Edward Wormley (1907-95)

American furniture designer, active Chicago and New York. Wormley, whose aesthetic influenced the taste of an entire generation.


Grew up in a rural district outside of Chicago. As a high school student he showed a proclivity for interior design, which he studied through a correspondence course. He enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1926, but financial difficulties obliged him to drop out after a year and look for work. He soon found a job at Marshall Fields design studio, where he was assigned to create a collection of 18th century English reproductions, drawing upon his etensive knowledge of furniture history.

But it is with the Dunbar Furniture Company that Wormleys name is most often associated. He started working there in 1931 and would remain, on and off, for the next thirty years—eventually serving as design director. Wormley was given the task of refining Dunbars collection of wood and upholstered furniture to suit a broad range of tastes. He brought a sleek, refined, elegance to the companys products; it was often observed that his pieces were unmistakably modern without being modish.

Backed by Dunbars unflagging and shrewd promotion, Wormleys furniture was soon in demand among upper middle class consumers of conservative—but not necessarily traditional—taste.

Wormley opened an office of his own in New York in 1945. He designed the "Precedent" collection for Drexel in 1947, complicating his relationship with Dunbar for a period of several years. But tensions had eased by the late 1950s, and Wormley produced his Arts and Crafts movement-inspired "Janus" line, once again for Dunbar.

Among his most notable pieces are the Long John table (1946), the Listen to Me chaise (1947), and the Téte a Téte sofa, 1960. He also designed carpets and textiles.

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