YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO VINTAGE HEYWOOD-WAKEFIELD FURNITURE
With a roster of golden finishes that would normally warrant an L.A. stylist, Heywood-Wakefield is the textbook definition of a blonde bombshell. Crafted almost exclusively of maple and birch (no veneers here!), vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture has earned something of a cult following in recent decades. And why not? Durable with a capital D, and featuring retro, but not too-daring silhouettes, vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture is the equivalent of dipping into the Mid-Century Modern pool without taking a full-fledged plunge.
While vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture can be found from eras as early as the 1920s, the 1940s and 50s were the undeniable golden years for the brand. During these years, seasoned designers like Russel Wright and Gilbert Rhodes captained the design think-tank; their designs a cool mix of Danish Modern and atomic star power. In terms of collecting, the used Heywood-Wakefield furniture from this era hold the most value, but given the plentitude of Heywood-Wakefield’s catalog, it’s worth noting all of your options before you hit the market.
To help, we’ve broken down some of the basics of vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture. From those many shades of blond, to the brand’s most iconic collections, this is vintage and used Heywood-Wakefield furniture declassified.
VINTAGE HEYWOOD-WAKEFIELD FURNITURE FINISHES
In the 1940s and 50s most vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture was crafted from maple and birch and opted for light finishes that highlighted the wood’s natural gold color rather than obscuring it. The majority of used Heywood-Wakefield furniture you'll find will showcase one of these blond tones, but some (rarer) darker pieces do exist. For the names of the more common, more fair-complexioned colors, see the list below.
Amber – Produced from 1936-1939, A flushed, autumn-like color that leans towards untreated maple
Bleached – Produced from 1936-1939, A fair, brilliant blond tone
Champagne – Produced from 1939-1966, A toast-worthy finish with a blush (let’s call it rosé, shall we?) undertone
Platinum – Produced from 1954-1951, A blond tone awash with gray and beige hues produces a silvery, just-after-the-rain platinum color
Westwood – Produced from 1962-1966, A sweet, almost translucent honey tone
Wheat – Produced from 1937-1966, Just as the name implies, this golden color is an ode to the Heartland’s champion crop
Perhaps the most iconic of all the vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture lines, the Sculptra line was designed by Ernest Herrmann, Leo Jiranek, Frank Parrish and W. Joseph Carr. Recognized for its French Art Deco influences and razor sharp X-bases, the Sculptra line was crafted of birch. Case pieces feature artfully waved drawer fronts (which function as handles), while smaller pieces like nightstands showcase fanned x-bases. But the piece that really makes us weak in the knees? The Sculptra vanity stool. Featuring the line’s signature x-base, this swivel stool is topped with a pinwheel or flower cushion that lends a groovy, peace-out vibe that was before its time. While you can find this stool in other used Heywood-Wakefield furniture collections, we think the Sculptra base is, hands-down, the best iteration.
Working the same Art Deco silhouette as the Sculptra line, but with a bohemian bent we love, the Rio collection evokes the rustic work of Mid-Century Southern American designers like Percival Lafer. The collection’s signature is simple crosshatch emblems (or x’s) which take the place of standard drawer pulls. Although these faux pulls are made of wood, they mimic leather like a champ, making these used Heywood-Wakefield furniture pieces not only perfect for Mid-Century-inspired homes, but those with southwestern or ranch leanings as well. While case pieces are the most common Rio Collection piece to find, the collection did include a bed which was produced from 1943 to 1944. If you have the opportunity to snag one of these used Heywood-Wakefield furniture pieces, congrats, they’re considered one of the rarer finds.
Named for the 186-karat Kohinoor diamond discovered in India in the 13th Century, the Kohinoor line had no intention of being just another furniture collection. Produced from 1949 to 1951, the collection is united by the repetition of a convex square motif that appears on drawer fronts and in many cases, subs for drawer pulls. All of the used Heywood-Wakefield pieces from this line also featured splayed, Danish-style pencil legs. While all of the used Heywood-Wakefield pieces from this line are undeniable gems, our most-loved pieces from this line are the Kohinoor desk and vanity. Both of these used Heywood-Wakefield furniture pieces showcase a curved cabinet portion which is enclosed by a tambour door. To put it lightly, these two pieces are what atomic dreams are made of.
(A BRIEF) HISTORY OF HEYWOOD-WAKEFIELD
To say Heywood-Wakefield’s roots push back a few generations feels like a bit of an understatement, as the company actually dates back to 1826 when five brothers formed a wicker and rattan furniture company known as Heywood Brothers. Elsewhere, in 1855, a grocer known as Cyrus Wakefield entered the reed and rattan market with a company named Wakefield Rattan (worth noting is that “ratan” was the universally accepted spelling until Wakefield purposely decided to shake things up with “rattan.” Now, that’s innovation). The companies were considered rivals until 1897 when they decided to merge, uniting under the name Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company. Although the two companies were now one, it wasn’t actually until 1921 when they moved into a new factory that their name was reduced to simply Heywood-Wakefield.