Heywood-Wakefield furniture

Broyhill Premier Saga Desk Meets Heywood-Wakefield Chair

Our son Michael found this elusive Broyhill Premier Saga desk on Craigslist and dispatched David and me to buy it. I love the way it curves in the front.

Broyhill Premier gave this description of its Saga Collection:

Mad for modern? Have your heart’s desire with SAGA by Broyhill Premier. . . SAGA is a fresh twist to the Scandinavian furniture story . . . vigorous in design and striking in simplicity. Skillfully proportioned for today’s room sizes in warm, beautifully grained Walnut.

Broyhill Premier Saga Desk

In 1957, to provide sophistication, style, and quality to their growing customer base, Broyhill Furniture established its Broyhill Premier line at the old Lenoir Chair Company plant in North Carolina. They added a sales force and a quality control program. And then they developed ad campaigns.

I found an example of one of their campaigns from 1960, when Broyhill Premier and Air France cosponsored an Abroad at Home contest. How sophisticated.

Broyhill Premier and Air France AdThe rules were simple:

Join in the fun . . . enter the “Abroad at Home” contest!

THREE FIRST PRIZES . . . 14 EXCITING DAYS FOR TWO TO PARIS, ROME OR SCANDINAVIA

Think of it . . . winging your way luxuriously across the Atlantic aboard a new AIR FRANCE Boeing 707 jet . . . off on a European holiday with all of your expenses taken care of by Broyhill Premier.

Here’s how it can be you . . . living it up for 12 wonderful days in your choice of Paris, Rome or Scandinavia.

First . . . visit your local franchised Broyhill Premier furniture dealer or AIR FRANCE ticket office for an official “Abroad AT Home” Contest entry form. A quick call to Western Union Operator 25 will give you the name of your nearest Broyhill Premier dealer.

Now . . . choose where you want most to visit . . . Paris, Rome or Scandinavia. Then, finish in 50 words or less this sentence:

“I would like to take my husband (or wife) to (Paris)(Rome)(Scandinavia) because. . .”

Let’s pause a moment in the excitement of this contest to study a full-page advertisement for the Saga collection and read its thrilling caption:

Broyhill Premier Saga Ad
Framed amid windswept crags and fjords, Saga adds a new chapter to the century-long story of fresh and vigorous Scandinavian design. See the beauties of Scandinavia for yourself as a winner in the “Abroad At Home” Contest. But, first, see the new Saga collection at your Broyhill Premier dealer’s . . . forty pieces sculptured in hand-rubbed walnut . . . priced from $39.95.

Now, on to the remaining rules:

Then mail, with your name and address to:
“Abroad At Home” Contest
Box 33-B, Mt. Vernon 10, New York

Your entry must be postmarked no later than midnight, September 15, 1960 and becomes the property of Broyhill Furniture Factories. Winners will be notified by mail on October 15, 1960 with the judges’ decision accepted as final.

Three first prizes will be awarded . . . one for each of the three new Broyhill Premier furniture collections. For TRIANON, 14 days for two to Paris. For INVITATION CLASSIC, 14 days for two to Rome. And for SAGA, 14 days for two to Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo. With all expenses paid.

As a winner . . .you will fly from your home to New York on one of the country’s leading scheduled airlines. From New York, you will fly to your destination in Europe, Economy Class, aboard a new AIR FRANCE jet. And l’economique est tres chic when you fly on the world’s largest airline.

At your destination, you will be transferred to your hotel, first class of course. There you will partake of everything for which your favorite city is so famous. You will go sightseeing, dine in the finest restaurants, dance at the top nightclubs, have ample time to explore on your own and for shipping. All of your expenses, with the exception of those of a personal nature will be paid for . . . every arrangement taken care of by experienced travel personnel.

This is such a magical contest; I love the linking of international travel with furniture. But let’s head back to our Iris Abbey escapades.

David cleaned up the Premier Saga desk and Michael hunted for a chair. First, David filled the chipped veneer on the left side of the desk top with Timber Mate Wood-filler Walnut. He then used Watco Danish Oil Medium Walnut to bring back the rich depth of the original Broyhill finish.

Michael came up with a chair that looked a close match. Heywood-Wakefield manufactured this dining chair in 1954-55 in two finishes, Champagne and Wheat. This chair is Wheat. While not the exact shade of the Broyhill Saga Premier Saga Desk, the Heywood-Wakefield M 953 chair is just a few tones away and makes an elegant pairing. It has a bow tie back, which seems perfect for the gentle curve in the desk.

