Michelle Jennings Wiebe, founder and principal designer of Tampa, Fla. interior design firm Studio M, was selected as one of High Point Market’s Style Spotters, allowing her to get a curated firsthand look at today’s best showrooms at market. Visiting Stanley Furniture was one of Wiebe’s memorable moments in High Point, because Stanley did something revolutionary this year. The company released its Heritage Collection, real midcentury modern furniture from the 1950s and 1960s, painstakingly restored and beautifully showcased for the design community.
In this first blog about the Heritage Collection, Wiebe talks with Randy Wells, vice president of marketing and brand communications at Stanley Furniture, about the process of restoring furniture in this collection, which Wells oversaw from its inception.
Heritage Collection Overview
The Heritage Collection is classically cool because the pieces are not reproductions. Every single item from the 40-piece collection was sourced by a small team of experts at Stanley Furniture and restored to original specifications. These gorgeous midcentury originals were stripped of their finishes, dismantled of hardware, and then dutifully matched to what they looked like when they left the Stanley facility in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
How did you come up with the inspiration for restoring original Stanley Furniture pieces for the “new” Heritage Collection?
I joined the company in March 2012 and, initially, I purchased a couple of pieces as part of the research process for developing our brand’s design language. At the time, we were doing a tremendous amount of work with setting creative direction and new showroom design, and I wanted to be sure that everything we were doing was true to the brand’s roots. Nothing is more important than authenticity in the creative process. After living with those pieces in the office, they grew on us so much that we started digging around for more — and the more we looked, the more great pieces we found. What that said to me is that our furniture was still around not only because it looked great but also because it was very well built. Furniture doesn’t last for 50 or 60 years without being well made and treasured by the people who own it.
Right about that time, we were working on the final stages of the build-out and installation of our Las Vegas showroom. We were out there for weeks on end and that’s when I really got to know and work closely with the people from our finishing, repair and warehousing team in Virginia. This was one of the best times of my career. We were in the midst of what was a fairly complicated project and I was constantly in awe of the incredible talent of the people I was working with. They could literally build, paint and finish just about anything you can think of. The talent we have there is exceptional. And, that’s when the idea really started to take hold.
As a passionate automotive enthusiast, I know that companies like Ferrari have facilities devoted to restoration of their cars, so we figured, why not do it with our furniture? A treasure is a treasure and, if companies like Ferrari, Louis Vuitton and Vacheron Constantin can do, it makes sense for Stanley. We felt that it would be a terrific way to tell a story about the honest-to-goodness value of buying furniture from a company that has a 90-year history of investing in authentic design and superior craftsmanship. Moreover, we loved the idea of creating the opportunity for a select few to own pieces of perfectly restored Stanley Furniture history that is ready for another half century.
Where did you find the original furniture pieces to dismantle and restore?
We did a bunch of research and spent a lot of nights and weekends on eBay and Etsy and scouring the Internet. [Stanley Furniture Marketing Manager] Cameron Lindsay spent a ton of time on Craigslist and combing newspaper classifieds. We spoke to and met some terrific people in the vintage furniture world. They welcomed us with open arms, and we found a lot of the product through their efforts. A project like this takes passion and persistence, and we had a lot of help from some terrific people all over the country.
Chest in Dove Gray finish with Alpine White Accents (1950–55)
Danish China Cabinet in clear lacquer finish (1950–55)
Spade Handle Dresser and Chest in dark walnut finish with Alpine White Accents (1950–55)
Arm Chair in Tomato Red finish covered in Schumacher’s “Crosstown Weave” fabric in navy from the Mix’N Match Collection (1958–62)
Triple Dresser in Alpine White finish from the Finnline Collection (1960–64)
Triple Dresser in clear lacquer finish from the American Forum Collection (1961–65)
Arm Sectional in light walnut finish covered Schumacher’s “Luberon Plaid” in indigo from the 1005 Occasional Chairs Collection (1962–66)
Credenza in clear lacquer finish from the American Crown Collection (1965–69)
Spindle Back Lounge Chair in Alpine White finish covered in Schumacher’s “Crosstown Weave” in navy (1966–68)
Spindle Back Lounge Chair in Stanley Blue finish covered in Schumacher’s “Crosstown Weave” in navy (1966–68)