Spring Board

George Terbovich had three of these chairs in his shop when I worked there.  The sort of sunburst one with the oval back.  I ran across one in not very good shape shortly thereafter and bought it.  It’s a bit unstable.  I can sit in it because I know, but it is almost like sculpture.  I love it.

When I emailed my editor to determine the subject of this month’s Hunters and Gatherers column she emailed back, “vintage outdoor furniture, including wicker.”  Or that is what I read.  What it really said was, “vintage outdoor furniture, specifically wicker and rattan.”  Sadly, by the time I went back to the email to clarify I had done a good bit of research on iron furniture and was full on obsessed about these chairs with spring steel seats.

I like things, but there are a couple of bloggers who know things.  Really know things.  So I emailed Aesthete’s Lament and House of Beauty and Culture.  HoBaC remembered reading something about their design, but wasn’t sure quite where.  Subes?  No.  But he was spot on that Le Corbusier used the chairs on the roof top garden of Charles de Beistegui’s Paris apartment.  
And then they began to pop up everywhere.

Christopher Filley has a set with octagonal backs.  Octagonal backs.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better.

I noticed them again on the set of Grey Gardens and then stumbled on a cameo appearance in the image, above, from the actual house.

Bunny Williams, again, at her pool house.

And garden.  Nearly everyone agreed they were 30’s to 40’s.  Internet research produced random bits here and there.  
Then I emailed Soodie Beasley.  As an antique appraiser she really knows things.  “Only if you know – don’t do any research!”  She emailed back immediately, “Victorian.”  Hmmm….no, no I don’t think so.  Nothing I was finding suggested they went back that far.

She did not follow instructions, naturally.  Being a friend and the kind of person who would understand being obsessed with a chair, she emailed back this link.  She was right, of course, 1866 at least.  She showed me what it was and where to find out more.

So yesterday I settled in to the quiet and serene library at the Nelson and read about my chair.  Francois A. Carre filed a U.S. patent for the garden chair in 1866.  Likely designed in France, these were also produced in the U.S.  Carre touted the uniqueness and superiority of the design.  Iron was “hard, clumsy and inconvenient.”  His chairs combined “strength and durability with neatness and convenience.”  They were manufactured on both continents as Innovative Furniture from 1800 to the Present by David Hanks confirms.  Extremely popular in the 20’s and manufactured through the 40’s, these later pieces are likely the ones I’m running across.
Again and again and again.
Images previously unattributed: David Hicks in David Hicks Designer by Ashley Hicks, green chair in The Way We Live with the Things We Love, Stanfford Cliff and Gilles de Chabaneix and, bottom, La Strada della Dolce Vita, Lynn von Kersting.
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35 thoughts on “Spring Board

  1. Brilliant post, lovely links. What a magnificent force you marshaled for these spectacular chairs…simply wonderful. As ever!

  2. OMG. I came across a pair of these recently, a little beat up, for $10 a piece and thought no more of it. I need to be supervised, I am clearly my own worst decorator.

  3. I love these chairs and lust after a set (or even just one!) but alas, they are hard to find and the one time I did find just one it was too expensive!

    Yes, I think most of the chairs we see are from the 20’s to 40’s — not the earlier versions.

    But you do see them a lot in magazines — decorators LOVE them! (as do I!)

  4. These chairs are classics and I would be so happy to have a set for my soon-to-be spruced up patio. I plan to check some flea markets, etc., but my guess is that they’ll be hard to come by in this area. Deborah

  5. Love that last photo- white, pink and colorful!
    Stay safe- the weather report here in NY showed that there was alot of storm damage in the Midwest.

  6. Finally! We’ve called them sprig chairs too, but I wondered about the if’s and where’s Today must be my day from you I get the history of the chairs and from Pigstown I learned who was the last horse to win the Triple Crown. The mind goes to strange places while weeding, today I go fully armed with new information to ponder. Thanks for great post.

  7. They’re terrific. I love vintage wicker, but for roofed areas, not outside. The old painted metal furniture outside is so useful, and iron doesn’t blow away. (Its windy today).

  8. two things – at first I was like, oooh I’m going to email her the one at Grey Gardens. done. hehe

    then when you publicly doubted Soodie I was like, gasp. hehe

    You my dear, are adorable! me? not so much.

