From Palm Springs to Palm Beach, the American Patio is as popular as ever!

Spring is in the air, and many of us in the Northeast look forward to returning to our outdoor entertaining spaces — So come on, people, it is time to channel your inner C.Z. Guest!

Photo courtesy of Slim Aarons Photography

What is now a commonplace and standard amenity for almost every home in the United States may be a newer concept than you imagine. While outdoor living in American backyards and patios can be traced back to the early 20th century, it was only in the post-World War II era that patios became more popular and affordable for the average American homeowner.

During this time, the Baby Boomer generation was growing up, and families sought ways to spend more time together. The Patio became a perfect solution, as it was a space where family and friends could gather, enjoy meals, and socialize.

It was such a phenomenon in our country’s history that the Smithsonian had a traveling exhibit dedicated to its evolution.  As noted in the Smithsonian Sparks,  “Where yards had once been a utilitarian space, with kitchen gardens and sometimes even farm animals, the new backyard became a status symbol of American life. A pristine lawn and patio showed that you had both free time and extra money to make the open space behind your house a private oasis.”

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institute

As the popularity of patios grew, so did the category of patio furniture, marking the start of a mainstay in the home decor industry.

Photo courtesy of AMC

Fortunately for vintage furniture lovers, the evolution of patio furniture coincided with the mid-century modern design movement, giving life to timeless style and construction. The ease of selling the “California Lifestyle” throughout the nation, combined with the use of newly available materials like aluminum and plastic, brought the American Patio to life.

That said, thanks to the Neva-Rust touted by Salterini, there was also a very popular emergence of French provincial wrought iron pieces that the manufacturers  marketed as “… the decorative trend, using wrought iron furniture indoors because it brings into your home the freshness and gaiety of a flowery summer garden.” This was also a clever ploy to justify the higher cost of these pieces—the ability to use them year-round!

Some of the most well-known brands from this era are still sought after and, in some instances, still in business today.  Brown Jordan, Salterini, Molla, Tropitone and Woodard to name a few. And the ever-classic outdoor wicker still remains a staple today. As luck would have it, Town & Sea currently has an exceptional Collection of vintage patio furniture that includes items from each manufacturer. Fancy that! 

Along with the creation of this home decor category of patio furniture came some fabulous advertising campaigns, the kind we now refer to as “retro.” These ads generally featured “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.”  You may recognize similar images in stores today on the clever cocktail napkins, with an entirely different copy attached to the image. 

Putting aside the antiquated depiction of the American woman, wouldn’t it be great to have a patio filled with classic pieces from a time when people dressed for lunch and thoughtfully outfitted their homes for the sole purpose of enjoying a relaxing day at home with family and friends?

Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Historic D.C. Estate, Photo courtesy of Flowers Magazine

So let’s push those lacrosse bounce-backs aside and make way for a gorgeous VINTAGE BROWN JORDAN PARAGON DINING SET  fit for a Queen; similar pieces were enjoyed by another icon from this era, Marjorie Post. Our own Lacey Campinell has done a deep dive into our latest collection of vintage outdoor furniture in her post entitled “A Wonderful Time.” I promise it is a wonderful read!

Also, if you have not read the novel The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post, my goodness, what are you waiting for?

As always, thank you for stopping by!

~Betsy

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