Edward Wormley – American Furniture Designer

Posted on 8th September 2011 in American Designers

Edward Wormley – Born at the turn of the century in 1907, Edward Wormley started to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. Unable to finish because of financial constraints he became an interior designer for Marshall Fields & Company department store. His life improved when he was hired by Dunbar Furniture Company located in Berne, Indiana.

Directed to upgrade their product line, his understanding of historical and classical elements and his refined reinterpretation through the modern furniture design venacular proved to be immediately successful. When the company chose in 1944 to focus exclusively on modern lines, he incorporated Scandinavian and European influences producing high quality and elegantly subtle modern furniture. The company also stood out for its reputation of making each piece of furniture by hand.

When he opened his own office in 1945 in New York, he remained as a consultant to the Dunbar Furniture Company. Designing the “Precedent” collection for Dunbar’s competition, the Drexel Furniture Company put his relationship with Dunbar at risk. One of his earlier pieces was the “Long Bermuda Bench” produced between 1949-1950, an understated piece of minimalist furniture with teal colored seat pad and side bars perched atop five slender wood tapered legs.

While his designs were successful and popular, it was when he was included in the Good Design Exhibitions from 1950 – 1955 that his designs were given a more prominent spot next to other well known designers of his time.

With a stronger connection to the Dunbar Furniture Company he launched the “Janus” collection in 1957. One of his designs focused on occasional tables the better known of the Janus line topped with red Natzler tiles. Made from walnut wood, its detailing is unique, purely modern in line with an octagonal shaped top.

Even Playboy choose to showcase modern furniture and in an article in 1961 they featured one of his designs called the “Téte-â-Téte” sofa which featured an opposing back and arm rest so when seated the sitters are face to face. Like an extended cube it was supported on each end by three legs with padded leather overall.

Modern furniture designers sometimes would inject humor into the design of the furniture as well as its name. In 1964, he designed the “Toadstool Stools” which look not surprisingly like a toadstool. Made from 8 steam-bent oak paddles held together by an enameled steel ring along with a “crown” padded leather seat it was both fun and functional, true to modern design principles.

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