Deck Chair

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As the Summer swelter continues, up goes an impassioned plea “Lead me to my deck chair!!”.

The humble deck chair ….Perhaps? Or the well travelled ship’s “deck chair” – if this linen and teak could talk imagine the gossip it holds – from a Golden Era of luxury transatlantic ocean liner travel. Or the End of The Pier, seagull serenaded, fish and chips frying, spearmint rock munching of Brighton, Cromer or Southend – the World’s longest.

Called a Lawn Chair in the US, the Deck Chair has an illustrious history. It was the victim of some on board snobbery. Around the turn of the 20th century, first class passengers would typically enjoy the padded loveliness of a “Steamer” deck chair -Port Out Starboard Home – their legs raised and clad in a woolen rug, invariably sipping broth, if the climate demanded, whilst more lowly passengers would enjoy their trip on a slung hammock canvas and teak deck chair that could be positioned to follow the sun around the deck and be folded for easy stowage.

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The origins of the folding chair has its history in Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. More recently, patents were obtained in the 1880’s in the US and UK for the classic steamer chair. R Holman & Co of Boston (Mass) were the manufactures of the Steamer Deck Chairs that graced the deck of the SS Titanic. Of the 600 supplied only six survived – below is a shot of one.

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There is some debate as to the precise origins of the more rudimentary wooden framed version. Primarily it comprises two rectangualar wooden frames, hinged, with an adjustable back piece and a single length of canvas forming the seat and backrest. Some sources  attribute it to a British inventor, Atkins, in the late 19th Century whereas others credit its design to being similar to “The Yankee Hammock Chair” as advertised in 1882.  The name “Brighton Beach Chair” also seems to predate our currently understood use of “Deck Chair”.

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In my Grandmother’s house in Hertfordshire – I think it was 1976 – she had a row of Edwardian faded green canvas chairs which not only had arms and a footrest but also a large sun canopy that flapped in whatever pathetic excuse for a breeze we had that summer. I recall that the covers perished quite frequently and the local nurseryman supplied rolls of 18” wide canvass to restring your chair. The look was completed by a white parasol, two Lloyd Loom chairs – see our previous post here – Lloyd Loom Chairs – and a bentwood table covered in a circular linen tablecloth with a jug of iced lemonade and tall glasses covered in weighted net – to avoid the flies.

Similar products are still made today by people such as Southsea Deckchairs Southsea Deckchairs

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Images used with grateful thanks – Southsea Dechairs and The V&A Museum

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London’s Iconic Bridges – Vol 1

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Having lived away from London for the last few years, I am occassionally asked where I am from. There is no simple answer but really the place I feel most at home is London.

Whether London is sweltering in 30 degree temperatures or chilled by the “Beast from the East” it is the location of many of my most happy memories and I suspect I shall return for good one day.

Architecturally, London has spent years reinventing itself. From the horrors of post War Modernist utilitarian blocks to the gleaming chrome and glass of the City and Canary Wharf, this New London is starting to look really good again. Developments that have been in planning for years are realised and have turned derelict Thamesside into smart, if expensive, but hugely desirable riverside addresses.

The Battersea Power Station development, with its new tube station due to open in 2020, is a fine example – see our previous post about BPS here – Battersea Power Station.

The Thames, that flows West to East through London, its name deriving from Celtic and Latin sources meaning “dark” gives London its name. It is suggested that the roots of  Londinium means the flowing river or the wide flowing unfordable river. Inevitably this has meant that the Northern and Southern banks of this wide river require to be crossed by bridges. The bridges of London have spectacularly contributed to London’s skyline.

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The earliest and perhaps the most historically important bridge is the iconic London Bridge. The present concrete and steel construction was opened in 1973 and its modest form belies a history of several important bridges over nearly 2000 years.

The City of London and its south bank neighbour of Southwalk, assisted by sand, gravel and clay on the adjacent banks, have been connected by some form of timber pontoon or rudimentary bridge since around 55AD. There followed a succession of bridges, including the Old London Bridge which stood for around 600 years, being finally replaced in the early 19th century and then again in 1973.

The rumour that a Oil millionaire, Robert McCulloch, mistakenly paid $2.4m in 1967 thinking that he was buying the more impressive Tower Bridge has been subsequently denied. London Bridge was moved stone by stone – at a further cost of $7m – to its new home at Lake Havasu City in the US State of Arizona.

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In my modern love story with London, Albert Bridge has played a key role. It is simply the most iconic and beautiful bridge.