The fabric, however, looked a bit sad. We pulled some vintage fabric and gave this girl a facelift. Here’s her Before shot:

Heywood-Wakefield Dining Chair

And After:

Heywood-Wakefield chair recovered

We’re selling the desk and chair as a set in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. The combination of these two utilitarian pieces, from quintessential American manufacturers of MCM furniture, creates a unique pairing: a Broyhill Premier Saga Desk and a Heywood-Wakefield M 953 Bow Tie Chair.

The serendipitous mating of these pieces embodies the best of American furniture manufacturers’ foray into Danish design that resulted in what we call Mid-Century Modern furniture. Styling, simple elegance of line, and solid wood. No particle board.

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Ann Marie and David

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Heywood-Wakefield Furniture: Early MCM

Heywood-Wakefield’s modern furniture emerged in the 1930s, but the company enjoyed a long, conservative history prior to that. Early popular pieces included wicker and rattan in the 19th century, and colonial style in the early 1920s. They debuted their modern line at Chicago’s Century of Progress in 1933-34.

I still need to unravel whether these furniture pieces are examples of that first style, but let’s move on because I have other news to share.

Personal Invitation

Through classified channels I learned of a 78 year-old woman desiring to sell her parents’ furniture. Lloyd Manufacturing Co. of Michigan, a division of Heywood-Wakefield, made the pieces in the 1930’s. More information via internet searches, however, was in short supply.

I emailed her and asked if David and I could take a look. She sent these photos in her email:

Lloyd Manufacturing Co Division of Heywood Wakefield Lloyd Manufacturing Co Division of Heywood-Wakefield Lloyd Manufacturing Heywood-Wakefield

Pictures can deceive, but this furniture looked good on my computer monitor. Heywood-Wakefield is famous for simple, aerodynamic lines in its modern designs. Dedicated workers steamed the wood and bent it, drawing out its sleek curves.

Arriving at the Seller’s location that afternoon, we crawled over the pieces looking for tags. Nothing. It seems Grandma, the Seller’s mother, decided to remove them somewhere along the way. But look . . . the green rocker is blue and has kind-of-a-matching foot stool. Sometime in the 1970s or 1980s the furniture was reupholstered, while retaining the original springs and horsehair.

Lloyd Manufacturing Co. Division of Heywood Wakefield

Bumpy Negotiation

This is sturdy furniture. We offered what we believed a fair price and the Seller’s face fell. I knew a lifetime of sentiment filled that furniture. She thanked us for our interest but another party would look at the pieces on Saturday. Or perhaps she’d put the set on Craigslist. She’d let me know.

A swing and a miss. We drove home in silence but I felt good about what we had done: we went, looked, and made a honest offer. As for the Seller, I couldn’t fault her. She wanted the best deal for these precious pieces.

A few days later — and long after we had given up hope — she sent an email asking me to increase my offer by a specific amount. Were we back in the game? Yes, everything could be ours if we gave more money. But we couldn’t match her new price. I emailed a counter offer. And . . . nothing for a few more days. Maybe this wasn’t meant to be.

Out of the blue the Seller phoned me. She never received my email reply. I repeated our offer but before I could finish my sentence she blurted, “Sold!”

Romantic History

I love learning the history of beautiful old pieces, and we have a good story here.

The Seller’s parents, as newlyweds in 1933, lived in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. A friend’s furniture store stood just down the street. One day Mother caught sight of this freshly arrived set of modern furniture. Enchantment pulled her closer. When her husband came home from work later that afternoon, Mother gushed to him about this magical apparition. Dad didn’t say anything.

The next day Mother, in the back of the house, heard noises out front. She opened the door to encounter furniture delivery men unloading her new living room set. Her husband made a huge, romantic gesture for their first anniversary.

The furniture stayed with the family all these decades. Actually, it has resided in the granddaughter’s home for the last several years, ever since Grandma’s death. As Buyers, we understood the emotional connection with the pieces. I don’t know how the Seller selected us, but they entrusted a part of their family it into our care.

Take a look at this side table lying on its side. The base gently flares out from the curved sides. It’s beautiful.

