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Edward Wormley Furniture

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 vintage seating, storage cabinets, bar carts and other 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 — chairs, sofas, tables and more — 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 vintage 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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Creator: Edward Wormley
Dealer: Weinberg Modern
Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
By Edward Wormley
Located in New York, NY
76-page catalog from the exhibition "Edward Wormley: The Other Face of Modernism," held at the Lin Weinberg Gallery in 1997. The exhibit helped re-introduce Wormley's work to the mar...
Category

1990s American Mid-Century Modern Edward Wormley Furniture

Materials

Paper

Edward Wormley Chair for Dunbar Model 2424B
By Edward Wormley, Dunbar Furniture
Located in New York, NY
Sleekly sculptural chair with a radically slender, curved seat back designed by Edward Wormley and produced by Dunbar Furniture, c. 1940. An early modernist design by Wormley, in an organic design idiom, that transforms a traditional wingback chair...
Category

1940s American Organic Modern Vintage Edward Wormley Furniture

Materials

Fabric, Mahogany

Pair of Edward Wormley "Alexandria" Chairs for Dunbar
By Edward Wormley, Dunbar Furniture
Located in New York, NY
Pair of sinuous “Alexandria” chairs in mahogany designed by Edward Wormley and produced by Dunbar Furniture circa 1961. One of Wormley’s signature des...
Category

1960s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley Furniture

Materials

Silk, Mahogany

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Previously Available Items
Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
By Edward Wormley
Located in New York, NY
76-page catalog from the exhibition "Edward Wormley: The Other Face of Modernism," held at the Lin Weinberg Gallery in 1997. The exhibit helped re-introduce Wormley's work to the mar...
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1990s American Mid-Century Modern Edward Wormley Furniture

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  • Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
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  • Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
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H 11 in. W 8.5 in. D 0.5 in.
Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
By Edward Wormley
Located in New York, NY
76-page catalog from the exhibition "Edward Wormley: The Other Face of Modernism," held at the Lin Weinberg Gallery in 1997. The exhibit helped re-introduce Wormley's work to the mar...
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1990s American Mid-Century Modern Edward Wormley Furniture

Materials

Paper

  • Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
  • Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
  • Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
  • Edward Wormley Exhibition Catalog
H 11 in. W 8.5 in. D 0.5 in.
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Pair of armchairs with ebonized mahogany frames from Edward Wormley's Janus collection for Dunbar Furniture, circa 1958. Reupholstered circa 2006 in a vintage Dior raw silk.
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Edward Wormley Tambour Front Cabinet
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Rare La Gondola Sofa by Edward Wormley
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Located in New York, NY
Vintage "La Gondola" sofa, designed by Edward Wormley and produced by Dunbar Furniture, circa 1957. This example was featured in the landmark exhibition "Ed...
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King-Size Caned Headboard by Edward Wormley
By Dunbar Furniture, Edward Wormley
Located in New York, NY
King-sized headboard with mahogany frame, caned back, and brass rods. The end pieces taper from bottom to top. Designed by Edward Wormley and produced by Dunbar Furniture, circa 1955...
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1950s American Mid-Century Modern Vintage Edward Wormley Furniture

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Edward Wormley furniture for sale on 1stDibs.

Edward Wormley furniture are available for sale on 1stDibs. These distinctive items are frequently made of wood and are designed with extraordinary care. There are many options to choose from in our collection of Edward Wormley furniture, although brown editions of this piece are particularly popular. Many of the original furniture by Edward Wormley were created in the mid-century modern style in north america during the 20th century. If you’re looking for additional options, many customers also consider furniture by Dunbar, Paul McCobb, and Baker Furniture Company. Prices for Edward Wormley furniture can differ depending upon size, time period and other attributes — on 1stDibs, these items begin at £181 and can go as high as £96,352, while a piece like these, on average, fetch £5,563.

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