Vintage Patio Furniture History: See the Iconic Outdoor Styles of the – 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and TodayMicah Laremore
Vintage patio furniture has a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century when the concept of outdoor living began to emerge. Initially, patio furniture was designed for function over fashion, with designers focusing on sturdy and durable furniture rather than comfort and style. However, as outdoor living gained popularity, patio furniture evolved into a reflection of the design trends for each decade, from the playful and colorful furniture of the 1950s to the multi-functional and modern designs of today.
1940s: Functionality over Fashion – Vintage Patio Furniture HIstory
The 1940s marked the beginning of the outdoor living trend as patio furniture was still in its early stages. Functionality was key during this decade, and patio furniture was primarily designed to be sturdy and durable. Most furniture was made from wood or rust resistant metals like wrought iron. Comfort and style weren’t a priority at this time leading to many bulky patio furniture pieces with simplistic designs. Despite this trend toward functionality, there remained some places for self expression. In particular, families often purchased red and white patio furniture as a colorful expression of their patriotism while their loved ones fought in World War II.
1950s: Fun and Playful – Vintage Patio Furniture History
The 1950s brought a shift in design as patio furniture began to incorporate more style and color. With the rise of the leisure class, outdoor living became a symbol of status, and furniture designers took notice. Wicker and plastic were the materials of choice in the 1950s as they were the easiest to produce in the decade’s bright, playful aesthetic. Tropical prints, vibrant colors, and beachy motifs were common, creating a relaxed and carefree vibe.
In more affluent homes, this tropical outdoor style was punctuated by a personal pool with chaise lounges surrounding it for the ever popular sunbathing. This decade also saw the rise of the Acapulco Chair (third photo below). This colorful, rounded design is named after a city in Mexico and added a unique, exotic vibe to many 1950s patio spaces.
1960s: Modern and Minimalist – Vintage patio Furniture History
The 1960s marked a significant shift in design as the minimalist aesthetic of modern style took hold. Furniture became sleek with clean lines and geometric shapes. Neutral colors such as white, black, and gray were used as the majority color on almost all outdoor pieces with pops of ascent color being used to add interest and personality. This early modern aesthetic has made many 1960s pieces, such as the lounge chair seen below, highly valued collectors items for those seeking to replicate a midcentury modern style in the their outdoor space.
The furniture of the 1960s was not all designer pieces. Middle-class individuals also experienced huge changes in their patio furniture as aluminum began to take market-share of the low-cost, outdoor furniture industry. This lightweight metal allowed for the manufacture of light, collapsible patio chairs which became “must have” items of convenience during the 1960s (see third photo).
1970s: Groovy and Psychedelic – Vintage Patio Furniture History
The 1970s was all about self-expression, and patio furniture was no exception. 1970s furniture design was inspired by the psychedelic culture of the time, with bold colors and funky patterns. Outdoor lounges and daybeds became popular, creating a more laid-back atmosphere.
During this decade, patio furniture was designed to be comfortable and cozy. The most popular styles of patio furniture during the 1970s were deep-seating chairs and outdoor sofas upholstered in bold patterns and bright colors. These pieces were designed for relaxation and often included soft cushions or pillows.
1980s: High-Tech and Futuristic – Vintage Patio Furniture History
The patio furniture of the 1980s reflected the decade’s obsession with technology and futuristic designs. 1980s patio furniture was made to look high-tech, with materials such as stainless steel and aluminum being used in sleek, modern designs. Bright neon colors were popular, adding a touch of fun to the minimalist designs.
This decade also saw the rise of the vinyl tube-jelly folding chair (third photo) which would become a common sight at beaches, parks and patios across the country. While not a high-end furniture piece, the vinyl tube-jelly chair really encapsulates the 1980s aesthetic through
its functionality, bright color and “futuristic” design.
1990s: Casual and Comfortable – Vintage Patio Furniture HIstory
The 1990s marked a return to a more casual and comfortable style for o
utdoor living. Patio furniture became more relaxed, with natural materials such as wood and wicker being used in laid-back designs. Soft, comfortable cushions and pillows were also popular, creating an inviting and cozy atmosphere.
The comfortable, casual style of the 1990s was perhaps best encapsulated by the beach themed wicker and rattan furniture sets of the day (third photo). While concentrated around the shore, the 1990s emphasis on natural materials and casual comfort allowed these sets to garner sales throughout the country as an affordable statement piece to a beach themed deck or patio.
2000s to Today: Multi-functional and Modern – Vintage Patio Furniture History
In the 2000s, outdoor living became more popular than ever, and patio furniture evolved to meet the demands of modern life. Furniture became more multi-functional and adaptable, with designs that could be easily transformed to suit different occasions. Materials such as metal, wood, and wicker were still popular, but new materials such as resin and recycled plastic also gained popularity.
Today, patio furniture is designed to be a seamless extension of indoor living spaces. The most popular styles of patio furniture include outdoor sectionals, which can be arranged in a variety of configurations to suit different spaces and occasions. Outdoor dining sets also remain popular, with modern designs that include built-in fire pits and other practical features.
Final Thoughts – Vintage Patio Furniture History
Patio furniture has always been more than simply a place to “take a load off” outdoors. It is a means of self-expression that has perfectly encapsulated the values and styles of each successive decade: from the playful and colorful designs of the 1950s to the multi-functional, modern designs of today. At Patio Guys, we take pride in preserving these pieces of history as one of the world’s most renown patio furniture refinishers. Each day our refinishing process resets the clock on vintage patio furniture allowing the unique styles of decades past to live inside the patio spaces of the present. Want to see the results for yourself? Give us a call at 1 (800) 310-4897 or check out our Facebook page for more work examples.
We love hearing from our readers, comment below which decade’s style you love the most!
Want to know where patio furniture style is headed next? Check out our blog on the This year’s 8 key Patio Design Trends.
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