Many will know that it’s frail. A sign warns marching soldiers to “break step” whilst crossing and rumour has it that the timbers are being severely affected by dog urine thought to come from those mutts who end up running around Battersea Park on its south side. When lit by 4000 LED lights against a London summer evening’s sky it is magical, so much so that our kids when toddlers always called it the “Cinderella Bridge”.

Albert Bridge stretches over the Tideway of the Thames joining Chelsea to the North with Battersea to the South. In 1860 Prince Albert – the then Queen’s Consort – suggested a Toll Bridge be built to alleviate the congestion experienced on two adjacent Bridges – Victoria and Battersea – the owner’s of the profitable latter being bought off by Act of Parliament and a takeover once Albert Bridge was completed. It opened as a toll bridge 1871 but the concept was not a commercial success.

It was designed as a cable-stayed bridge and built by Rowland Mason Ordish a master architectural engineer with the Royal Albert Hall and St Pancreas Railway Station on his CV. A dozen years after its initial construction Sir Joseph Bazalgette, famed for his work on London’s sewerage and water system, added elements of a suspension bridge to improve its soundness.

In 1973 two concrete piers were added for extra stability. Given its unusual history and its striking majesty the bridge now holds Grade 2 listed status from English Heritage.

A narrow bridge its struggle with motorized transport is ongoing. On both the North and South approaches there are bollards that sit, I am told six feet apart, that account for many dents on the doors of passing “Chelsea Tractors”!

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The most recently opened of London’s iconic bridges was initially opened in June 2000. Informally named the Millenium Bridge it is a steel suspension bridge built at a total cost of £18.2m from a design by a consortium comprising the Arup Group and the firms of architectural knights Norman Foster and Anthony Caro. It won a RIBA competition for selection. It spans the Thames between Bankside and the City – below St Paul’s Cathedral – giving the bridge the most engaging aspect across the river.

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Within days it had closed and became known as the “Wobbly Bridge” due to its alleged swaying of pedestrians – a recently understood phenomenon. Two years later after extensive modifications with the addition of viscous-fluid dampers to increase its stability, it was re-opened in February 2002.

Image Credits – used with grateful thanks – “London Bridge at Night” by Alison Day/Flickr. “Albert Bridge” – A Travellers View http://www.trover.com Joe Parnis and http://www.MrSmithsworldofphotography.com, Millenium Bridge – Foster & Partners

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Lloyd Loom Chairs

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I am not a gambling man but I’d bet you that if you have been to a tennis or cricket pavilion, a seaside hotel or the Orangery of a grand house at any point in the last 75 years you will have sat on a Lloyd Loom chair. Often in white, sky blue, pink or pale green these beautiful and iconic chairs not only have huge eye-appeal they are also very comfortable – if a little creaky as they age.

Many will attest to snagged legs or backs of thighs caught on the frayed and exposed wire that forms the basis of this patented construction. Patented in the USA 1917 by Marshall Burns Lloyd the process entails kraft paper being twisted and wound round metal wire that is then introduced into a loom and woven to become Lloyd Loom fabric which is then bent to fit over, often, a beechwood frame.

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In 1921, Lloyd licensed the patent rights for the UK market to W (William) Lusty & Sons who developed over one thousand designs and produced over ten million pieces prior to 1940. Lusty Lloyd Loom was based in Bromley-by-Bow (East London) and at its height employed over 500. The factory was destroyed by a bombing raid in September 1940 during the London Blitz. Whilst the Lusty family relaunched the business in 1951 it was short-lived with manufacturing ceasing in 1968. Production in the US resumed in Menominee in 1982. The business was subsequently sold to Flanders Industries and the new company, Lloyd Flanders, continues to make Lloyd Loom furniture and artefacts.

This American invented British adopted design icon is featured in the collection of many design museums around the world including the amazing Cooper Hewitt which is part of the Smithsonian Institution and housed in Andrew Carnegie’s former mansion home in New York at 2E 91st Street, Between 5th and Madison Aves.

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My Grandmother house in Hertfordshire, during the 1960’s to 1970’s, in an large area with stripped oak floor, that she described as the Loggia, housed several green Lloyd Loom chairs, a Lloyd Loom sofa – that was surprisingly comfortable – and a Lloyd Loom garden or card table with a glass top and woven legs. Upstairs in her bedroom was a wide white Lloyd Loom ottoman that contained a stack of Witney Wool blankets.

Various start ups including The Lusty Furniture Company and The Lloyd Loom Manufacturing Company seem to offer well made Lloyd Loom products to some of the original designs. Whilst much of the current production of Lloyd Loom furniture takes place in the Far East it seems that only The Lloyd Loom Manufacturing Company continues to manufacture in the UK.

