designed 1929-30, reproduced 2022

Joseph Urban (American, b. Austria, 1872-1933), designer
Sandy James (American, b. 1956), Scott Budd (American, b. 1985) and Josh Rectenwald (American, b. 1983), makers of reproduction

The bookcases that Urban designed for the Wormser Bedroom are closely inspired by the skyscraper-inspired furniture created by his friend Paul Frankl. Urban and Frankl were both Austrian émigrés, united in their efforts to convert Americans to modernism and looking for ways to transform the tenets first established in Europe to a mode that was uniquely reflective of the American experience. Pragmatically, Urban’s bookcases reinforced the gridding of the glass-paneled walls and recessed rectilinear display niches in the room. They also cleverly referenced the very type of building in which the Wormser room was sited.

Two bookcases in brown and black wood composed of rectangles of different sizes.
Skyscraper Bookcases, 1926-1930, United States, Paul Theodore Frankl (American, b. Austria, 1886-1958), California redwood with nickel-plated steel, Cincinnati Art Museum; Gift of the Estate of Mrs. James M. Hutton II, 1969.417-418

The bookcases that were originally created for the Wormser Bedroom are now lost. Like the wainscoting, or wood paneling, covering the lower portion of the room’s walls, the bookcases were made from pine and finished with a waxy, deep black lacquer– a finish that deftly contrasted with the reflective black glass walls. Vogue columnist Mary Fanton Roberts lauded the quality and use of black lacquered wood across many of Urban’s projects, noting “a single coat of black stain [is] applied so that the grain of the wood is richly revealed—an attainment of exceptional beauty, almost without expense. This is one of the many phases of Urban’s genius.”