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Edward Wormley

American, 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 1stDibs demonstrate, Edward Wormley conceived of a subdued sort of modernism, designing furniture that fits into any decorating scheme and does not shout for attention.

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$4,728
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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
Pair of Slipper Chairs by Edward Wormley for Dunbar
By Edward Wormley
Located in Dallas, TX
A pair of slipper chairs with mahogany bases. Designed by Edward Wormley for Dunbar.
Category

1950s Vintage Edward Wormley

Materials

Mahogany

Ten Dunbar Bracket Back Dining Chairs by Edward Wormley
By Edward Wormley
Located in Dallas, TX
A set of ten Dunbar model 5516 bracket back dining chairs designed by Edward Wormley. Refinished mahogany frames and new upholstery.
Category

1950s Vintage Edward Wormley

Materials

Mahogany

Edward Wormley for Dunbar Mid Century Executive Desk
By Edward Wormley, Dunbar Furniture
Located in La Grange, IL
Edward Wormley for Dunbar mid century executive desk Desk measures: 60 wide x 27 deep x 29.25 inches high with a chair clearance of 24.5 inches All pieces of furniture can be had...
Category

1970s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley

Materials

Wood

1960s Brown Mahogany Console by Edward Wormley
By Dunbar Furniture, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, Edward Wormley
Located in Frankfurt, Hessen, DE
Dark brown, mahogany, brass handles, console by Edward Wormley for Dunbar, USA, 1960s. Plain and sleek design with three drawers with brass handles. Very elegantly worked console ...
Category

1960s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley

Materials

Brass, Magnets

  • 1960s Brown Mahogany Console by Edward Wormley
  • 1960s Brown Mahogany Console by Edward Wormley
  • 1960s Brown Mahogany Console by Edward Wormley
  • 1960s Brown Mahogany Console by Edward Wormley
H 33.86 in. W 53.94 in. D 18.12 in.
Edward Wormley for Dunbar Swivel Chairs in Grey Bouclé, 1950s
By Edward Wormley, Dunbar Furniture
Located in Stamford, CT
Pair of swivel chairs designed by Edward Wormley for Dunbar circa 1950-1959. Featuring sloping curves, newly upholstered in grey "Teddy" bouclé. Other designers from this era inc...
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Edward Wormley

Materials

Bouclé

Dunbar Sofa, Brass Legs by Edward Wiormley Real Mohair Fabric, Excellent
By Edward Wormley, Dunbar Furniture
Located in Kansas City, MO
Stunning Edward Wormley for Dunbar sofa. Nine feet Long with Solid Brass Legs (These legs can be polished to a beautiful luster if you prefer). The sofa has been expertly restored an...
Category

1950s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley

Materials

Brass

Pair of Ed Wormley for Dunbar Brown Leather Chairs
By Edward Wormley
Located in Norwalk, CT
Pair of Ed Wormley for Dunbar brown leather chairs Beautiful chairs by Ed Wormley for Dunbar in brown leather. Known as "Edward's Chair," these handsome examples have oiled ashwood ...
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Edward Wormley

Materials

Leather, Wood

Edward Wormley for Dunbar Mid Century Mahogany and Brass Side End Table
By Edward Wormley, Dunbar Furniture
Located in La Grange, IL
Edward Wormley for Dunbar Mid Century Mahogany and Brass Side End Table 22 wide x 28 deep x 22.25 high See below for 5 ways to save! FREE RESTORATION: When you purchase a piece ...
Category

1970s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley

Materials

Brass

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Sputnik Modern
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Liberty & 33rd
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Century Design Ltd.
5 / 5
20CDesign.com
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Lobel Modern, Inc
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