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Woodard Sculptra Chair

Mid-century Russell Woodard Octagonal Mesh Dining Table
By Russell Woodard
Located in Miami, FL
is shown with Woodard Sculptra chairs for display only. We offer sets of Sculptra chairs in separate
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Patio and Garden Furniture

Materials

Iron

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Located in San Jose, CA
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Category

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By Russell Woodard
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By Russell Woodard
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Russell Woodard for sale on 1stDibs

Woodard Furniture Company’s diverse offerings have included everything from pine caskets to premium patio and garden furniture over the years.

Lyman E. Woodward founded the family business Woodard Brothers (he dropped the second w for his venture’s name), later Woodard Furniture Co., in Owosso, Michigan, in 1866. Woodard Furniture produced wood furniture such as birch and oak bedroom pieces, window and door blinds and even pine caskets. Demand for the latter increased during the spread of the Spanish flu in America, and Woodard’s casket business — a new company called Owosso Casket Company — thrived, becoming the largest casket manufacturer in the world throughout the 1920s. Two U.S. presidents, William McKinley and Benjamin Harrison, were buried in Owosso caskets.

On the furniture side, Lyman’s son Lee Woodard spun off his own business as Lee L. Woodard and Sons, opening a shop with his sons, Joseph, Lyman II and Russell Woodard. During the 1930s, the new company explored the use of metal in furniture-making and introduced a wrought-iron set of patio dining furniture featuring ornate grillwork inspired by French design called Orleans in 1940. The line became a best seller and kick-started the company’s international reputation as a patio-furniture maker, even as the Woodard factory subsequently shifted toward supporting the wartime efforts in manufacturing parts for trucks and military equipment. After World War II, the business returned to making furniture. Over the years, Woodard and Sons would go on to master metallurgy in furniture making, developing expertise in wrought iron, cast aluminum and tubular aluminum for both indoor and outdoor pieces. In colder regions, wrought iron, which can be left outdoors all year round, was the material of choice in outdoor furniture designs for the Atomic Age, and vintage Woodard outdoor furniture is widely coveted by collectors today.

While the business started with more traditional styles of furnishings, the company would go on to embrace mid-century modernism. In fact, one of Woodard’s most famous pieces is 1956’s Sculptura chair, variously credited over the years to Russell and/or Joseph. The Sculptura was reportedly the first sculpted chair made without molds. Not unlike Harry Bertoia’s elegant steel-wire Side chair (also a mid-century darling) in its undulating form, the Sculptura chair, which is composed entirely of enameled woven wrought-iron wire, bears similarity to Eero Saarinen’s Womb chair for Knoll and Charles and Ray Eames’s DAX chair. The beloved Woodard chair was added to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum’s permanent collection in 1994.

While the Woodard business is no longer in family hands, the company continues to produce fine patio furniture today and even reintroduced the Sculptura chair in 2015 as nostalgia for mid-century modernism gained steam again. 

On 1stDibs, find vintage Russell Woodard lounge chairs, dining chairs and patio furniture today.

A Close Look at Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Organically shaped, clean-lined and elegantly simple are three terms that well describe vintage mid-century modern furniture. The style, which emerged primarily in the years following World War II, is characterized by pieces that were conceived and made in an energetic, optimistic spirit by creators who believed that good design was an essential part of good living.

ORIGINS OF MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE DESIGN

CHARACTERISTICS OF MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE DESIGN

MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE DESIGNERS TO KNOW

ICONIC MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE DESIGNS

VINTAGE MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE ON 1STDIBS

The mid-century modern era saw leagues of postwar American architects and designers animated by new ideas and new technology. The lean, functionalist International-style architecture of Le Corbusier and Bauhaus eminences Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius had been promoted in the United States during the 1930s by Philip Johnson and others. New building techniques, such as “post-and-beam” construction, allowed the International-style schemes to be realized on a small scale in open-plan houses with long walls of glass.

Materials developed for wartime use became available for domestic goods and were incorporated into mid-century modern furniture designs. Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen, who had experimented extensively with molded plywood, eagerly embraced fiberglass for pieces such as the La Chaise and the Womb chair, respectively. 

