The Timelessness of Edward Wormley and His Long History with Dunbar Furniture
by Lynn Byrne
By Lynn Byrne. Back in 1997, Edward Wormley was called ” the other face of modernism” and it was felt that his work was being somewhat forgotten. A Wormley retrospective mounted by the Lin/Weinberg gallery changed all that. The exhibition brought much deserved attention to Wormley’s understated elegance and timelessness. Wornley is known for reinterpreting classical and historical design into modern forms. His furniture is now highly sought after. Search his name on 1st dibs for a number of vintage examples. The catalog from the 1997 exhibition is a must have for serious collectors of vintage Wormley.
You can also order Wormley classics from the furniture company most closely associated with Edward Wormley, Dunbar Furniture, because Dunbar has begun reissuing them (more on that below).
Dunbar’s original ads for Wormley’s furniture back in the late 1950’s to the mid- 1960’s are among the wittiest I have ever seen. In the original Dunbar ads, the furniture was taken out of typical room settings and placed in unconventional backgrounds. This device, called the “seamless room” made the furniture forms really pop. Plus the ads are incredibly charming and have become a collectible in their own right. Search “Dunbar ad” on Ebay. Here are a few of my favorite images from the ads.
Today, Dunbar is marketing its reissues of Wormley furniture with similar imagery. It is interesting to remember that this furniture was originally designed over 45 years ago because it is so fresh and modern looking. The following photos all from the new Dunbar catalog.
The thing about Edward Wormley is that his work doesn’t scream “mid-century modern.” It is just lovely and remains current looking today. And that is what makes him a master. Here is an iconic photo from the July 1961 Playboy, with Edward Wormley and other designers of his era. From left to right, George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames, and Jens Risom. There he is with all of the greats from the last century, right where he belongs.
Photo from the July 1961 Playboy via The Selvedge Yard.