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

James Prestini 1908–1993

James Prestini is recognized for elevating the craft of turned wood to an art form through his innovative use of the medium. Prestini was born in Waterford, Connecticut in 1908 and had an illustrious career as an engineer, sculptor, professor and woodworker. He studied mechanical engineering at Yale University and went on to get his masters from the Yale School of Education in 1932. The following year, while teaching mathematics at a boys academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, Prestini began creating turnwood bowls and plates in rich hardwoods, working from the Bauhaus ethos of blending craft and function. These works were brilliantly thin and fine in their craftsmanship and graceful in their design, taking on the artistic qualities of glass and ceramics. Prestini also designed furniture and was part of the team that won the 1948 furniture competition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York with a jointless chair made from durable wood pulp. As a professor of design at the University of California, Berkeley from 1956 to 1975, Prestini began creating modernist sculptures in metal that were also influenced by the Bauhaus aesthetic. Prestini’s exquisite works are held widely in collections that include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and the Berlin Bauhaus-Archiv.

Auction Results James Prestini