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

Paul McCobb 1917–1969

Paul McCobb studied painting at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston but never completed his course work. With the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Army Corps of Engineers but was honorably discharged shortly thereafter due to health issues. McCobb moved to New York to work as a product development engineer in the new medium of plastics and in 1945, he opened his own design firm, Paul McCobb Associates. In 1950, McCobb launched his first mass produced line of furniture known as the Planner Group in collaboration with B.G. Mesburg; this collection, with its sleek lines and warm finishes, was a hit, and the pieces were showcased in living rooms across America.

McCobb took inspiration from classic American styles like Windsor and Shaker, but transformed them into new and modern forms. As McCobb stated, “we don’t design fads,” and indeed his designs are imbued with a timeless quality. Further, McCobb pioneered the concept of the room divider, to which he attached desk sets, cabinets and shelves, coining the term “living walls.” His work was featured prominently in the Museum of Modern Art’s Good Design exhibitions (1950–1955), and he received MoMA Good Design awards in 1950, 1951, 1953, and 1954. In the 1960s, McCobb worked as an interior design consultant for corporations like Columbia Records, Singer Manufacturing Company, Bell & Howell Company, and Alcoa Aluminum Corporation. McCobb died in 1969 and today his designs are featured in the museum collections of the Copper Hewitt Design Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, among many others.

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Auction Results Paul McCobb