An Architect at Home

Works from the Collection of Donald Wrobleski

The exterior of Wrobleski's home. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond

Luckily for us all, Donald Wrobleski is happy to share his story. I first met the Chicago-based architect through a phone call while he was seeking advice on selling, and how to go about the overwhelming, stifling act of moving from the Bannockburn home which he designed and where he resided for the past sixty years. His home was like a number of architect-owned mid-century interiors I had visited, in that once a furnishing or work of art had had been carefully placed, it rarely moved.  A living time capsule, but not one that is necessarily destined for obsolescence. Rather, a finely preserved moment in time. 

The sunken living room flanked by floor to ceiling glass. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond
The furniture is utilitarian and comfortable and represents a superb period reflection of good design to live within the walls of good design.

Wrobleski designed his home in 1960 when he was just 20 years old. A former student of A. James Speyer at IIT, he created the residence to be elevated and in harmony with 1.75 acre lot located just outside of Chicago. Approaching the residence, you are greeted by a compliment of glass front to back within the fully see-through enclosure. Wrobleski’s home blossoms, trees appear to extend upward inside the house. The lines and the harmony of the interior naturally reflect the wooded surroundings. A short flight of stairs takes you to the entrance and once inside, you are naturally directed to the sunken living room nestled between the main glazing walls. There you are surrounded by an entirely global menu of design: Kjaerholm, Mies, Mackintosh, McCobb, Wegner and Aulenti for starters. The spread continues throughout the house. The furniture is utilitarian and comfortable and represents a superb period reflection of good design to live within the walls of good design. 

The exterior of Wrobleski's home illustrating an outdoor seating area. The sunken living room flanked by floor to ceiling glass. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond

Wrobleski’s deft ability to capture sunlight and warmth in his home is illustrated thoughtfully by Julius Shulman’s photography in Julius Shulman: Chicago Mid-Century Modernism by Gary Gand (2010). While I wish there was enough Wrobleski output to fill an entire monograph, we are proud to offer these lots for Don in our American Design sale.

Peter Jefferson

The artist cannot attain to mastery in his art unless he is endowed in the highest degree with the faculty of imagination. 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1868–1928

Perhaps no other name is more entwined with the Glasgow Style than Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Born in Glasgow in 1868, he apprenticed as a young man with local architect John Hutchison before transferring to the larger city practice of Honeyman & Keppie. At the same time, Mackintosh also enrolled in evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art, pursuing various drawing programs and honing his skills by studying all the latest architectural and design journals in the school’s library. A talented and diligent student, he won numerous prizes including the prestigious Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship in 1890, which afforded him the opportunity to take an architectural tour of Italy. Mackintosh proved to be quite the rising star at Honeyman & Keppie, designing the Glasgow Herald Building in 1894 and the Martyr’s Public School in 1895. In 1896, he won the commission that would become his masterwork: designing a new building for the Glasgow School of Art.

Mackintosh was a fierce believer in artistic freedom and independence, and his work exhibited an eclectic mix of styles and influences. This is not altogether surprising given where he lived. Glasgow was a prosperous production center of heavy engineering and shipbuilding, and like so many cosmopolitan European cities at the time, it teemed with a fertile combination of industrialization, emerging modernist ideas, as well as Asian style. Toward the late 19th century, Japan’s isolationist regime loosened its reins slightly, opening themselves to globalization and leading to a Japanese influence in decorative arts around the world. Mackintosh was particularly fond of the developing Japoniste style and its simple forms, natural elements, and its tendency toward restraint over ostentation. He combined this simplicity with the innovative ideas and new technologies of modernism, references to Scottish architecture, and sometimes even the subtle curves of Art Nouveau (as seen in his famous Mackintosh Rose motif) into a unique visual language all his own.

The originality of Mackintosh’s style was well-received in much of Europe, especially in Austria and Germany. He participated in the 8th Vienna Secession as well as international exhibitions in Turin and Moscow. Despite his success abroad, his work was not nearly as popular in his home country and he relied primarily on a small handful of patrons and supporters for most of his commissions, among them Walter Blackie and Catherine Cranston. His career soon declined and around 1914 he and his wife moved to London, where his efforts to continue his work were curtailed by the first World War and related restrictions on building work. Mackintosh then moved to the South of France in 1923 where he spent the remaining years of his life painting until his death in 1928.

Auction Results Charles Rennie Mackintosh