Monday, June 25, 2018

Exciting Design News—Legendary American Designer Edward Wormley for Dunbar

Functional, elegant, intelligent, and always-in style, Edward Wormley’s enduring mid-century designs for Dunbar are now available through all Baker showrooms, including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

Edward Wormley, a devotee of both design history and the contemporary modern furniture emerging in Europe post-war, took elements from classical and historical design and translated them with clean lines into modern vernacular. Edward Wormley designs for Dunbar were refined and sophisticated, and at the same time mainstream and very successful. And until now, his classic designs could be found only in vintage and antique galleries. 

Adelina sofa

Iconic pieces from Wormley’s Dunbar collections will now be showcased in Baker showrooms worldwide, in a new partnership between Baker and Dunbar.

Wormley’s furniture designs from the forties to the seventies updated traditional silhouettes with a distinctly modern sensibility that is functional and elegant.

Baker is introducing a twenty-piece collection of Wormley’s most successful and enduring designs for Dunbar. 

Edward Wormley

"Modernism means freedom—freedom to mix, to choose, to change, to embrace the new but to hold fast to what is good." — Edward Wormley

Gabrielle chair

The Collection

Among highlights of the 20-piece Edward Wormley for Dunbar collection to be offered by Baker:

1. The Janus lounge chair, which (like the Greek god) simultaneously looks to the past with its wing-chair silhouette and at the same time gazes forward with boldly shaped silhouettes. Angular and dramatic, they are upholstered from the back and very dramatic.

2. The Klismos-inspired dining chair. It stunning curved, caned back recalls the classic style clearly visible in ancient Greece.

3. The elegant Riemerschmid chair (originally designed in 1899) has sinuous lines and an ultra-modern forward angle that makes it very dynamic.

4. The Sheaf-of-Wheat table, with a complex and compelling base and exacting craftsmanship.

5. The versatile Gabrielle chair, is clean-lined, sleek, superbly shaped and refined, and features a deftly angled comfortable back.

The collection includes upholstery, casegoods and accessories. The materials palette for the Edward Wormley for Dunbar collection includes walnut, cherry and maple, and the primary metals are brass, aluminum and stainless steel.

Knowland right arm chaise

Edward Wormley designed classic furniture with simplified silhouettes and plain surfaces, inspired by a trip in 1930 to Paris, where he met Le Corbusier and Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, the Art Deco designer.

He was initially hired by the Dunbar Furniture Corporation of Berne, Ind., to improve its least expensive furniture line. Within five years, Wormley's furniture had made Dunbar the top producer of modern in America.

Working closely with Dunbar’s expert craftsmen (many of them of Swiss origin) Wormley used wood as a luxury material, and insisted on well-padded upholstery (the opposite of hard-edge modernism).

Wormley often described his designs as transitional. With his in-depth knowledge of design history he was able to modify forms such as the sweeping lines of the ancient Greek klismos chair into a popular and versatile chair that became one of his signatures. It’s in the Baker collection.

His Dunbar furniture was admired by leading design arbiters of the time, and was included in a number of "Good Design" exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, N.Y. He was president of the American Designers Institute in 1941.

Cane chair

Wormley, as a post-war designer, was very aware of dramatically original new furniture being designed and produced in Scandinavia, France, Italy, Britain, and all over Europe. And he knew that America liked the familiar.

Wormley had the highest ideals for design. He was also realistic and well aware of the historic American taste in upholstery (well-padded), and materials (fine woods) and strong dimensions and proportions. These are his enduring legacy.

For Wormley, the best designs for the American market were those that had a familiar silhouette and an embrace of design history, but with strong new lines and sometimes daring experimentation.

Snack table

Wood chair

Wormley’s enlightened understanding of American design shaped his work for Dunbar for four decades.

From 1931 until 1970, when the company was sold, Wormley sketched and introduced as many as 150 pieces a year for the company, always combining his senses of comfort, a deep appreciation of craftsmanship and woodworking, and an enthusiasm for moving design into new realms.

Vintage ad from Dunbar

Vintage ad from Dunbar

Vintage ad from Dunbar

Vintage ad from Dunbar

Edward J. Wormley was born in Oswego, Ill. In 1907. He identified a passion for design as a young student, and studied interior decoration via a correspondence course while at high school. Passionate about design history and new decorating styles, Wormley studied design for two years at the Art Institute of Chicago. His first job was in the design studio at Marshall Field & Company in Chicago.

In 1931, he travelled throughout Europe to study, observe and research design and new architecture. In Paris he met Le Corbusier, the outspoken French modernist, and Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, whose elegant Art Déco style he admired.

Wormley’s furniture designs were included in the Good Design shows of the Museum of Modern Art in 1951 and 1952. Today many examples of his furniture for Dunbar are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Museum of Decorative Arts in Montreal.

Over almost four decades Dunbar released two lines a year, and as many as one hundred pieces each year. Wormley insisted on using classical craftsmanship with contemporary materials and the latest techniques.

Wormley won the Designer of Distinction award from the American Society of Interior Designers and the Elsie de Wolfe Award.

Many of Wormley’s most popular pieces from the thirties and forties continued to sell strongly into the sixties. His emphasis on comfort, quality, and strong silhouettes has also guaranteed that his pieces continue to attract very high prices at auction today.

Vintage ad from Dunbar

Vintage ad from Dunbar

Vintage ad from Dunbar

Vintage ad from Dunbar


Edward Wormley for Dunbar

Baker Chicago
222 Merchandise Mart
Chicago, IL 60654

Baker Los Angeles
The Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90069

Baker New York
The New York Design Center

200 Lexington Ave. 

New York, NY 10016
Inastgram: @bakerfurniture

Vintage ad from Dunbar

1 comment:

ArchitectDesign™ said...

exciting news, good on Baker! I have a vintage Wormley Dunbar desk and deskchair at home - classics never go out of style.