Heywood-Wakefield solid wood furniture captures Mid-Century style with antecedents in Moderne and Art Deco design. Although the roots of the aesthetic reach back to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the pieces themselves possess a decidedly contemporary look and feel. Heywood-Wakefield’s streamlined styles exhibit a strong retro look that works well with many design concepts, without looking dated or antique.
The following essay by Cary Reich describes how Heywood-Wakefield furnishings add overall continuity to her family’s home.
My heart was pounding as I drove up the mile-long, tree-lined driveway, rounded the bend and saw the house for the first time. We knew nothing about mid-century modern architecture, but we did know that this unique house and its location were amazing and just what we wanted when my husband, Scott, and I were searching for our first home. Built on a hilltop just two miles north of Madison, Wisconsin, the house was surrounded by 38 acres and came with a view of the beautiful Wisconsin state capitol building and Lake Mendota. We bought the house in 1989 from the original owners and builders and, at closing they gave us the house plans.
We learned that our house was built from a plan published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I went to the public library and was excited to find our plan in the March 1958 issue. Better Homes and Gardens had a monthly feature called Five Star Homes that ran from at least the 1940s until the 1960s. One house, in a range of styles designed by America’s foremost architects, was featured each month in a three-page article. Interested readers could purchase house plans with detailed working drawings, material specifications and a cost-finding list of materials.
Our home, completed in 1960, was based on Better Homes’ Five Star Home #2803. The original home featured in the magazine was designed by Louis Huebner, A.I.A. of Evanston, Illinois, and built in Highland Park, less than ten miles from Huebner’s office (about 150 miles from Madison). Our home has slight changes from the Better Homes’ plans to take advantage of the site’s southern exposure and reduce costs.
The design is based on several elements of International Style architecture – the rectilinear, open floor plan and flat roof, and the floor-to-ceiling windows and doors are my favorite features. A screen porch, interesting (and hard to duplicate) rounded plaster wall corners and window edges, baseboard heat and sand-colored brick accent walls and fireplace are some of its other features.
We’ve made some minor updates over the years. In the kitchen, we removed a broken in-counter mixer motor and replaced the worn yellow and green laminate countertop with Formica’s Boomerang pattern. The original built-in refrigerator (no freezer) finally failed with no hope for repair, and we replaced it along with the built-in stove and cook-top. We particularly like our spindle-legged kitchen cabinets, which are designed to accommodate floorboard heat registers. But they were difficult to work around when we replaced the brown linoleum on the kitchen floor with a commercial design vinyl.
When we removed the 1960 vintage wallto- wall carpeting in the living room, we found beautiful oak flooring underneath. We had the floors refinished and covered them with accent rugs. Once the floors were completed, I covered the wood paneled areas (including a well-defined “shadow” left by a starburst clock) with textured wallpaper to decrease the "woodiness” of the room.
We have added on to two areas of the house, taking care to maintain the look and feel of the original home design as much as possible. We added a dining room and entry area in 1994 and a master bedroom suite in 2006 to increase the ground-level square footage from 1,300 to 2,100. During the first addition, the original tar and pea-gravel roof was replaced with a membrane system, and we added a skylight to the newly internalized kitchen. During the second addition, all of the home’s 50-year-old, custom-designed picture windows were also replaced.
Everything about the house is custommade. No matter what we do, from repairing the smallest appliance to the largest remodel, the contractor always says, “I’ve never seen anything like this before!" And, of course, it always adds to the cost of the project. Finding nearly 8-foot-tall by 3-foot-wide doors that won’t warp in Wisconsin’s extreme temperatures has been very difficult.
Our first Heywood Wakefield furniture purchase was a dining room table and chairs we happened upon at a Milwaukee antique center in the early 1990s. Since learning about the design and functionality of the furniture, we’ve furnished the entire home with vintage pieces and a few new or custom-made pieces. We like the clean lines and light appearance of the birch furniture, most of which is from Heywood Wakefield’s “Encore” line.
The last time the property was farmed was in 1958, just before the house was built, and since then, the land has grown into a jumble of prairie plants, trees and non-native brush. Ten years ago, when we needed to replace our septic system, we planted the installation area to tallgrass prairie. We are working hard to expand the prairie to 10-15 acres via a combination of controlled burning, physical clearing and seed dispersal.
The plants and flowers, birds, deer and other wildlife we see every day are special to us, and we look forward to many more years of country living in our Five Star Home, enjoying its wide landscape views and unique, midcentury design.
Complete a questionnaire to receive a complimentary 1-year subscription to Surface & Panel, the only magazine focused exclusively on the design, manufacture and marketing of panel-based furniture and casegoods.
fill out the questionnaire