Architect, writer and designer George Nelson created with his team shades for the Bubble lamp using a new translucent polymer skin and, as design director at Herman Miller, recruited the Eameses, Alexander Girard and others for projects at the legendary Michigan furniture manufacturer

Harry Bertoia and Isamu Noguchi devised chairs and tables built of wire mesh and wire struts. Materials were repurposed too: The Danish-born designer Jens Risom created a line of chairs using surplus parachute straps for webbed seats and backrests.

The Risom lounge chair was among the first pieces of furniture commissioned and produced by celebrated manufacturer Knoll, a chief influencer in the rise of modern design in the United States, thanks to the work of Florence Knoll, the pioneering architect and designer who made the firm a leader in its field. The seating that Knoll created for office spaces — as well as pieces designed by Florence initially for commercial clients — soon became desirable for the home.

As the demand for casual, uncluttered furnishings grew, more mid-century furniture designers caught the spirit.

Classically oriented creators such as Edward Wormley, house designer for Dunbar Inc., offered such pieces as the sinuous Listen to Me chaise; the British expatriate T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings switched gears, creating items such as the tiered, biomorphic Mesa table. There were Young Turks such as Paul McCobb, who designed holistic groups of sleek, blond wood furniture, and Milo Baughman, who espoused a West Coast aesthetic in minimalist teak dining tables and lushly upholstered chairs and sofas with angular steel frames.

Generations turn over, and mid-century modern remains arguably the most popular style going. As the collection of vintage mid-century modern chairs, dressers, coffee tables and other furniture for the living room, dining room, bedroom and elsewhere on 1stDibs demonstrates, this period saw one of the most delightful and dramatic flowerings of creativity in design history.

Finding the Right seating for You

With entire areas of our homes reserved for “sitting rooms,” the value of quality antique and vintage seating cannot be overstated.

Fortunately, the design of side chairs, armchairs and other lounge furniture — since what were, quite literally, the early perches of our ancestors — has evolved considerably.

Among the earliest standard seating furniture were stools. Egyptian stools, for example, designed for one person with no seat back, were x-shaped and typically folded to be tucked away. These rudimentary chairs informed the design of Greek and Roman stools, all of which were a long way from Sori Yanagi's Butterfly stool or Alvar Aalto's Stool 60. In the 18th century and earlier, seats with backs and armrests were largely reserved for high nobility.

The seating of today is more inclusive but the style and placement of chairs can still make a statement. Antique desk chairs and armchairs designed in the style of Louis XV, which eventually included painted furniture and were often made of rare woods, feature prominently curved legs as well as Chinese themes and varied ornaments. Much like the thrones of fairy tales and the regency, elegant lounges crafted in the Louis XV style convey wealth and prestige. In the kitchen, the dining chair placed at the head of the table is typically reserved for the head of the household or a revered guest.

Of course, with luxurious vintage or antique furnishings, every chair can seem like the best seat in the house. Whether your preference is stretching out on a plush sofa, such as the Serpentine, designed by Vladimir Kagan, or cozying up in a vintage wingback chair, there is likely to be a comfy classic or contemporary gem for you on 1stDibs.

With respect to the latest obsessions in design, cane seating has been cropping up everywhere, from sleek armchairs to lounge chairs, while bouclé fabric, a staple of modern furniture design, can be seen in mid-century modern, Scandinavian modern and Hollywood Regency furniture styles.

Admirers of the sophisticated craftsmanship and dark woods frequently associated with mid-century modern seating can find timeless furnishings in our expansive collection of lounge chairs, dining chairs and other items — whether they’re vintage editions or alluring official reproductions of iconic designs from the likes of Hans Wegner or from Charles and Ray Eames. Shop our inventory of Egg chairs, designed in 1958 by Arne Jacobsen, the Florence Knoll lounge chair and more.

No matter your style, the collection of unique chairs, sofas and other seating on 1stDibs is surely worthy of a standing ovation.