Heirloom Obsession: Metal Porch Gliders
Heirloom Obsession: Metal Porch GlidersMay 17, 2013
Those who remember them from childhood can attest: Nothing symbolizes summer better than a metal porch glider. Once referred to by many as Southerners “divans," gliders had their heyday in the 1940s and 50s, when air conditioning was as scarce as time for porch sitting was ample.
What gliders have survived from that era are likely rusted and lopsided, abandoned in backyards or marked down to near-nothing in junk shops. But don’t let their crusty exterior fool you—the bones of these relics are heirloom quality. Demand for gliders—whether refurbished or reproduced—is on the rise, and two Southern companies are answering the call.
A restored Botany Bay Deco Glider from Mulberry Street.
Inspired by memories of summer nights on her grandmother’s glider, Charleston-based Amy Regenbogen started Mulberry Street, a vintage metal furniture refinishing business named after the street her grandmother lived on. Regenbogen scavenges the Southeast for dilapidated metal gliders and bouncers that are in good enough condition for restoration. She then has them professionally refinished, which involves dismantling the glider piece-by-piece, sandblasting and priming the parts, and then powder-coating it after reassembling. Since launching her online retail shop in 2007, it’s been almost impossible to keep the vintage gliders in stock.
Regenbogen's finished product.
“When I sold my first glider, the lady who bought it told me she and her granddaughter would sit and have conversations on it,” Regenbogen says. “That brought me full circle, and it’s why I go to great lengths to give this furniture a second life.”
The Merrys. Jackie Ricciardi/ The Augusta Chronicle Staff
Local Patio, based in Augusta, Georgia, has taken a different approach. Owners Howard and Hallie Merry were so attached to the rusted glider that sat for fifty years on their family dock that they decided to start a business reproducing them. Their original glider was manufactured by Bunting Glider Co., based in Philadelphia. When the Merrys discovered that the company had long gone out of business, they set out to acquire Bunting’s trademark designs. They are currently in the pre-production phase and have successfully prototyped the Bunting basketweave—the most ornate design and the most popular in the South. They hope to begin taking orders in the fall.
“There is magic in these gliders,” Howard Merry says. “Passion for them in the South cuts across race, gender, and politics—an amazing thing these days.”
Local Patio's Harrisburg glider.
The original Harrisburg glider, in situ.
Hallie Merry and her daughter standing next to the rusted glider that sat on their family dock for fifty years.