A Willett Ad

I am indebted to Sue Hayes of Dickson, Tennessee, who happened to have saved the April 1957 Better Homes and Gardens, which contained an ad for Willett furniture. Apparently the ad was introducing a new line or collection, called the "Transitional" line. The ad notes that this new line was more contemporary than the other, previously introduced lines. Remember, 1957 was at the height of the move toward Danish modern and blonde furniture using lighter woods and featuring very spare designs almost free of ornamentation. In looking at this ad, it is clear that Willett was trying to move a bit in this direction while still keeping the furniture somewhat traditional--hence the Transitional name for the collection.

The ad makes mention of 4 different cherry lines, the Transitional line was featured, but also the Wildwood, Countryside and Trans-East lines. The Solid Maple in 1957 consisted of two lines, one called Lancaster County (see photos below) and one called Brownleigh. No mention is made of the term Golden Beryl in the ad.

The ad notes the 1957 price for each piece--$159 for the drop leaf table, $185 for the buffet base, $125 for the buffet top, Side chairs for $39.50 and the sofa table/server (far left in photo) $105.

Here are parts of a newspaper ad from Rike's furniture showing Willett pieces.

The following color ad from a 1954 magazine dates the Transitional line to at least as early as 1954 and also illustrates some of the upholstered pieces Willett was making for a time in 1954.

I am starting to figure out the key characteristics of each of the cherry lines. The Wildwood line was famous for the rope (sometimes called spiral) legs and other trim. Door panels in the Wildwood line generally had a single arch, or "cathedral" style panel. The Wildwood line was built for a longer period of time and currently pieces from this line are by far the most widely seen at auctions.

As is evident from the ad, the "Transitional" line featured simple tapered legs though with a curved rather than constant radius taper and no other ornamentation. Another key difference is that the tops of the door panels are straight not curved in any way. And simple round pulls were used on drawers and doors. The corner cupboard in the photo below might have come from the Transitional line as shown in the ad, as the doors and other details closely match the hutch shown in the ad. But there are inconsistencies too. For example, the drawers have the backplated handles rather than round pulls. On the Transitional Hutch, the legs are a simple tapered design, whereas the corner cupboard Has a base molding.

I haven't figured out from what collections each of the two coffee tables pictured below are from. The leg turnings on both appear to be too ornate for the Transitional design that featured the spare tapered legs. If they had been part of the Wildwood collection I would have expected repetition of the rope motif somewhere.The little drop-leaf coffee table in the photo section below has legs of a similar design. They may be from the Marblehead collection (see brochure below).

I am interested in adding photos of Willett furniture and any other documentation of interest to the web site. If you have Willett furniture pieces and would like to see a photo of them posted here, please send an electronic photo to my e-mail address DLDebertin@aol.com. I will also scan paper photos sent by snail mail and return them to you. Please drop me an e-mail if you need my snail mail address to submit a photo.

Lines or Collections

The term "Wildwood" is often seen in connection with Willett cherry furniture. My theory is that in the 30s and 40s, most if not all Willett cherry furniture was called Wildwood. Later, in the 1950s, Wildwood seems to be connected with the particular collection or design that has the rope motif, and other names were used to describe collections with trims and designs that differed from the Rope design. I am starting to piece together the characteristics of the various lines. Some of this I am still guessing at, and any help from visitors is welcomed.