Iconic vintage outdoor furniture pieces

In 2021, the renowned Danish furniture manufacturer Carl Hansen & Son reissued the “Deck Chair” range of outdoor furniture designed by its compatriot Børge Mogensen in the late 1960s. Proof that “historic” publishers are still interested in outdoor design. Today, outdoor furniture has become a must for people who like to live in their garden in the summer. It is no longer seen as an accessory or secondary item, but rather as a feature of a leisure and reception area. This article looks back at the iconic pieces of outdoor furniture…

At the end of the 1960s, Danish designer Børge Mogensen designed a series of folding outdoor furniture, shown here hanging on the wall
Photo credit: DR

Carl Hansen has reissued Børge Mogensen’s Deck Chair. The model includes a footrest that provides extra comfort for this functional piece of outdoor furniture that folds up to take up a minimum of space.
Photo credit: Scandinavian Design
The Deck Chair is made of teak, a hard and strong wood that resists climate change and ensures durability. The cushion is made of Sunbrella fabric, which is also weather resistant and easy to clean.
Photo credit: Scandinavian Design

An American design icon to start with. In 1903, Thomas Lee designed a comfortable armchair to enjoy the long summer evenings at his home in Westport, Connecticut. Thus was born the famous “Adirondack” chair: a sloping seat and back, wide armrests and a footrest to improve the comfort of everyday life at the time. Originally made of wood, the Adirondack chair has become a symbol of the American Way of Life and continues to grace patios across the country, from the East to the West Coast.

Pair of folding Adirondack chairs. The term “Adirondack” refers to the name of the mountain range in which the town of Westport is located
Pair of Adirondack style chairs. Many manufacturers and editors have evolved the original colour and material, in this case a flaming red polyethylene seat
Photo credit: Amazon
The Adirondack chair in its Rocking Chair version, a classic of American terraces.

A student at the Bauhaus School in Weimar, the architect and designer Marcel Breuer is known for having designed the first chair in folded steel tubes (1925). In 1933, in cooperation with the Embru AG (Eisen-und-Metallbettenfabrik AG Rüti), he designed a series of chairs, armchairs and deckchairs made of flat steel and aluminium profiles. The Swiss manufacturer is still in existence and is reissuing the model 1096 lounge chair designed by Breuer.

Lounge chair model 1096, design by Marcel Breuer for Embru, 1933. Today, the chair is made of hot-dip galvanised flat steel, the slats are made of polished, colourless anodised aluminium and the armrests of black varnished ash. Aluminium has the advantage of being light, strong and rustproof, ideal for outdoor use.
Photo credit: ArchiTonic
Lounge chair model 1096, designed by Marcel Breuer for Embru, 1933.
Photo credit: ArchiTonic

Attention cult French chair! In 1927, Xavier Pauchard registered the Tolix trademark for the first “manufacturer of household items in galvanised sheet metal”. In 1935, he markets the A chair which will make the fame of the brand. In 1937, TOLIX chairs were chosen for the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Tolix chairs and tables invaded café terraces, public gardens and post-war spas and seaside resorts.

Tolix A chair, design by Xavier Pauchard, 1927. The TOLIX® A chair has become an icon of industrial design. The brand still exists and offers the chair in steel or stainless steel to resist time and corrosion.
Photo credit: Tolix
AC chair, design Xavier Pauchard for Tolix. The A chair has been declined in several versions and colours. Here the AC model in smoked pink, made for cafés in North America and Canada, hence its initials.
Photo credit: Tolix

This one is also very well known and is becoming trendy again: the famous “Acapulco” chair, designed in the 1940s. Its origin is still unclear, at most we know that it was designed on the Mexican Pacific Coast. We like its unique pear-shaped design. Ideal on a terrace or balcony.

Acapulco armchair produced by the French manufacturer Boqa. The latter proposes models made with a braiding of the armchair in polyvinyl rush, leather, linen and acrylic to match all types of indoor and outdoor furniture.
Photo credit: Boqa
Authentic Acapulco rocking chair from the 1960s.
Photo credit: Design Market

You can’t talk about outdoor furniture without talking about rattan. In the 1960s and 1970s, the French took over their gardens with outdoor living rooms made entirely of rattan. The Basket armchair designed by the designer couple Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel in 1950 is the symbol of an era. And then, how can we not mention the “Emmanuelle” armchair which in 1974 became a cult in the eponymous film…

Basket armchair, design: designers Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel, 1950. The model above is a re-edition of the famous model that the Catalan company Kettal has been making since 2015.
Photo credit: Kettal
Tripod armchair, Nanna Ditzel design, 1950s. This contemporary “Rana” model has a welcoming structure, the all rattan shell is hand woven. Following the Basket Armchair, the Ditzels produced a series of rattan chairs, such as this tripod armchair. Their work will be rewarded with international awards.
Photo credit: Design Market
Poster for the film “Emmanuelle 4” which kept the famous high wicker chair with Tahitian origins from the first poster.

