Southern Californians have long since embraced the steady climate and year round sunshine with outdoor living. So it’s no surprise there is a slew of luxury outdoor furniture companies, but this wasn’t always the case. In the wake of the WWII, with the invention of many time saving devices, Americans found themselves with more leisure time than ever before. People began hosting parties at their homes, extending their home to the backyard for pool side cocktails and barbecues.
kaufmann Desert House
Pasadena natives Robert Brown and Hubert Jordan caught on quickly. In 1945 they founded Brown Jordan, the first company to produce furniture solely for outdoor use. Their first collection was fittingly named “Leisure”. Their innovative design made use of a tubular aluminum frame with a vinyl weave, creating distinct outdoor furniture that was durable, tasteful and comfortable. They went on to produce over thirty collections with famous designer collaborations, Hal Bradley and Walter Lamb to name a few, that resulted in numerous design awards.
Tamiami rocker – photo by deja vu
I grew up in southern California and saw plenty of boring metal chairs with plastic straps that were an unmistakable knock off of Brown Jordan designs. When I came to work at deja vu a few years ago, I saw sets of Brown Jordan in our shop and thought it strange we carried such banal items. Sometimes, the beauty and genius of something can be lost when it’s seen too often. It becomes ordinary, thoughtless and unappealing. This summed up my thoughts on the patio furniture we carried. This slowly changed as I noticed the difference between other companies and Brown Jordan. I studied the unique frame shapes and came to appreciate the skinny vinyl straps that were so carefully woven together. Then I saw old photos of Palm Springs, at the height of its glam in the 1950’s and 60’s and I fell in love with Brown Jordan, particularly the Kantan Series.
Kantan dining chair – photo by deja vu
Kantan means ‘simple’ in Japanese, which is exactly what I like about the chairs. That’s not to say they are elementary in design, it’s quite the contrary. They are complex and thoughtful, all the while remaining seemingly simple. They were designed exclusively for Brown Jordan by Tadao Inoye in 1956. Brown Jordan recently released the Kantan II series as a new edition of the classic series, but features a brass frame and fabric straps, proving the timelessness of their silhouette.
My other favorite Brown Jordan piece, without a doubt is the Sunshade. This iconic beauty is the perfect poolside accessory. It was designed in the 50’s by Brown Jordan for the famous case study houses as a sculptural form to block out the sun.
Brown Jordan Sun Shade from DWR
If you’re more partial to the Hollywood Regency décor of the late 60’s and early 70’s, Brown Jordan has that covered too. The ‘Calcutta’ line features bamboo pattern frames with tapered legs. This line is also being reissued due to it’s continued popularity.
Calcutta at deja vu – Vintage Brown Jordan Ad
Brown Jordan furniture dominated patios and poolsides in the mid century era. Everyone had Brown Jordan. So it’s no surprise that the historic furniture evokes varied emotions. There are those that admire Brown Jordan; most mid century modern enthusiasts fall in this category. Walk into a Cliff May home and when your eyes gaze to the backyard you’ll be sure to see a metal frame with vinyl straps. Some see it and think of kitschy patio furniture that their parents or grandparents had. However you feel about it, there is no denying that Brown Jordan produced iconic outdoor furniture that created a lifestyle that continues to thrive.
This article was written by Brianne Parmeter, a sales associate at deja vu Long Beach.
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