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American furniture designer, Edward J. Wormley, is recognized for taking elements from different design movements and merging them into his sophisticated interpretation of Mid-century modern. His designs embraced modernism without staying away from traditional and proved to be crafted in the highest quality.
Born in Oswego, Illinois, Wormely’s interest in design came when he was quite young. While still in high school, he took courses at the New York School of Interior Design. After he graduated high school, Wormley attended the Art Institute of Chicago and began his career as an interior designer at the Marshall Field & Company. After a few years, the company closed, and Wormley was left unemployed. He took this as an opportunity to travel around Europe, where he met famed architects Le Corbusier and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann.
In the 1930s, during the great depression, Wormley returned from Europe and met the president of Dunbar Furniture Company. He was initially hired to upgrade their product line but quickly became the Director of Design for the Berne, Indiana based company. His designs were well-received by the public, and in 1944 Dunbar transitioned into solely creating modern designs. Although the company shifted its focus to creating Modern furniture, Wormley was able to incorporate his ideas with inspiration drawn from past design movements. In only five years, Edward Wormely successfully made the Dunbar Furniture Company, the top producer of modern furniture in the United States.
Post World War II, he opened a private firm in New York City where he designed and consulted for several companies, Dunbar remaining as his primary client. Throughout his 40 year career, Wormley was able to see several of his creations honored at remarkable exhibitions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Boston Museum of Art and the XIII Triennale in Milan, receiving many awards for his iconic works.
Wormley is, without a doubt, one of the most influential Mid-century modern designers in history. His understated approach to design not only made him successful during his active years but continues to influence designers and scholars even today. He understood that furniture needed to be practical but also pleasant to the eye.