Antiques & Collectibles: Wicker and metal chairs have undying charm

Go into any antique, garden or gift shop and you will find wicker chairs along with metal chairs and metal gliders to display in a sunroom, on the deck, patio or the favorite place, the porch.

Of course, new wicker is available made specifically for outside use. So never put vintage or antique wicker outside in the rain, as it not only ruins the wicker, but reduces its value, too.

Wicker items that date back to the mid-1800s are now a collector’s prize. Wicker has been popular since the Victorian era. The word wicker is actually derived from the Scandinavian words “wika” meaning to bend and “vikker” meaning willow, though wicker can be woven of rattan, reed, cane, dried grasses and other pliable materials and even twisted paper or other materials.

In 1917, Marshall B. Lloyd, owner of the Lloyd Manufacturing Co., patented a process of weaving cellulose strands into wicker fabric using a continuous strand that will not crack or peel, resulting in a consistently smooth weave. Each strand in the fabric’s warp is constructed of twisted cellulose fibers immersed in glue to prevent unraveling. The strands are reinforced with aluminum wire for added strength and resilience. (For more information, check out “Fine Wicker Furniture: 1870-1930” by Tim Scott.)

Age of wicker can be determined in various ways, as old wicker pieces are usually heavier and sturdier than newer pieces because they were built on hardwood frames. If a piece is made of reed, the material on your older finds is smooth but the new reed is thinner and can even look slightly fuzzy.

Don’t pass an old wicker that is in need of repair — unless it is badly damaged. A broken leg or loose joints hidden under the wicker can still be repaired. Techniques on repair and the care can be found in “Wicker Furniture: A Guide To Restoring and Collecting” by Richard Saunders, as well as his other book “Living With Wicker.”

Metal lawn chairs

Metal lawn chairs were a familiar sight on manicured yards of the 1950s. These vintage metal chairs have weathered the years to become a favorite garden furnishing. After World War II, manufacturers churned out colorful tubular-steel frame furniture that was fun, affordable, and easily transported from the patio to the picnic table. These tubular-steel frame chairs were a frequent sight also on the porches and along the highway and roadside motels.

Often they were called “motel chairs.” Today, these sturdy metal chairs are eagerly collected. Some collectors repaint them in vivid colors, attach a padded seat cover to match the decor for indoor or outdoor home use. Collectors also appreciate a worn and weathered look of a metal lawn chair that has survived many seasons outdoors.

Vintage metal lawn chairs carry a price tag of $45 to $175 at antique shops or flea markets where dealers are aware of their popularity, as well as the big box stores. However, bargains can still be found in a lighter weight chair or with some rust in the range of $15 to $30. More Information: “Garden Junk,” by Mary Randolph Carter.

Finding wicker, metal chairs and gliders

Robert Frank, vendor at Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona has a beautiful ornate white wicker that can stand alone or be with other wicker items. Frank said, “An inside wicker only!”

Sherri Lynn Norton, owner of the Magnolia Cottage, Plainview: “We have wicker priced anywhere from $85-$100 on this original wicker and it is in very good shape. I was told that some had come out of some very nice homes in Rochester. It is gorgeous wicker placed here by a vendor.”

Sarah Kieffer, Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s ‘Man’tiques, St. Charles: “I don’t have any wicker at all right now, but I do have some great metal chairs and three different styles of metal glider sets. The chairs are from $20-$35 each and the gliders are from $70-$175. Great for both outside and the patio.”

Chris Rand Kujath, Old River Valley Antique Mall, Stewartville: I have a nice green metal chair in the shop at $35. Our metal chairs look great displayed with our sheds that we also sell.”

Teri Petruck, Farm Girl Find, Dodge Center: “I have a red, rusty vintage metal chair I found on a farm not too far from my shop and way under $100. More like $35.”

Where to use

My friend Karen Bradley, of Neganunee, Mich.: “Wicker on the porch. Metal in the yard. I bought the wicker rocker 14 years ago. The metal chair and metal rocker about 35 years ago and are lime green but needs to be painted. The wicker was white but painted it last year cornflower blue. Have two inside antique wicker peacock chairs I painted the same color blue. The wicker is real wicker not the new kind. I put all in the garage in the fall.”

Karen Bagniewski, Fountain City, Wis.: “Wicker always on the front porch! Newer, unpainted. I have pillows with the cushions and lots of my house plants around the wicker.”

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