Lloyd Manufacturing Co. Division of Heywood Wakefield

Lloyd Manufacturing Co. Division of Heywood Wakefield

Approaching Storm

Rain pounded our SUV in the darkness as David and Michael headed for the Seller’s house. We’re talking the kind of rain where you can’t see beyond the end of your hood. David rented a U-Haul trailer that afternoon. It’s unwieldy, but with everything in motion there was no turning back.

Our son warned us about the weather, but we wrote it off as his usual doom and gloom. I believe optimism gives each day its buoyancy.

As the men debated scrubbing the pickup because of a heavy downpour in our area, David phoned our contact. The cheerful Seller claimed fair weather in her neighborhood. Encouraged, I dispatched the guys. But the storm followed them. Four inches fell in a 24-hour span of time.

Soggy Retrieval

David had trouble backing the trailer into the Seller’s driveway. The narrow street, the darkness of night, and the blinding rain all proved troublesome.

The Seller’s husband volunteered — he had years of experience! Once again, failure. David resumed his trailer-backing efforts and managed to get it onto driveway, just nowhere near the garage. Several abortive attempts later, the men unhooked the trailer and physically rolled it into the garage.

I should mention David’s injury. Nothing serious, but a bandage covered a deep cut on his index finger. In the driveway, his rain-soaked bandage slid off.

David and Michael, soaking wet, gratefully accepted towels from the Seller. Amid the general chatter about the furniture, the Seller’s daughter wept at losing her Grandmother’s furniture. Totally understandable.

Time to load the trailer. But David’s simple motion of reaching out to grab a cushion opened his wound. Blood spurted. “THE FURNITURE!” people shrieked. He bled on the living room floor, through the hallway and into the kitchen, where heroic efforts stopped the blood with gauze and blue painter’s tape. (No pictures this time.)

And still David tried to help because this was heavy furniture. Repeatedly, people stopped him and loaded the pieces as he dejectedly looked on. But let’s look at this gorgeous chair:

Lloyd Manufacturing Co. Division of Heywood Wakefield

Lloyd Manufacturing Co. Division of Heywood Wakefield

With the furniture loaded, David and Michael headed home through the downpour.

Heywood-Wakefield in the Sun

The rain stopped two days later, and we arranged the furniture on our front lawn for a photo session. David concentrated on taking photos of the sweeping contours from a variety of angles and we wound up with an inordinate number of pictures. Check out the aged wood — either birch or maple. It takes on a warm, golden honey patina.

Lloyd Manufacturing Co. Division of Heywood Wakefield

Heidi, our most reclusive kitty, even came out to admire the furniture:
Lloyd Manufacturing Co. Division of Heywood-Wakefield

What Experts Say

Twenty years ago Mary Daniels wrote about the booming interest in Mid-Century Modern in the Chicago Tribune. She interviewed Dave Vogel, co-owner of Atomic Interiors, Madison, Wisconsin, about Heywood-Wakefield furniture:

It’s Modern — but not too much so. ‘The original buyers don’t strike me as the type who were out to make to make a statement,’ says Vogel.

“‘There must have been something in their minds not to buy the brown furniture, but they didn’t want to make the leap to “Buck Rogers” furniture,'” he says, referring to Herman Miller and even more extreme designs in wire and steel and fiberboard.

“‘These are not the boomerang-shaped tables. This style is more on the safe side, acceptable,’ Vogel adds. ‘It was pretty much “normal” stuff — what the general public would like. That’s why they sold so much of it.'”

Heywood-Wakefield furniture, then, assumes a place on the evolutionary continuum of design. It wasn’t a revolutionary departure from earlier designs — the Bauhaus already preceded it — but forged a trail that would lead to more avant-garde design.

Lloyd Manufacturing Co. Division of Heywood-Wakefield

The original Heywood-Wakefield company went bankrupt in 1984 but, happily, in 1992 South Beach Furniture Company bought its name and style. South Beach Furniture now produces selected Heywood-Wakefield pieces, called “Streamline,” completely in the United States.

The good news is that if you really love Heywood-Wakefield, you have a choice of buying vintage or new. The more I look at these pieces, the more I appreciate the design. Happy hunting.

Interested in learning more about furniture manufacturers? You can find information about White Furniture of Mebane, NC, by clicking Part 1 and Part 2.

Read how we drove through darkness, rain and cold to purchase a Heywood-Wakefield mixed bedroom set.

Ann Marie and David

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