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A Brief History of Metal Lawn Furniture, aka 'Motel' Chairs

Texas-Based Torrans Co. Continues the Tradition


Girlfriends having a Mimosa.
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Remember those colorful metal lawn chairs that Grandma and her friends would sit and slowly glide on while they sipped beverages on the front porch? Later referred to as "motel" chairs for their propensity to show up near pools or outside the front offices of Route 66 motels, most of the originals were allowed to rust and corrode until it was time for them to be sent to lawn chair heaven.

It was after World War II that Ed Warmack, an Arkansas manufacturer and sheet metal fabricator, became the largest producer of gas heaters in the United States. The Warmack Co. also began making steel lawn furniture for the postwar families and new houses with backyards springing up throughout the country. Demand increased for metal lawn chairs, gliders, matching steel lawn tables and swivel-based platform rockers. The company soon became the biggest steel lawn furniture manufacturer in the U.S. Some lines were designed exclusively for Sears.

In 1954, Flanders Industries bought the metal lawn furniture company from Warmack and continued production until 1996. By then, the more sophisticated outdoor casual furniture industry was in full swing, and consumers wanted large, comfortable, upholstered patio furniture to fill up their outdoor rooms.

In 2002, nostalgia-minded Louis and Kathy Torrans and their Torrans Manufacturing Company reintroduced the same collection of metal lawn furniture. They have the molds and tooling to produce several different styles of vintage-inspired chairs and gliders. Minor modifications have been made to improve upon Warmack's classic designs, and the Torrans consider the chairs and other pieces to be "continuations and not reproductions or copies" of the originals. One change: Torrans Manufacturing Co.'s metal chairs are heavier and sturdier than the mid-century models.

Torrans' metal garden furniture receives an exterior-grade UV-resistant powder-coated finish that they maintain is comparable in hardness to the finish of contemporary automobile paints.

Capitalizing on the retro theme of their products, Torrans' lines include names like the Bellaire, Thunderbird, Americana, Parklane, Belvidere, Skylark, and the new Riviera collection. The company also manufactures vintage-inspired metal coolers and Texas-style Adirondack furniture.

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