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Heywood-Wakefield Co. Furniture

Heywood-Wakefield (United States)

Created by the 19th-century merger of two venerable Massachusetts furniture makers, Heywood-Wakefield was one of the largest and most successful companies of its kind in the United States. In its early decades, the firm thrived by crafting affordable and hugely popular wicker pieces in traditional and historical styles. In the midst of the Great Depression, however, Heywood-Wakefield reinvented itself, creating instead the first modernist furnishings to be widely embraced in American households.


The Heywoods were five brothers from Gardner, Massachusetts, who in 1826 started a business making wooden chairs and tables in their family shed. As their company grew, they moved into the manufacture of furniture with steam-bent wood frames and cane or wicker seats, backs and sides. In 1897, they joined forces with a local rival, the Wakefield Rattan Company, whose founder, Cyrus Wakefield, got his start on the Boston docks buying up lots of discarded rattan, which was used as cushioning material in the holds of cargo ships, and transforming it into furnishings. The conglomerate initially did well with both early American style and woven pieces, but taste began to change at the turn of the 20th century and wicker furniture fell out of fashion. In 1930, the company brought in designer Gilbert Rohde, a champion of the Art Deco style. Before departing in 1932 to lead the Michigan furniture maker Herman Miller, Rohde created well-received sleek, bentwood chairs for Heywood-Wakefield and gave its colonial pieces a touch of Art Deco flair.


Committed to the new style, Heywood-Wakefield commissioned work from an assortment of like-minded designers, including Alfons Bach, W. Joseph Carr, Leo Jiranek and Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, a Russian nobleman who had made his name in Europe creating elegant automotive body designs. In 1936, the company introduced its “Streamline Modern” group of furnishings, presenting a look that would define the company’s wares for another 30 years. The buoyantly bright, blond wood — maple initially, later birch — came in finishes such as amber “wheat” and pink-tinted “champagne.” The forms of the pieces, at once light and substantial, with softly contoured edges and little adornment beyond artful drawer pulls and knobs, were featured in lines with names such as “Sculptura,” “Crescendo” and “Coronet.” It was forward-looking, optimistic and built to last — a draw for middle-class buyers in the Baby Boom years. 


By the 1960s, Heywood-Wakefield began to be seen as “your parents’ furniture.” The last of the Modern line came out in 1966; the company went bankrupt in 1981. The truly sturdy pieces have weathered the intervening years well, having found a new audience for their blithe and happy sophistication.


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Heywood Wakefield Full Size Headboard
By Heywood-Wakefield Co.
Located in Philadelphia, PA
Heywood Wakefield solid maple full size headboard. Original Champagne finish. Shows some losses to finish, but overall pretty clean. Sliding wood doors conceal storage space at both ...
Category

1950s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Heywood-Wakefield Co. Furniture

Materials

Maple

Heywood Wakefield Sculptura Vanity
By Heywood-Wakefield Co.
Located in Philadelphia, PA
Category

1950s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Heywood-Wakefield Co. Furniture

Materials

Maple

Heywood Wakefield Sculptura 5-Drawer Dresser
By Heywood-Wakefield Co.
Located in Philadelphia, PA
Category

1950s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Heywood-Wakefield Co. Furniture

Materials

Maple

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