We didn’t know with certainty that Michael had found a Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set on Craigslist. Even when David and I examined it, we suspected but couldn’t confirm that Heywood-Wakefield manufactured it. No labels or logos — except for the refinisher.
And the wood didn’t have an authentic Heywood-Wakefield finish:
We bought the set from a television production assistant who acquires props for television shows. Is that cool or what? I don’t know where or if this set appeared on TV, but we found it sitting in his garage. We toted off the vanity, chest, nightstand, headboard and footboard. And a vanity seat that doesn’t match.
When we arrived home, David pulled out his Heywood-Wakefield books and verified the heritage. The original pieces came in Champagne or Wheat finishes but our refinished bedroom set appears to sport a medium-to-dark walnut finish. However, there are areas where the original birch’s golden hue bleeds through the darker walnut color.
Heywood-Wakefield Miami Bedroom Set
Heywood-Wakefield manufactured the Miami bedroom collection for a very short period, between 1941-42, as part of their Streamline Modern furniture line. This popular series became notable for the curved front design.
The Niagara collection, which we do not posses, shows an more extreme example of the bowed front and curved drawers, achieved by steaming and bending solid wood. Leo Jiranek designed both the Niagara and Miami collections.
Jiranek’s Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set presents a boxier shape than the curvy, sexy Niagara. Yet the gently curved edges convey graceful lines, pleasing proportions, and high utility.
This next photo shows a Miami vanity with an original finish. The matching seat is authentic Heywood-Wakefield. Alas, we own neither this vanity nor stool. I want that stool. Our vanity matches the vanity shape but has a darker brown color. Isn’t that mirror fabulous? Bakelite clips hold the mirror in place.
David’s Woodworking Heroics
In generally good condition, the Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set still needed work. David conducted an inventory of what he had to do. Our next blog post will detail how he improved the worn finish and sticky drawers.
- Remove random paint splotches — a cautionary tale to those who paint near furniture.
2. Remove top surface paint and blend scratches.
3. Sand all the drawer interiors to remove crud. Here’s an aerial view of the bottom of the nightstand’s top drawer. We’re looking at cigarette burns and unknown spills.
To repeat, David sanded all the drawers. This next photo shows the nightstand’s bottom drawer space. Did a family of dirty pixies live in there? Anyway, once David finished his sanding, I applied shellac.
4. Adjust drawers for smooth sliding.
David staged this photo of the full/queen bed frame on the front lawn right after he finished it,
and the nightstand with the lower drawer that drops down. That bottom drawer, once filthy and inhabited by pixies, reveals a much improved interior:
David and Michael moved the Heywood-Wakefield Miami bedroom set — the chest, vanity, full/queen bed frame, and nightstand — into our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
Heywood-Wakefield and WWII
The U.S. entrance into World War II in 1941 reshaped Heywood-Wakefield’s production and ended the Miami line. In 1943 the company published a brochure to explain its wartime effort of “a grim, strange cargo” at the expense of “complete and harmoniously designed furniture packages,” Source for this and following quotes, p. 29.
Taking a patriotic stance, Heywood-Wakefield explained their conversion to their customers: “like ourselves . . . [our customers] wish we could serve them better; but they prefer that Heywood-Wakefield ‘serve our country best.'”
Instead of furniture, their Gardner, MA, factory shifted into producing bomb nose fuzes, ack-ack projectiles, gun stocks, saw and pickaxe handles, and barracks chairs. Ready Room chairs, a combo of Heywood-Wakefield’s reclining bus seat, a school room writing desk, and a personal locker, were churned out for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Practice shells helped train soldiers on five-inch guns, and field hospital stretchers carried the wounded.
With steel tubing unavailable for beds, Heywood-Wakefield converted its bentwood into ambulance beds. Their brochure states:
Yes, we can make wood ambulance beds in a furniture factory with comparative ease . . . but, please God, grant that we or any other manufacturer may be called upon to produce as few as possible for our boys and those of our allies. p. 30.
Leo “Jerry” Jiranek
A quick word about the designer, Princeton-educated Jerry Jiranek. He began his association with Heywood-Wakefield around 1935 as a freelancer. For 67 years he designed for companies Bassett, Broyhill, Ethan Allen, Heywood-Wakefield, Garrison, Kroehler, Lane, Thomasville, Along the way he acquired the title “Dean of Furniture Designers.” In the mid-1960s he established the Jiranek School of Furniture Design and Technology in NYC to educate people in the furniture industry.
Heywood-Wakefield — A Timeless Love
A woman visited our booth today, looked at the set, and said, “That’s Heywood-Wakefield, isn’t it?” As a young college graduate many years earlier, she had fallen in love with the design. She’s now a grandmother getting ready to downsize, but she still loves Heywood-Wakefield. Always beautiful, always timeless.
Come back for our next post to see how David worked his magic.
Ann Marie and David
Read details on how David repaired this bedroom set.
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