Sitting on a porch, talking about nothing and everything at the same time, is a staple pastime for Charlotteans. As a child, Amy Regenbogen’s favorite memories were made rocking on gliders on her grandparents’ porch on Mulberry Street in Charlotte. And now, as an adult, she’s re-creating those memories in the form of restored vintage metal porch furniture.
Though the steel-and-aluminum furniture is almost all outdoor — gliders, chairs, and bouncers — some are pretty and certainly sturdy enough for indoor use. Plus, they rival indoor prices: tables start at $179, gliders at $1,250, and bouncers at $249.
Occasionally, her company, Mulberry Street, picks up old chairs from the 1930s or pieces from the 1960s, but the furniture hails mostly from the 1940s and 1950s. A nod to art deco décor, most are coated with their original pastel or neutral color while some are splashed with new dark greens or tomato reds. Every piece has a strong brand name, like Arvin Industries or J. R. Bunting, with equally strong and sturdy bones.
"I don’t make them perfect — part of the purpose is to show their history," says Regenbogen. "I don’t want them to look like they came from Restoration Hardware."
First the metallic pieces — found in attics, antique stores, yard sales, and the like — are sandblasted to reveal any hidden damage. "A lot of this furniture is being lost to neglect and rust," she says. "The distressed look is popular, but that look also means we’re losing it to the point of no return." Then a local artisan removes the extra pieces and coats them all separately with primer in an electrostatic painting process to prevent future rust. The final stage of refurbishing is outfitting with custom cushions, measured to fit.
What’s left are beautifully restored porch pieces, rid of rust, pinholes, and dents. Vintage metal furniture — gliders, bouncers, rockers, tables — handpicked and restored for generations to come. "I want people to look at them and instantly know they’re vintage," says Regenbogen. "But I want to make sure they’re structurally sound and they look stunning."