retro vintage bedIts 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.

vintage desk

M 926-Desk/Vanity

retro living room

Madeline living room set

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…)

DSCN4986fullFurniture is big business. Between 1995 and 2000 trade in furniture worldwide grew by 36 per cent, faster than world merchandise trade as a whole (26.5 per cent), apparel (32 per cent) and footwear (1 per cent). By 2000 it was the largest low-tech sector, with total global trade worth US$57.4 billion, exceeding apparel (US$51 billion) and footwear (US$36.5 billion).In the European Union (EU), extra-intra furniture imports grew by 20 per cent from 1995 to 2000 compared with 17 per cent for total extra-intra EU imports. Furniture has traditionally been a resource and labour-intensive industry that includes both local craft-based firms and large volume producers. Massproducing furniture became a viable manufacturing strategy with the advent of flat-pack or ready-to-assemble designed furniture.

This product innovation paved the way for firms to design, manufacture and ship products in large quantities. Firms that mass-produce flat-pack furniture tend to supply products for the low- to medium-price markets. Solid wood furniture manufacturers have retained important niche market segments primarily for high-end, expensive and design-led products. These specialized products tend to be purchased locally while mass-produced, large-volume products are sold locally and for export. 15 major exporters, six are developing countries (viz. Brazil, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Thailand) and four transition economies (viz. Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovenia).

These 10 countries tend to be large-volume exporters and low-volume importers of furniture (thereby being large net exporters). Industrialized countries on the whole export and import large volumes of furniture with Italy by far the largest net exporter, with Canada, Denmark, Spain and Sweden in third, seventh, tenth and fourteenth places respectively.

The furniture industry is divided into different product groups, each of which has distinct market segments. The Harmonized System of product classification distinguishes four wood product groups, namely office furniture, kitchen furniture, bedroom furniture, and dining/living and shop furniture as well as metal and plastic furniture and furniture parts. These product groupings do not differentiate between craft and mass-produced items or between low- and high-priced market items. Total furniture imports accounted for 1 per cent of all extra-EU imports in 2000 and amounted to US$4,890 million. The wood furniture products (WFP) accounted for the largest share of furniture imports (62 per cent) with extra EU wood furniture imports totalling US$3,038 million in 2000.