Born in Oswego, Illinois in 1907, furniture designer Edward Wormley studied at the New York School of Interior Design via correspondence while still a high school student in Rochelle, Illinois. He went on to study at the Art Institute of Chicago between 1926 and 1928. In 1931, after a tour of Europe (during which time he met Le Corbusier and Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann), he began working for the Marshall Field & Company department store in Chicago as an interior designer.
In the 1930s, Wormley left Marshall Field’s to work as a designer for the Dunbar Furniture Company in Berne, Indiana. He designed modern and traditional pieces for Dunbar, and quickly became the company’s design director. By 1944, he’d been placed in charge of modernizing Dunbar’s furniture lines—a task he accomplished by incorporating modern innovations into traditional designs and championing the midcentury Modernist aesthetic. He stayed with the company nearly four decades, until it was sold in 1970. During his tenure with Dunbar, he designed approximately 150 pieces, many of which merged traditional and modern design for comfortable, everyday usage. Beyond furniture, Wormley also designed fabrics, rugs, and lighting.
During his lifetime, Wormley’s work was included in several exhibitions at prestigious institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1950); the Boston Museum of Art (1951); the XIII Triennale in Milan (1964); and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1983). Wormley’s honors include Designer of Distinction from the American Society of Interior Directors in 1982 and the Distinguished Designer Award from the American Society of Furniture Designers in 1986, among others.
Wormley passed away in Connecticut in 1995.