Its no secret that Heywood-Wakefield is a well-known and well-loved line of vintage furniture among us retro folk — and for good reason. The line epitomizes the streamline modern style and coordinates with a variety of vintage and modern furniture styles. Add to that the solid wood construction and the warm glow of the finish, and it is easy to see why Heywood-Wakefield is so popular. And good news — Heywood-Wakefield is still being made today. We recently connected with Leonard Riforgiato, who, with his partner, bought the rights to the Heywood-Wakefield name in 1991 and revived production of the brand. Together they began recreating some of the hardest-to-find vintage styles. These include their best sellers, queen- and king-sized beds.
To learn more about the line of Heywood-Wakefield furniture made today, we asked Leonard to answer a few questions and provide us with more information about the revived Heywood-Wakefield company and how he got into the furniture business:
How did you get into the Heywood-Wakefield furniture business?
I started in 1984 doing a booth at Art Deco Weekend in Miami Beach, selling whatever 1950s and mid-century stuff I could find to the public and to antiques dealers as a “picker.” At that time, the South Beach Art Deco District was in its infancy; rents were dirt cheap, so I opened a store.
I soon noticed that any time I had Heywood-Wakefield furniture (which I had just found out about) it would sell fast, so I started specializing in it. Within a few years so did a lot of other people, and it became difficult to find reliable sources. When Gloria Estefan’s people came in one day and wanted 150 of the “dog bone” chairs for a restaurant, and I had three, I knew it was time for us to start manufacturing the stuff.
So my partner and I bought the name and trademark and intellectual property rights to the brand from the Bankruptcy court in New York and began the quest to find people who could build it today. By cute coincidence, the actual transfer became official on my birthday in 1991. It’s also very interesting to note that my partner is Andrew Capitman, the son of Barbara Capitman, who is credited with almost single-handedly saving the Art Deco District buildings from destruction beginning in the 1970s when she founded MDPL – the Miami Design Preservation League.
With so many vintage styles of Heywood-Wakefield furniture in the vintage resale market (since the furniture is so popular), how do you choose which styles to begin making again?
Originally, I picked the ones that were the most popular, but over time, I concentrated more on what I thought people might consider useful, and may not be able to get shopping for vintage. For instance, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that our fastest-selling product is queen- and king-sized beds. These didn’t exist the the ’40s and ’50s.
I also try to pick things that I can produce and sell at a price lower than the vintage. Our M 926 Desk/Vanity is a great example: a vintage one will set you back over $3000.00. Ours is $1795.00 at retail. (more…)