Anyone with a collection of attractive outdoor furniture has Janice Feldman to thank. An artist with an entrepreneurial mind (as an art school student, she went to Europe and painted portraits for tourists: “That was the best part of my education!”), Feldman pioneered the luxury outdoor category, rescuing patios, balconies, and exterior spaces from a sad fate with unremarkable furniture.
Trailblazing is not light work. Feldman founded her company, Janus et Cie, 40 years ago when only a handful of elegant outdoor options existed in the industry. It’s a milestone that not only makes her an industry icon but also a bona fide Best of the Best winner . . . because we like a forerunner with staying power, not just a “disruptor.”
She was prescient, however; she sensed our collective desire to be outdoors and away from technology years before the digital age hit and everyone’s neck was drooping over a smartphone. So, she responded with elevated designs—ranging from classical forms to clean, modernist pieces and accessories—to meet the lifestyle. Soon after, bar carts, dining tables, spacious ottomans, and planters were added to the mix, and the exterior started to matter.
The Janus et Cie collection is known for its quintessential California style—even in the early days, though the style wasn’t as defined decades ago. “I was looking at the world around me to see what existed that might be able to be reproduced or translated, or a piece of inspiration for something new,” she says. “And eventually, I started inventing and figuring out how to really make things commercially and still have them be handmade pieces.”
Outdoor furniture has to be hardier and function differently than its indoor siblings. The trick is that it has to look elegant. “We build everything to withstand various conditions, basically, an oceanfront installation, because we make a lot of furniture for ships and yachts,” says Feldman. “I take a very holistic approach to design,” she says of the pieces that she considers investments. Everything from the weave of an arm and curvature of a chaise to a UV coating is considered.
While the collection features a range of materials like fiber, teak, aluminum, and stainless steel, two innovations, Janusfiber and Januswood, are proprietary engineered creations. They also happen to be eco-friendly and well before their time. The company’s extruded lumber is made from recycled milk containers and was developed in the late 1980s.
“That’s the combination of industry and craft,” says Feldman. “It’s performance, it’s color and style, and then it’s a final product that is completely done by hand. I celebrate craft. I love it because it’s one of those things in our lives that’s going away . . . I’m into moving people closer to craft.”