In 1964, Italian designer Gae Aulenti, creator of the iconic Pipistrello lamp, brought chic and pop colours to the garden room. The Locus Solus collection by Poltronova is the first large outdoor collection ever made. The chrome or lacquered tubular frame with its sinuous shapes and round vinyl seat make the Locus Solus garden chair so charming.

Chairs from the “Locus Solus” collection, designed by Gae Aulenti for Poltronova, 1964.
Photo credit: Pamono
Armchair from the “Locus Solus” collection, designed by Gae Aulenti for Poltronova, 1964. Minimalist lines and tubular steel painted in different colours made it a success. This model is produced by the company Exteta, which manufactures printed fabrics.
Photo credit: ArchiTonic
Armchair from the “Locus Solus” collection, designed by Gae Aulenti for Poltronova, 1964. The same model seen from behind.
Photo credit: ArchiTonic

In the 1960s, Florence Knoll, who had taken over her late husband’s company (Knoll International), asked Richard Schultz, a well-known designer of outdoor furniture, to imagine and design a complete range of outdoor furniture for her home in Florida. Schultz did just that, and the result was the famous 1966 Outdoor Collection. Simple, elegant and functional design.

Furniture from the 1966 Outdoor Collection, designed by Richard Schultz for Knoll International, 1966. This is an exclusive ultramarine blue version available at The Conran Shop.
Photo credit: The Conran Shop
Lounge chairs from the 1966 outdoor collection, designed by Richard Schultz for Knoll International, 1966.
Photo credit: Knoll
Furniture from the Outdoor 1966 collection designed by Richard Schultz for Knoll International, 1966. A collection considered a classic in garden furniture.
Photo credit: Knoll

The Italian company EMU has been producing outdoor furniture for home and business for over 70 years. It is a real trendsetter in the field of garden furniture. One of its bestsellers is the Rio chair/armchair, of which more than 8 million have been sold on the market.

Rio chair, publisher and designer: Emu, 1966. Metal mesh structure with arms covered in Rilsan.
Garden furniture, Rio Collection, publisher and designer: Emu, 1966.
Photo credit: Emu
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of its best-seller, Emu revisits the Rio collection by giving designers Anton Cristelle and Emanuel Gargan carte blanche to design a complete collection of seats, the “RioR50” collection, shown above in its maple red version.
Photo credit: Emu

The post-war development of the plastics industry allowed designers to express their creativity. The pieces they designed are capable of dressing a terrace as well as a living room. Polypropylene in particular is ideal for garden furniture, as it is lightweight, easy to maintain and relatively weatherproof. For example, Vitra is reissuing the famous Panton Chair in polypropylene. Other publishers are revisiting design classics by offering an outdoor version, such as Gubi for the iconic Pacha chair designed in 1975 by Pierre Paulin.

The Danish publisher Gubi is reissuing an outdoor version of Pierre Paulin’s famous Pacha armchair. The seat is covered with an outdoor fabric. The inner structure is a weather-resistant coated plywood, the upholstery and armrests are made of cut foam with a breathable, water-resistant polymer membrane. Finally, the base is made of moisture-resistant coated plywood.
Photo credit: Gubi

Some contemporary outdoor furniture models made a big impression when they were released. Philippe Starck’s famous Bubble Club armchair, designed in 1998 for Kartell, is one such example. In 2000, Finnish designer Jukka Setälä created THE Pouf of the 21st century for the Fatboy brand, reminiscent of its distant ancestor, the famous pear-shaped Sacco pouf (1968). In 2011, Andrée & Olivia Putmann created the elegant Inside Out chair for Fermob, designed for both indoor and outdoor use. Finally, for the Italian publisher Moroso, the Dutchman Tord Boontje designed the African-inspired chair in woven plastic Shadowy – Sunny.

Bubble Club” armchair, sofa and table, designed by Philippe Starck for Kartell, 1998. With this furniture, French design moves the Club chair to the garden! The pieces are made using rotational moulding technology, which produces a hollow and light structure, a monoblock without welding
Large “Original Outdoor” footstools, design: Jukka Setälä for Fatboy, 2000. They are made from a fabric that is ultra-resistant to UV, water and dirt.
Inside Out chair, designed by Andrée & Olivia Putman for Fermob, 2011. For this creation, Andrée Putman had the idea of reusing the extremely resistant straps from the Concorde aircraft belts. They are made of polyester woven into a 70/20 aluminium structure, an alloy also used in aeronautics.
Chair from the Shadowy collection, designed by Tord Boontje for Moroso.
The multicoloured plastic threads are woven by African master craftsmen in a Moroso workshop in Senegal. A colourful creation that celebrates African colours and patterns.

François Boutard