it home. Now I know it’s also Brown Jordan–maybe from the 70s?–and that it’s very comfortable. Only after I set it up did I step back and really admire the wonderful lines.
Maybe I’ve just been super lucky to get all this amazing patio furniture for nothing. But I think you can do it, too. Just start to train your eye and be willing to be scrappy–and willing to have your friends see you pulling stuff out of strangers’ garbage cans–and you can get lucky, too! Here’s one of ultimate patio lines–Woodard–that you should be on the look-out for. And if you happen to stumble upon something that looks like this…
the highly coveted patio furniture designed by famed Walter Lamb for Brown Jordan,
call me, and I will make you a great deal!