  9. Joni – Soodie didn’t doubt it for a minute. She knows I’m just over here mostly making stuff up anyway.

  10. We bought 5 new beautiful green spring chairs from a catalogue company called Gardener’s Eden about 20 years ago. At that time, it was a perfect solution for our breakfast room. Now that our family has grown and there are in-laws, five chairs are too few. I’ve been looking for new ones to add to the original five. With no success, unfortunately! I’ll hold on to this set until someone starts to re-manufacture them.

  11. I would absolutely love 2-4 of these. Will vow to be ever so grateful and possibly cook for a straight month… I’ll even throw in cleaning house … practicing for my begathon once I find them.

  12. That’s funny, I just saw the new “Grey Gardens” last night and noticed them in the scene when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis visited. Still not too sold on metal lawn furniture. But I like the black versions shown above!

  13. As kids we had a set with these boingy springy seats, and enjoyed boinging on them. But boingy backs too – wow!

  14. Thank you for your great article!

    I have the great fortune of having a 9 pc. set of Carre's gorgeous button garden furniture. I guess I'm lucky, because I've never seen any picture of the sofas and side tables/ottomans I have. They have been in my family for about 60 years.
    I would like to know which is the value of these:
    (2) three seats sofas, (2) high raise chairs, (2) chairs, (2) side tables or ottomans, and (1) little bench. Some of the pieces need some repair.


  15. Thanks for researching this somewhat obscure subject. I have a set of four chairs and a low matching glass topped table fashioned to accommodate an umbrella.Years ago, saw replacement seat/back replacements, and didn't look ahead. Do you know of any source for the inserts?

  16. Barbara – I really did not run across much on line before I received Soodie's help. Do be very careful, though. I have a friend who was having some repainted and the power-washing ruined the "spring" of the metal. Good luck!

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  18. Hello all and thank you for all the information about this furniture. I wanted to know if anyone has anymore information about the values of each item made and especially any information about the octagon shaped pieces shown in the photograph above…

    Thank you VERY much for your help! I found more information about this furniture here than anywhere else on the internet!

  19. What a wonderful treat to have finally found out about these two gorgeous chairs I found on the side of the road. YES, the side of the road. They were heavy but I knew they were pieces of art by looking at them. I have been trying to find out about these chairs for two years and only tonight did I learn ofthe treasure I hold. Carre Sunbursts lives in my living room in front of my fireplace. A dealer wanted to by them and I was going to part with them not knowing the history. NOW she can forget about it..They will remain with me as I bounce happily in my metal nest…

  20. Love the chairs! A "blue blood family" from Detroit had these in their patio and I fell in love with them. And, seems like I am the only one I know who has noticed these very same chairs in Rick's Cafe Americain, in the movie, Casablanca! My family sorta mocked me when I bought a set of these chairs in poor condition….I was going to restore them like a man restores a vintage car in his garage– someday! Then I found MORE chairs in GREAT condition and am having them all powder-coated. Hope that won't take the spring out of the chairs! Thannks for sharing!

  21. We have 7 of these chairs, picked up at yard sales over the years.
    I had some of the spring steel slats/inserts made about 20 years ago, but ran out.
    Does anyone know where to get them, or a company that cuts spring steel or spring steel bands that could make them?
    Email me at clear2u@aol.com


  22. Thank you so much for the information, I inherited a set of 4 arm chairs from my mother's estate. They were in the cottage my family bought in the 1950's and we detested sitting in them with our bathing suits on….they pinched. I have scrubbed them by hand and repainted them as my mother did almost every year.

  23. This is quite the subject.
    We are a custom powder coater in Chatsworth CA (Los Angeles) and we have a lovely Carre swinging two seat loveseat that we are rebuilding for our client. We have restored and repaired as best as possible it for the estate twice over the 25 years that we have been in business. The piece finally came back again and this time we have to do a complete rebuild of the piece. This proved to be quite difficult but we have finally succeeded in getting the proper materials and heat treating to accomplish the spring rebuild. We are completely replacing the entire center sections of the furniture leaving just the wrought iron frames as they were. We are plating the pieces (including the rivets and the frame work) first and then we will reassemble the pieces and apply a two stage powder coated finish. This is not for the faint of heart, the cost is rather high but the end result is a newly re-manufactured piece that will have better durability and longevity than the original (due to improved finishing processes). We are very proud to have been chosen by our client to be entrusted with this special; piece and we hope that it will be enjoyed by the next generations as well.
    Scott Andrews
    Andrews Powder Coating, Inc.
    Chatsworth CA

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