Anyone who is passionate about collecting mid-century modern design knows the name WYETH. Whether you are in Tribeca or the Hamptons, a visit to WYETH is an unforgettable one — and it’s not just for the exquisite assortment of museum-quality mid-century pieces found within (after all, WYETH is one of the few places in New York City to see this level of mid-century in person). It’s also for the way WYETH’s founder, John Birch, has masterfully curated each display.
That’s the genius of Birch: He can see how pieces can exist alongside each other in ways you’d never expect, because he truly understands design to a degree that others don’t. Birch introduces pieces together the way you’d introduce people to one another, creating a visual dialogue that only someone who prefers to be surrounded by beautiful things can make possible.
Above, a seating area created by Birch that is a masterful lesson on the importance of texture. The layered burl table has just as big of a presence as the corner sectional, but it doesn’t overwhelm, thanks to the subtle but intricate texture. Velvet is a common thread that unifies the pink accent seating with the purple sectional.
From this, it’s not surprising at all that he was the one person who brought mid-century design to a wider audience, helping a generation of collectors see the timeless beauty inherent in each special piece.
Above, a living room vignette by Birch that’s all about proportion. An overscaled Windsor chair brings a touch of wit to a grouping of familiar mid-century silhouettes.
It almost goes without saying that visiting the WYETH warehouse, which exists in an undisclosed location (only adding to its mystique), is truly a spectacular experience. While most can only dream of seeing the rows upon rows of museum-quality mid-century items located here, the Sotheby’s Home team was one of the few trusted to visit this jaw-dropping collection.
We’re bringing the best of the WYETH warehouse to you with a special sale curated by John Birch. Here are just a few of the pieces available on Sotheby’s Home.
One of the most iconic designs by the husband-and-wife duo who changed the course of American furniture design, the CTW (“coffee table wood”) coffee table is a stunning example of just one of their many innovative processes. The early Eames-era design was the result of a breakthrough in plywood molding discovered during WWII, when they were commissioned to make lightweight ergonomic splints for the military. The molded plywood is sleek yet has a distinctive warmth, a table that looks best as the focal point in a more minimalist setting. Another highlight of the design is the functional slight indentation, which helps objects stay situated.
Another innovator of the mid-century era, Jacobsen was a Danish designer who initially trained as a mason before attending the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. Despite the traditional training, Jacobsen created new silhouettes that had fluid lines and contributed a certain visual lightness to interior settings. This particular sofa was originally created for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, a setting for which Jacobsen designed every detail.
Like Charles and Ray Eames, Afra and Tobia Scarpa were a husband-and-wife design team. (Interesting to note: Tobia’s father was the extremely important designer and architect Carlo Scarpa.) Postmodernists through and through, they created exciting new combinations of materials, finishes, and proportions that gave their designs a unique quality. Frequent collaborators with brands like Knoll, Flos, Cassina, and B&B Italia, they also designed prolifically for the Italian fashion company Benetton.
Italian master ceramicist Aldo Londi frequently collaborated with Ettore Sottsass, Piero Fornasetti, and Matteo Thun, but he spent the majority of his career working for Bitossi (even serving 50 years as its artistic director, from 1946-1996). Raymor was an importer and distributor who frequently manufactured exquisite works from 1941-1980, like this stunning example of one of Bitossi’s most iconic designs — a true standout from his deep catalogue of thousands of designs over the years.
The Great Depression might have caused Edward Wormley to drop out of the Art Institute of Chicago, but what followed actually launched his career. His work as interior designer at the famed department store Marshall Fields caught the eye of furniture brand Dunbar in 1931, which asked Wormley to upgrade their product line. His uniquely modern aesthetic eventually became the most recognizable style from Dunbar (under his leadership, the company decided to focus entirely on modern lines around 1944). Wormley was prolific, designing 150 pieces a year until 1970. This sleek storage cabinet is an exceptional example of his work, from the beautiful tambour doors to the hairpin legs.