by Dr. Lori Verderame
The Heywood Wakefield Company is an American furniture manufacturer established in 1897. The Heywood company was first established in 1826 by the Heywood brothers and the Wakefield company was founded in 1855. Both companies–rivals in their industry–produced wicker furniture and rattan furniture for residential and commercial clients. In 1897, the companies merged to become Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Company. In 1921, the name was changed to Heywood-Wakefield Company as we know it today. The firm went on to buy out the following firms: Washburn Heywood Chair Company, Oregon Chair Company, and Lloyd Manufacturing Company. Quickly Heywood Wakefield became the leader in modern furniture of the early 1900s.
Heywood Wakefield’s wooden furniture was produced in its factory in Gardner, MA from its beginnings until 1979. The firm opened another plant in Michigan where other pieces were manufactured. While early Heywood Wakefield designs were based on the late 19th Century and early 20th Century Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts movements, the firm always remained dedicated to the use of natural materials, simple designs based on nature’s forms, and contemporary construction methods. Early Heywood Wakefield chairs, chaise lounges, and sofas were made of rattan or wicker and highlighted bamboo forms and intricate weaving styles. Often upholsted pillows and mats were added to these furniture pieces for comfort. By the 1920s, Heywood Wakefield’s lead designers, Paul Frankl and Donald Deskey, were introducing pieces based on the French and American Art Deco and Art Moderne movements which would come of age and grow in popularity during the 1920s to the 1960s.
These quintessential Heywood Wakefield pieces became known as the California style of furniture in the 1940s to the 1960s. Heywood Wakefield was the choice for comfortable, good looking, modern furniture. This style of mid century modern chairs and furniture became popular with young families and particularly, with teens. Some of the early motifs of Heywood Wakefield furniture like criss-cross stretcher support bars or bamboo designs would appear in the modern style furniture pieces, too.
Unlike Duncan Phyfe furniture or Eastlake furniture styles which have their own collecting following in the antiques market, Heywood Wakefield furniture from the circa 1930s to the 1970s is popular and valuable with today’s collectors of modern and mid century modern furniture internationally. Dining tables, sofa tables, desks, storage cabinets, tea carts, chairs, dressers, and many other styles and forms of Heywood Wakefield furniture command very high prices on the vintage furniture and mid century modern market alike.
What to Look For
The firm began producing some of today’s most recognizable pieces like the double drop leaf Butterfly dining table with wishbone legs, hidden seat gossip table which is virtually a chair and desk in one, and tambour cabinets with roll away doors. Heywood Wakefield used a recognizable mark on its furniture typically found on the side of the interior of a drawer or on the back or underside of other types of furniture like dining tables or tea carts. The organic forms and curved lines of Heywood Wakefield furniture is consistent with the trends of the mid 1900s which appeal to the style of Scandinavian design. Heywood Wakefield furniture features designs similar to those made famous in Scandinavia during the post war period and typically focuses on light colored or blond woods in stains called champagne, wheat, or blonde. Heywood Wakefield furniture typically has molded wooden handles as opposed to applied hardware, curved wooden drawers, doors, and panels. Chairs, both side chairs and arm chairs, may or may not host upholstery pads or mats but mid 20th Century modern era Heywood Wakefield seating furniture typically highlight organic forms on the back splat like rounds, ovals, kidney beans, and other natural shapes.Values for Heywood Wakefield furniture pieces regularly reach into the five and six figures internationally.
Get an online appraisal of your Heywood Wakefield furniture pieces from Dr. Lori.