If you’d like to share your home with an iconic piece of Lloyd Loom furniture why not click the following AMAZON links
Lloyd Loom Tivoli Chair (Natural)
Lloyd Loom Tivoli Grande (Arctic White)
Lloyd Loom Lansdown Chair (Crisp Linen)

And if you’d like to read more about the Lloyd Loom story, please click the following AMAZON link to buy the excellent book “Lloyd Loom: Woven Fibre Furniture”
Lloyd Loom: Woven Fibre Furniture

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Image Credits with thanks: W Lusty and Sons, The Lusty Furniture Company and The Lloyd Loom Manufacturing Company

Airstream trailers

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Ok – hands up – I don’t like caravans. They tend to be ugly and baulk the free flow of traffic. If you could chose to have an away day at the seaside regardless of the weather why would you chose to stay in a fibre-glass shed with limited ventilation and the ever present aroma of damp and the chemical toilet?

On the other hand, with a face clad in a pair of classic Ray-bans – please see our previous post here – Ray-Ban Wayfarers you’d be more than happy to freeze at a windy beach, shrink your intimate regions to the size of raisins to catch some great waves, if you knew at the end of the day your temporary home was a warm aluminium-shelled beach cabin with every mod-con! Enjoy our earlier outdoor posts of other American branded icons here Morey Boogie boards and Frisbee

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Yes, the Airstream trailer – American for “caravan” – is less a motorway frustrator and more a cigar tube with benefits! These wonderful portable homes ooze charm and scream American icon.

Company founder, Wally Byam, in Los Angeles in the late 1920’s, started to build and market trailers. Airstream’s distinctive shape, with its curved, riveted and polished aluminium body, has its roots in aircraft building and the 1930’s designs of Hawley Bowlus, the engineer responsible for Lindburgh’s “Spirit of St. Louis”. Bowlus designed a trailer that Byam marketed and in 1936 he acquired the Bowlus company which included the trailer re-launched by Byam as the “Airstream Clipper”. It had a sleeping capacity for four, its own water supply and electric lights and cost $1200.

Closed during the war years due to the scarcity of raw materials, by 1948 Byam’s was back in business opening a new factory in Jackson Center, Ohio in 1952, where today the company, now a part of Thor Industries Inc. employs more than 475 people and manufactures more than 2000 trailers per year.

Interestingly, Airstream make European models that are slightly smaller in dimensions than their US versions as European roads tend to be narrower and the SUV vehicles used to tow their trailers tend to be less powerful.

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In many ways Airstream is one of those companies whose reach is beyond their brand and a stimulus to development of a sub-culture. The Wally Byam Caravan Club International – which he founded and led – helped to stretch the horizons of its members by seeking out parts of new and fascinating locations.

In many trailer park locations, the Airstream has provided families with a static camping option with jacuzzi’s and outdoor cooking – see our previous post here – Weber Grill

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Perhaps the iconic status of the Airstream can be best summed up in the words of Geoff Wardle, Chair of Transportation Design at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, who is quoted a having said, “The Airstream is a pure object, which is why it has lasted.”

Given its iconic status companies that already have a very defined aesthetic, like Bentley – for their 4×4 Bentayga – and Tesla,  have used images of their vehicles pulling Airstreams to make a connection with, particularly an American audience.

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To support Tesla’s launch of its SUV crosser Model X in 2016 it launched a series of Airstream trailers which travelled the US as portable “design studios” to demonstrate the car’s towing ability.

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Wanna know some more? There’s an excellent publication by Patrick R. Foster that documents the first 80 years of the Airstream – click the link below the image to pick up a copy

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Airstream: 80 Years of America’s World Traveler

For those who already love Airstream’s trailers – why not show the world? Get this Airstream image long sleeved T shirt – click on the link below the image

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CafePress – Airstream Trailer – Unisex Cotton Long Sleeve T-Shirt

I particularly like the vibe of this natural canvas bag – click on the link below the image to get one 

See also our earlier posts on the Peace Symbol here – Peace Sign and The Summer of Love and The Peace Sign

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CafePress – Peace, Love And Vintage Trailers – Natural Canvas Tote Bag, Cloth Shopping Bag

Interest to be part of the Community why not connect to Airstream’s own online newsletter – “The Rivet” – click here to sign up –  The Rivet

Image Credits courtesy of Airstream, Bentley and Tesla with grateful thanks

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