Lloyd Manufacturing Co.

1930s Heywood-Wakefield Living Room Set

1930s Heywood-Wakefield

Romantic Acquisition

A man once posited that time is a flat circle. Against all odds, we rescued the one-of-a-kind 1930s Heywood-Wakefield living room set . . . again.

Two years ago, a woman invited David and me into her home to purchase her mother’s living room set. We wrote about that amazing acquisition here.

1930s Heywood-Wakefield
The seller informed us that her mother, the original owner, insisted it was 1930s Heywood-Wakefield. But the pieces are not listed in the official Hey-Wake bibles, Heywood-Wakefield by Harris Gertz (2001); Heywood-Wakefield Modern Furniture by Steve Rouland & Roger Rouland (1995). Purists disagree with the original owner’s opinion, but more on that below.

The story of our seller’s parents’ acquisition of the set is a touching tale of love, longing and the power of retail therapy:

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. They went window shopping that evening. 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.

Identity Confirmed

Fast forward to last week, as I scrolled through a multitude of estate sales online. Foolishly, I failed to recognize them, but had the presence of mind to show these photos to my son. Michael, who had bonded with the set while it languished in our booth (and whom I suspect schemed to keep them for himself) espied them. “That’s our furniture!” Sure enough, he was right.
Lloyds Mfg Pre Heywood Wakefield

Lloyd's Mfg Pre Heywood-Wakefield

Stewards of History

For the few months we had owned the set, we displayed it in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, along with a statement that we would not break up the set. While we could make far more money selling the pieces individually, we felt an obligation to be good stewards. Maybe there’s a bit of romanticism in all of us.
1930s Heywood-Wakefield

But an unsettlingly undercurrent vibrated. The furniture spoke to Michael. Should he acquire them at a steep discount for his apartment?

The New Owner

Working at the Antique mall, Michael spent weeks eyeing the set. He claims the day he decided to keep the pieces, a woman strolled in and enthusiastically bought them. The next day she returned with a friend. They bought two glasses of wine at the in-house cafe, wandered over to our booth, sat on the new furniture, and toasted good fortune. Sorry, Michael.

Estate Sale Heartbreak . . .

Back to last week: After Michael confirmed the set’s identity I checked the details of the estate sale company selling it. A sign-up sheet would go up at 4 pm the day before the sale. David and I showed up ahead of time. A neighbor assured us the new owner loved her 1930s Heywood-Wakefield set, now in the sunroom. But she had moved and couldn’t take all her furniture with her.

At four o’clock I knocked on the door. The estate sale rep wrote our names on line #1. We’d return for the 9 am opening. That night we discussed our budget, knowing how much we spent the last time and how much the set sold for.

The next morning, the first to cross the threshold, we zoomed to the sunroom. We absolutely didn’t want to see the pieces priced individually. That scenario would drive a stake through our hearts because we took such care to ensure that the collection stayed together.

On the drive over, David told me of his dream the previous night. In mute horror, he walked into a room and saw the pieces priced individually. Buyers surged past, indifferent hands grabbing them piecemeal. In his dream he cried out in anguish.
Heywood-Wakefield Heywood-Wakefield
Sadly, our worst fears were confirmed. Each piece sported a price tag. The total price  exceeded our budget. Sure, they’d be discounted by 30% on Day 2, and a whopping 50% on Day 3. But we knew they wouldn’t remain a complete set very long.

We approached the estate sale rep and offered our story, explaining how hard we tried to keep the set together. Then David had an inspired thought. Could the rep telephone the owner and explain that the people she bought the set from wanted to buy it back? And we made an offer — it was a very long shot. We would hear the answer later in the day.

. . . and Joy

She agreed!

Once David and Michael loaded the set in our trailer, I asked if we should drop it off at our booth immediately.

Silence.

Michael regards this as an intervention. What are the odds that we’d acquire this set — twice? Maybe this time he will keep it.

1930s Heywood-Wakefield or Lloyd?

When I researched the furniture two years ago, I noted that the Lloyd Manufacturing Company of Michigan, acquired by Heywood-Wakefield in 1921, made the set.

Here’s what we know:

  • In the 1920s Heywood-Wakefield was known as the country’s largest chair manufacturer and baby carriage builder.
  • Toward the end of the decade, Hey-Wake wanted and needed to diversify. Well made, affordable, mass-produced furniture seemed a good bet.
  • Heywood-Wakefield hired Gilbert Rohde and assigned the task of designing a modern line. Hey-Wake introduced Rohde Contemporary Furniture in 1931. The set below looks like a precursor to the more recognizable Heywood-Wakefield furniture.
Heywood-Wakefield Gilbert Rohde
“A group of Gilbert Rohde’s designs for Heywood-Wakefield in 1931”, Heywood-Wakefield Modern Furniture by Steve Rouland & Roger Rouland, 1995, p. 19.
  • Heywood-Wakefield debuted their modern line at Chicago’s Century of Progress in 1933-34
  • The 2 Heywood-Wakefield bibles, mentioned above, both identify the solid blond maple and birch furniture manufactured from 1936 to 1966.

Conclusion

That means there’s a gap in identifying 1930s Heywood-Wakefield furniture produced during 1931 and 1936. Could this set come from that period? After all my effort, I’m going to vote yes.

As for Michael winding up with the set, well, check back soon and see what happens.

Ann Marie and David

For another post on our trip to oblivion to pick up a Heywood-Wakefield bedroom set, now  in storage, go here.

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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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