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Edward Wormley Furniture

Edward Wormley (USA, 1907-1995)

As the longtime director of design for the Dunbar furniture company, Edward Wormley was, along with such peers as George Nelson at Herman Miller Inc., and Florence Knoll of Knoll Inc., one of the leading forces in bringing modern design into American homes in the mid 20th century. Not an axiomatic modernist, Wormley deeply appreciated traditional design, and consequently his work has an understated warmth and a timeless quality that sets it apart from other furnishings of the era.

     Wormley was born in rural Illinois and as a teenager took correspondence courses from the New York School of Interior Design. He later attended the Art Institute of Chicago but ran out of money for tuition before he could graduate. Marshall Field hired Wormley in 1930 to design a line of reproduction 18th-century English furniture; the following year he was hired by the Indiana-based Dunbar, where he quickly distinguished himself. It was a good match. Dunbar was an unusual firm: it did not use automated production systems; its pieces were mostly hand-constructed. For his part, Wormley did not use metal as a major component of furniture; he liked craft elements such as caned seatbacks, tambour drawers, or the woven-wood cabinet fronts seen on his Model 5666 sideboard of 1956. He designed two lines for Dunbar each year — one traditional, one modern — until 1944, by which time the contemporary pieces had become the clear best sellers.

     Many of Wormley’s signature pieces are modern interpretations of traditional forms. His 1946 Riemerschmid Chair —an example is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art — recapitulates a late 19th-century German design. The long, slender finials of his Model 5580 dining chairs are based on those of Louis XVI chairs; his Listen-to-Me Chaise (1948) has a gentle Rococo curve; the “Precedent” line that Wormley designed for Drexel Furniture in 1947 is a simplified, pared-down take on muscular Georgian furniture. But he could invent new forms, as his Magazine Table of 1953, with its bent wood pockets, and his tiered Magazine Tree (1947), both show. And Wormley kept his eye on design currents, creating a series of tables with tops that incorporate tiles and roundels by the great modern ceramicists Otto and Gertrud Natzler. As the items on these pages demonstrate, Edward Wormley conceived of a subdued sort of modernism, designing furniture that fits into any decorating scheme and does not shout for attention.

Iconic Designs from Edward Wormley
Explore timeless pieces that have earned their place in history.
A-Frame Chair
A-Frame Chair
Heart Chair
Heart Chair
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Edward Wormley for Drexel Precedent Collection Drop-Leaf Desk
By Edward Wormley
Located in Philadelphia, PA
Edward Wormley for Drexel Precedent collection drop-leaf desk in silver elm. Completely redone and ready to go! Fold up leaf adds additional work surface. Brass polished handles add ...
Category

1950s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley Furniture

Materials

Elm

Edward Wormley for Dunbar Early Open Arm Lounge Chair
By Edward Wormley
Located in Philadelphia, PA
Category

1950s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley Furniture

Materials

Upholstery, Birch

Edward Wormley for Dunbar Myrtle Cube
By Edward Wormley
Located in Philadelphia, PA
Category

1950s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley Furniture

Materials

Birch

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Florence Knoll Style Birch and Walnut Desk
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Pair of Massive Walnut Privacy Panels in the Style of Edward Wormley
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Tear-Drop Glass Chandelier
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Small Tear Drop Ceiling Fixture 2 AVAILABLE!
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Teak Round/ OVAL Table with Pop Up Leaf G Plan
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Located in Philadelphia, PA
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Robert Sonneman Architectural 1970s Desk Lamp
By Robert Sonneman
Located in Philadelphia, PA
Category

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Harry Bertoia Bench for Knoll
By Knoll, Harry Bertoia
Located in Philadelphia, PA
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Iron, Oak

Gino Safratti for Arteluce Sconce
By Arteluce, Gino Sarfatti
Located in Philadelphia, PA
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Aluminum, Blown Glass

Florence Knoll for Knoll Settee
By Florence Knoll
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Steel, Fabric

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