Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hunting for Vintage French Patio Furniture


 This is a story about a certain kind of old French patio furniture.  
That I was obsessing over, ever since it came on my radar after
 my obsession with Grey Gardens.  
I saw a chair in the dining room at Grey Gardens 
during the Edie years, and it just fascinated me.
 I thought I saw some at Martha's house too, on a porch, 
and even in her bathroom as a vanity chair.
(Martha Stewart's bathroom dressing table and chair)
It's also a story of how things come full circle sometimes, 
and you learn to embrace what you had and lost, when it comes back to you. 
 Francois Carre Sunburst chairs, also known as Pinwheel chairs.
These iconic chairs have graced patios and sunrooms of the rich and famous, and the just plain rich, ever since they were created by French designer Francois Carre, who patented the design in 1866.
They were made in both France and the United States until the 1940s.
 They have a spring mechanism on the seat and backs. This seems to be the source of failure 
and why so many are in disrepair today and need restoration. 
A garden antique friend of mine, Laurie of Fine and Elegant Antiques, spotted these chairs (above)
on a buying trip, then sent me this pic and then told me where to find them....
but she also mentioned that they had been repaired, and the
repair job wasn't very good.  However the price was good,
 for these sought after Sunbursts at $395/pair.

If you do some hunting online at the various websites after googling Francois Carre Patio Furniture,
or Sunburst Chairs, you will see eye popping prices!! And that is just not how I roll. I want to find them, and I want the price to be soooo good, it makes me giddy.  
I love the hunt, and I love a steal. 
And I know I'm not alone on that one.
 At the Martha Stewart Prop auction in Beverly Massachusetts, I spotted this set of original Francois Carre chairs in a heavy state of rust.  They belonged to the auction house owner who is holding onto them.  Seems like a lot of antique dealers hold onto them, as another dealer messaged me saying she had a complete set (also in bad shape) and if I wanted to purchase, she might be ready to let them go.
 At the beginning of the month, I spotted this pair of freshly painted Carre chairs at Brimfield and they had price tags of $550 each.  Three hours later they were gone, so someone was likely thrilled to find a pair, even at that price.
 I spotted this pair with replaced bottoms selling for $160 a pair in Rhode Island.
However I wanted a whole Sunburst chair, not a half....but the more I saw, the more
I realized they weren't chairs that stood up over time, and if I got some, they would 
likely be more garden ornaments than garden seating.
So as I considered other options that were popping up,
it seems the universe had another idea for me.
 Three summers ago, I found a wire furniture set on Craigslist that had two chairs, a settee and a pair of end tables.  They were fanciful looking, and I learned they were called Peacock Wire Patio Furniture.  The had been painted blue and were peeling, so I sprayed the settee and the end tables,
and they looked very lacy and pretty.
The pair of rusted blue chairs never got sprayed. 
We had just started creating our courtyard 
and had so many other metal chairs, that I decided to sell the Peacock chairs.
The pretty Peacock settee and end tables stayed behind to live with me.
They joined other storybook pieces, like my Marie Antoinette linen press that sat in the yard
under a tarp until she could be hoisted through the second floor window with hub's skid steer.
Fast forward three years, and now I have a complete set of Peacock Wire patio furniture.
Hubs found a table and chairs at a job site he was doing some excavation at, and noticed that
the owners didn't seem to want theirs.  It was lined up holding sticks and lawn debris.
So he inquired if they would like to sell them as his wife would love them.
And they said YES.  

One very happy wife I was, after having seen so many rusted out Sunburst chairs, 
I was more than ready for a plan B. Or Plan P:  Peacock!
Now I am debating about painting them....should they stay white?
(Martha's garage full of furniture and how she paints them: click here)
 Martha Stewart Aqua (above)?
 Its in the Peacock color family....
(By the way, Martha repainted them in a camel color that I wasn't too thrilled about.
I loved her signature aqua blue color that used to be on her trim and fencing.)
But back to the Peacock set paint color...
 Classic black...a French garden green?
Or stay shabby garden chic in rusty white?
I'd love your thoughts!

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