I began collecting American outdoor furniture produced by Howell Manufacturing circa 1930’s and 1940‘s nearly twenty years ago. Howell was the first American company to hire a Bauhaus-trained designer, Wolfgang Hoffman, son of Josef Hoffman, founder of the Wiener Werkstatt. In 1932. Even before Hoffman joined the company, Howell was already producing a spring steel chair that would become an American classic, inspiring knock-offs that are just as collectible as the original Howell chairs are today.
Knowing that I was building an indoor/outdoor house near Los Angeles, my search for an outdoor glider, a swinging bench sofa, led me to my first Howell, the 526 Hi-Back cane steel spring chair. The chair had lived outdoors for over sixty years and still had it’s original bounce. Howell spring chairs were impeccably engineered with annealed steel arms which absorbed your weight while supporting your back when you sat in them. After oil-rubbing the original steel, I placed it in my living room and it became the chair that guests headed to first. I knew immediately I wanted the Howell to be known by all Americans.
The Howell 526 cane spring steel and the Howell 525, the low back version, and all their spin-offs, the cushioned versions, various die-cut steel backs, two-seaters, were the biggest performers in the Howell outdoor catalogue for over twenty years. The 1936 catalogue states that the Howell Company pioneered modern metal furniture in America and constantly maintained a leadership position in the metal furniture field. They attributed this to “using the finest material available and employing only the most skilled craftsmen.”
In the spirit of the Howell work ethos and in honor of it’s ergonomic perfection, I’m reissuing a limited edition of the Howell 525 and 526 with the “cane” backs punched with the original metal dies. Available in updated finishes, this special chair is destined to reestablish itself as an American classic.
In the early Forties, Howell produced a modern outdoor cushioned chair, the Sling 1944. Their sling frame is like a chair meme, it’s there, it’s always been there, it’s a part of every chair you’ve ever seen or known, and yet, it’s where it all began. We’re reimagining Howell’s sling in repurposed teak and other sustainable woods, steel, and custom finishes. Using these finishes and materials, all the Howell chairs can be configured for indoors or out, or both.
The RetroPatio Collection continues the Howell tradition of unparalleled comfort combined with classic modern design. I’m thrilled to be sharing the design history of this important American company with you. And, just like they were eighty years ago, the Howell chairs are completely made in the USA.
Original Howell 526 / Howell 525
Original Howell Sling 1944 frame