History of Heywood-Wakefield
Jun 21, 2017 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Hard to believe June is upon us, ringing in the mid-point of our year (and for Arizona – ushering in an epic heat wave!). By now most people will have already done their re-decorating, tackling it in Spring when they gave all their possessions a good dusting. For me, June is that time to consider a refresh. I feel like there is something almost poetic about re-evaluating at the fifty yard line. I start my assessment with a quote from William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
With this thought as my guidepost, I now have a couple items I’m on the lookout for but, as you know, it can be tricky to find what you want when you shop vintage. Collecting is definitely an exercise in patience! Yet when you find that perfect piece it completely pays off – the months or years of waiting suddenly slip from your mind. We’ve already talked about unique Lane offerings in-depth; today I want to consider another company known for their timeless designs. Join us as we dive into a brief history of Heywood-Wakefield.
The story of Heywood-Wakefield begins with a merger. In 1897 two independently successful (and highly competitive) firms joined to make Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company. By 1921 they shortened it to the name we recognize today. (Considering that they had been fiercely battling over the wicker and rattan market, I wonder if there were any boardroom fights over which name came first on the logo…)
Trying to understand the value of your Heywood-Wakefield piece? Check out this article here.
For the first few decades of the newly-merged company’s existence they kept with their original formula – pumping out wicker and rattan pieces that found their design influence in Japanese motifs and the Aesthetic movement. While they started to streamline their designs during the Arts & Crafts movement, the company was struggling a bit to define its new look. That all changed starting in the 1920s with the hiring of innovative designers such as Paul Frankl, Russel Wright, Gilbert Rohde, and Donald Deskey. This gamble to invest in cutting-edge design paid off. Soon these new Art Deco-inspired designs found an eager audience and Heywood-Wakefield developed a legendary following.
This love affair with Heywood-Wakefield grew with their displays at the 1933 Century of Progress exhibition and the 1964 World’s Fair. Just as the Lane hope chest became the quintessential gift for a sweetheart, Heywood-Wakefield furniture became the thing for a newlywed’s home. The use of solid wood and focus on quality craftsmanship made these more than just tables and chairs – they were investments in the American dream. Graceful lines and simple curves, when combined with pale blond finishes, defined the look of the mid-century home.
How do you identify vintage Heywood-Wakefield? Usually you think labels. However the famous eagle logo didn’t come into use until 1949 and paper labels were used up until that point. Unsurprisingly, these labels may not have survived the years. Don’t let the lack of a label concern you. More precise clues are found in the wood species, stain, type of screw, and pencil markings inside of drawers. A complete description of each clue is found here.
Achieving icon status is not an easy thing to sustain, and like most vintage brands, Heywood-Wakefield eventually fell out of favor. But the good stuff comes back and today’s market for Heywood-Wakefield vintage pieces is strong. You can’t beat good quality and thoughtful design. Tell me dear readers, as you look for pieces that are beautiful and useful, will Heywood-Wakefield make your shopping list?