NEW YORK – Transforming outdoor spaces into stylish living environments, Robert Brown and Hubert Jordan epitomized the SoCal culture when they launched their company, Brown Jordan, in 1946, and began making iconic outdoor furniture, noted for their timeless and enduring designs.
At a time when outdoor furniture was not made to last, they created high-quality pieces that changed how people lived and made lounging on patios and by the pool a national pastime.
“The new use of outdoor living space helped Brown Jordan become synonymous with a relaxed and leisurely lifestyle,” according to a blog on the website of Urban Americana Vintage Antiques Design.
From the early days of the company in the late 1940s when designer Walter Lamb used surplus bronze tubing from the U.S. Navy and cotton cording to create hardy outdoor seating, Brown Jordan furniture is prized and vintage pieces continue to perform well today at auction and secondhand markets.
Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland, Calif., sold in early 2019 a grouping of Walter Lamb for Brown Jordan pieces. “The market is robust with no signs of a slowdown,” said Deric Torres, Clars vice-president. “The attraction to Brown Jordan furniture is the quality, the sleek designs that are timeless, including Dan Johnson designed pieces such as the Gazelle suite.”
One of Brown Jordan’s renowned designers was Richard Frinier. After graduating from California State University Long Beach, which newly offered a robust design program, he began his career in the 1970s as a craftsman, sculptor and lighting designer making one-of-a-kind art pieces, including commissioned works and production model making, sculpture and lighting designs. His first commercial furniture designs were contemporary bedroom case pieces that sold 9,000 sets during a five-year production run.
“In 1981, I saw a picture of a chaise lounge on the cover of the Los Angeles Times Magazine. It was somewhat of an epiphany for me, as I was drawn to the clean lines and sculptural form of the chaise that I soon after learned was made by Brown Jordan,” Frinier said. “I later contacted them to do some freelance work and ended up joining the company as a designer where I stayed on for 21 years.” Frinier became the firm’s Chief Creative Officer and lead designer, working closely with mid-century modern designer Hall Bradley and becoming a link to the company’s past and present. Frinier is still designing for Brown Jordan today.
“As a brand, Brown Jordan has enjoyed a rich heritage and long legacy of original design, quality manufacture and execution, and comfort,” he said. “The designs have always turned heads since the brand’s inception back in 1945 when the company was formed by Robert Brown and Hubert Jordan in Pasadena, Calif., at a time when they wisely chose to utilize leftover and recycled marine-worthy materials after World War II from which to craft their storied designs.” Brown Jordan furnishings were used in private homes both indoors as popular breakfast sets and also outside in gardens, patios and poolside, he added. Hotels and resorts were also likely places to see Brown Jordan. And, today, vintage Brown Jordan designs grace the grounds of the White House, private residences and estates, and resorts around the world.”
Frinier has created many iconic designs for the company over the years. “The first design I ever created for Brown Jordan as an employee was Quantum, a name I chose for my own quantum leap into designing outdoor furniture after designing indoor furniture, lighting and accessories before joining the company,” he said. “The significance of this design for Brown Jordan was that it quickly became critically acclaimed receiving several design excellence awards and also accolades.” It has been in continuous production since its original launch in 1982 and celebrated its 37th year in 2019.
In the 1980s, Frinier paid homage to the Roman-Greco period of furniture design when he developed his Venetian and Florentine designs for Brown Jordan that imbued classic styling but blurred the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces. He turned the design world on its ears again in 20 years with his forward-thinking designs in marine-grade stainless steel. “In the year 2000, everyone was looking at what is going to happen to the world at the turn of the century. I wanted to introduce something that had an international flare while giving a nod to mid-century designers who came before. I created Nxt and Vu literally meaning, “A ‘view’ of what’s ‘next.’”
Brown Jordan vintage pieces have stood the test of time and with several of the firm’s earliest and best designs being reissued today, people will continue to enjoy their timeless designs for years to come.
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