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Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban

July 8 – October 2, 2022

Western & Southern Galleries (Galleries 232 and 233)

Ticketed. Free for Members. Download Press Release (PDF).

Friends of Decorative Arts & Design


In 1929, Viennese-born architect and designer Joseph Urban was commissioned to create a bedroom for seventeen-year-old Elaine Wormser who lived with her parents in the Drake Tower, Chicago. Urban (1872–1933) was a prolific and broadly recognized artist whose work ranged from film, theatre and operatic sets to buildings, textiles, even cars. The modern, fanciful bedroom that Urban designed for Elaine Wormser featured a daring combination of colors and pattern, black glass walls and a reflective silvered ceiling. Elements from this bespoke interior now reside in the Cincinnati Art Museum and constitute the largest collection of Urban-designed furnishings in a public institution.

Over 90 years after its completion, the Wormser bedroom will go on public view for the first time, fully conserved and installed to reflect its original state as photographed in 1930. One of Urban’s last commissions, this interior embodies the distinct modern design vocabulary that Urban developed and employed throughout his career, highlighting his talent as a colorist, his flair for the dramatic, and his skillful blend of Viennese artistic influences with the prevailing modern style now known as Art Deco.

This exhibition unlocks new scholarship on this rare interior and the significant contributions of Joseph Urban to the development of American modern design. It also investigates the messaging conveyed by consumers when choosing modernism and the changing roles for women in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In addition to the bedroom, paintings, works on paper, costumes and related furnishings flesh out this exploration of Joseph Urban, the Wormser bedroom and the era. Behind-the-scenes investigations and processes necessary to reintroduce the room to the public are also featured.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full color illustrated catalogue, available in the gift shop. It includes essays by leading authorities on the Wormser bedroom, Joseph Urban, and the introduction of modernism to the American public.

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Exhibition Catalogue

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Joseph Urban: Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom explores the impact of Austrian-born architect and designer Joseph Urban (1872–1933) on the development and acceptance of American Modernism through the story of one of his last commissions: The Wormser Bedroom. The interior, whose elements are held by the Cincinnati Art Museum, has never been fully researched, published or displayed before now. Five essays, accompanied by full-color illustrations, unlock the narratives and significance of this important historic interior.

Amy Miller Dehan, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design joined the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2001. She earned degrees in art history from the College of William and Mary and the University of South Carolina. She is also an alum of The Winterthur Fall Institute and the Attingham Summer School. In Cincinnati, she was part of the curatorial team that developed TheCincinnati Wing: The Story of Art in the Queen Cityand has worked on various installations of the museum’s American and European art collections. Her past exhibition projects have covered a range of subjects stretching from historical silver to musical instruments to contemporary art in ceramic, glass, and wood. Dehan’s publications include Joseph Urban: Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom (2022), Cincinnati Silver, 1788–1940 (2014), Outside the Ordinary: Contemporary Art in Glass, Wood and Ceramics from the Wolf Collection(2009), and several exhibition catalog essays and journal articles. Early in her career, Dehan held internships and fellowships at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

A Teenager’s Dreamy Art Deco Bedroom From 1929

Hyperallergic, February 6, 2022


Unlocking An Art Deco Bedroom By Joseph Urban

Antiques and The Arts Weekly, June 28, 2022


The 25th Annual Kreines Lecture on Decorative Art and Design:
Setting the Stage: An Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban

March 13, 2022 at 2 p.m. 
Cincinnati Art Museum, Fath Auditorium 
Free to attend. Reservations required. Capacity may be limited for public safety.

Watch the Recording


In 1929, architect and designer Joseph Urban (1872–1933) was commissioned to create a bedroom for seventeen-year-old Elaine Wormser (1912–2007) who lived with her parents in the Drake Tower, Chicago. In July 2022, over 90 years after its completion, the Cincinnati Art Museum will present this one-of-a-kind room, fully conserved and installed to reflect its original state as photographed in 1930. Join us as Amy Dehan, the museum’s curator of decorative art and design, reveals how the Wormser bedroom became a part of the museum’s permanent collection and shares insights about Joseph Urban, the Wormser’s commission, and the ongoing work to resurrect this Art Deco gem. 

Presented by Mrs. Kenneth Kreines and the Decorative Arts Society of Cincinnati in Memory of Dr. Kenneth Kreines.

If you need accessibility accommodations for this program or event, please email [email protected]. Please contact us at least two weeks in advance to ensure accommodations can be made.


From Affluent to Average: The Wormser Bedroom and Teen Bedroom Culture in the 1920s and 1930s

Thursday, July 7, 2022 at 7 p.m.
Cincinnati Art Museum, Fath Auditorium
Reservations are required.

Watch the Recording

Elaine Wormser's bedroom stands apart from the rooms most American teens presided over during the interwar years. Her family possessed wealth and access to Joseph Urban, one of the era’s most prominent designers and architects. Nonetheless, the process of resurrecting Elaine's room and studying her recollections of it for the exhibition Unlocking An Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban has revealed that it shared many features with rooms enjoyed by less privileged teens. Join Dr. Jason Reid, author of Get Out of My Room!: A History of Teen Bedroom Culture in America, as he considers how both affluent and average teen bedrooms were shaped by the era’s prevailing views on psychology, consumerism, teen autonomy, and intellectual growth.

Jason Reid is a history instructor at Ryerson University in Toronto. He has degrees in Russian, Canadian, and American History from Carleton University in Ottawa and York University in Toronto. His research has touched on several areas of historical interest, including teen bedroom culture, education, and legal history. He is currently performing research for a book that examines the murder of a 93-year-old woman in his hometown of Hensall, Ontario, in October 1973.


Generously Sponsored by:

Richard and Pamela Reis

The H.B., E.W. and F.R. Luther Charitable Foundation

August A. Rendigs, Jr. Foundation


The Decorative Arts Trust


Sunshine Fund in Memory of Donald J. Glaser ASID


FEG investment advisors


Evolo Design


Meghan Sullivan Nelson

Richard D Reis Family Foundation - Dr. Ashley E. Reis 

Richard D Reis Family Foundation - Jennifer R. Arnold