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    Auction Finds

    Steel furniture with an artist’s touch

    The two chairs seemed to shimmer under the lights in the auction house. They were silver with rivets along each side and thin curved legs. They were metal, industrial steel, according to the auction house bid sheet. 

    And they were not sitting there alone. Around them were an array of other industrial steel furniture: Metal patio chairs – not the ones you find at Home Depot; these looked vintage. A pair of small tables stacked one atop the other. Some file cabinets and more. All were waiting be auctioned recently at a Decorative Arts sale at one of my favorite auction houses. 

    Industrial steel lounge chairs with riveted design and sling seats.


    As I examined the two sling-backed chairs, I wondered how comfortable they would be. They appeared too slick for cushions (I could image them – and me – sliding off the chairs). Maybe they were just conversation pieces never meant to be sat on. 

    Regardless, they were the most lovely of the offerings of “industrial steel.” The auction sheet did not indicate that any were signed. 

    In my research, I found a number of websites that sold industrial steel furniture and other such items, including those ubiquitous metal file cabinets that we all have.  One site had photo after photo of vintage industrial furniture made of steel, wood and a combination of both. 

    Industrial steel prison table with swing-out iron seat.


    When I think of steel in this country, I don’t think furniture. In my mind’s eye, I see bridges, skyscrapers and railroads bearing the imprint of Andrew Carnegie in the late 1800s and Pittsburgh’s U.S. Steel at the turn of the century and beyond. And then there’s Bethlehem Steel of Pennsylvania, which since 1857 had provided metal for ships and bridges, and jobs for generations of families (it’s now closed).     

    But these pieces at auction did not come out of the great steel factories. These were made for use inside – and not outside – the home or place of work. Some were works of art while others were utilitarian. 

    Here’s a sample of what was up for sale, with descriptions from the auction sheet: 


    Aluminum & steel industrial reclining chaise lounge/gurney on wheels. 


    Pair of industrial-style stools with square tops. They are sitting atop an industrial steel coffee cocktail table with inset tiles and a leather center. 


    Industrial aluminum Machine Age tricycle with hard rubber wheels. Labeled Convert-O. Built to Last. Anthony Bros. San Marcos, CA. They were first made in 1949. 


    At left, zinc and steel cased refrigerator. At right, industrial steel file cabinet with three drawers and a door. 


    At left, wooden slatted barn door side table with metal hinges. Sitting atop the table is a mirror framed in steel.  At right, heavy industrial steel Machine Age table with disc top mounted on steel rod and gear base. All are sitting on a rolling cart coffee table with a wooden slatted top and metal wheels.  


    At left, tall industrial steel floor lamp with arched top. It has a General Electric tag. At right, contemporary motorcycle seat bar stool with industrial-style base. 


    Stan Smokler steel wall sculpture made from automotive parts. Smokler, whose specialty is steel sculptures, has studios in New York and Kennett Square, PA (just outside Philadelphia).

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