METAL FURNITURE has been hand-forged since ancient Egyptians fashioned intricate pieces for their Pharaohs. A shrinking number of local artists still make and sell their own metal furniture, and they're worth seeking out for their durable, and often finely detailed, work. One, Michael Putnam, manufactures cushioned and glass-topped iron furniture, sturdy enough for outdoor use, with bronze lion's-head finials and lion's-paw feet. Another, George Martin, creates museum-quality heirlooms in base, precious and Space Age metals (a free-form brass cocktail table, a marble-topped console of gold-leafed iron, interior gates emblazoned with a bronze-and-gold two-headed eagle). A third, Edgar Garabedian, hand-forges furniture and plant stands to order.
Rodeo Finishes makes glass-topped iron tables skillfully handwrought to duplicate twigs and vines and embellished with sculptured birds. Baker Furniture's master metalworkers handcraft iron leaves and tendrils into fairy-tale queen-sized canopy beds. Verdigris iron furniture commissioned by De Benedictis includes a glass-topped dining table base traversed by a serpent. Designer Maitland-Smith fashions scalloped black iron tables with beveled smoked-glass tops.
For the garden are lightweight, weatherproof, color-baked rococo cast-aluminum pieces in ornate ivy, floral and openwork motifs with the look of hand-forged iron--Victorian tables, chairs, settees, planters, tea carts, love seats and circular tree-benches.
Unique art metal furniture is available at J-Art Iron Co. in West Los Angeles (Michael Putnam); Creative Metal Crafts Inc. in Santa Monica (George Martin); L'Artisan in Hollywood (Edgar Garabedian); Randolph & Hein in Los Angeles (Rodeo Finishes); Chazan's in Glendale, and Glabman's Furniture and Interior Design stores throughout Southern California (Baker Furniture and Maitland-Smith). Rococo garden furniture is available at Posey's Patio Furniture in Downey, Cottage Shops in Los Angeles and Lee's Casual Furniture in Cerritos.