Before my partner and I bought the Heywood-Wakefield trademark, I had a furniture refinishing business in Miami and a South Beach shop selling vintage mid-century modern items, including Heywood-Wakefield furniture. Over the years, I watched Heywood-Wakefield pieces become increasingly popular.
However, many (if not most) people thought the original Wheat and Champagne finishes were too dark; they wanted the furniture made lighter. So, we developed a process for doing this.
In 1992, when we started releasing new Heywood-Wakefield furniture, we decided this lighter color would be standard, since it was so popular and so few people ever asked us to restore the original colors. We named the new finish Amber and decided against ever reproducing the original finishes (we also had another important reason, but more on that below).
Here’s a bit more about today’s Amber finish that’s used on all new Heywood-Wakefield furniture.
Improved Protection with Heywood-Wakefield Amber Furniture Finish
Vintage Heywood-Wakefield Wheat and Champagne finishes were made from Duralac, a brand name for nitrocellulose lacquer. It was a leading product at the time, but it’s been greatly improved on in the ensuing decades.
Contemporary Heywood-Wakefield furniture’s Amber finish is a catalyzed conversion varnish. Sounds impressive, right? Because it is. It greatly reduces or eliminates many of the problems associated with earlier types of finish.
This newer finish has a much tighter cellular structure, and consequently much greater ability to stand up to the wear and tear that occur with routine daily use. While we still don’t recommend you leave a sweating glass of water or spill a bottle of nail polish remover on the furniture, today’s more advanced finish takes much longer to show signs of damage from these and other mishaps.
The increased damage resistance definitely makes maintenance and cleanup a more effective process. For example, if you try to wipe up a nail polish remover spill from old-fashioned nitrocellulose lacquer, you instantly make the problem worse, turning the lacquer into a softened, gummy mess; with our modern Amber finish, the nail polish remover wipes right up, leaving no evidence of the spill.
You can count on our new Amber finish to protect your investment and keep your Heywood-Wakefield furniture looking brand new.
Matching New and Vintage Heywood-Wakefield Furniture
Besides the popularity of the lighter color and general lack of interest in the darker original finishes, there was another reason we didn’t return to making the Wheat and Champagne finishes.
Finishes on vintage Heywood-Wakefield pieces invariably degraded in different ways over many decades. For example, pieces that had contact with direct sunlight for 60 years would no longer look like those that had spent their lifetime out of direct sunlight. Light, smoke, air conditioning, heat, humidity, daily use, and other environmental factors have major effects on the earlier Duralac finishes.
We were concerned that customers would order new pieces in one of the original finishes expecting them to match their vintage pieces, but that wouldn’t turn out to be the case. We certainly didn’t want to set people up for this sort of disappointment.
The Amber finish offers a great advantage for people who want to combine new Heywood-Wakefield furniture with their vintage pieces. It very closely resembles the look achieved when vintage pieces with Wheat or Champagne finishes are properly stripped and refinished.
I have to stress, though, that it’s so important to have vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture stripped and refinished by a professional. To do it well—preventing damage and achieving the desired look—takes the right tools, techniques, and experience.
If you use a professional, you’ll be delighted with the results. Once the original finish is removed, the wood sanded smooth, and the vintage piece refinished, you’ll have no problem combining it with new-production Heywood-Wakefield items with Amber finish. Just specify that your refinishing professional use amber sealers and amber top coats, rather than the more standard water-white sealers and top coats. Feel free to have your service provider contact us with any questions.
So, don’t be afraid to mix and match new Heywood-Wakefield productions with your vintage pieces!