The Fred and Kay Krehbiel Collection at Hindman



By Judy Carmack Bross






“It isn’t every day that an auctioneer brings his own parents’ collection to market,” Jay Krehbiel, Executive Chairman of Hindman Auctions writes in the first of two fabulous catalogs showing the magnificent furniture, porcelain, paintings and much more from the Hinsdale and Palm Beach homes of his parents Kay and Fred Krehbiel, known more than almost any Chicagoans for their hospitality, philanthropy, and keen-eyed collecting.

Lot 1004 | Italian, 19th Century
Panoramic Views (a set of five works in the manner of Claude Joseph Vernet) oil on canvas
Estimate: $8,000.00 – 12,000

Lot 1031 | A Set of Twelve Hand-Colored Engravings of Parrots from A Natural History of Uncommon Birds by George Edwards (English, 1694-1773)
Circa 1740
Estimate: $6,000-8,000

Palm Beach

The auction of over 700 pieces will be held live in Chicago March 15 with the Hinsdale collection and live in Palm Beach with treasures from that home March 16, with a final portion online March 17.

The Krehbiel’s Hinsdale home, inside and out.

Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago home, with two of a set of four Louis XVI grey-painted fauteuils by Nicolas Lexelant (lot 122, $3,000-5,000) and a Regency brass mounted rosewood writing table (lot 128, $3,000-5,000). Photo by Tom Rossiter.

The dining room of Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago Home, with a George III mahogany cabinet, circa 1765. The dining room of Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago Home, with a George III mahogany cabinet, circa

The library of Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago Home. Photo by Tom Rossiter


Fred Krehbiel, together with his wife Kay, amassed an impressive collection of fine English furniture, porcelain, silver and works of art, acquired from leading dealers around the world. They worked closely with interior designers Imogen Taylor and Colin Orchard of the renowned Anglo-American design firm founded by Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler, to decorate their Chicago and Palm Beach homes. The Chicago project marked the beginning of Taylor’s and Orchard’s 30-year working relationship with the Krehbiels, including decorating their Ireland home, as well as consulting on the restoration of Ballyfin, an important Irish country house and demesne circa 1820.

Former CEO of Lisle-based Molex, Krehbiel transformed the company into a global organization with locations in over 40 countries. Alongside building the company, Krehbiel’s international vision was reflected in the refinement of his homes in Chicago, Palm Beach and Ballyfin – now a hotel that has garnered international recognition and media attention.

Dining Room of Fred & Kay Krehbiel’s Palm Beach Home. Photo by Tom Rossiter.

Breakfast Area of Fred & Kay Krehbiel’s Palm Beach Home. Photo by Tom Rossiter. Dining Room of Fred & Kay Krehbiel’s Palm Beach Home. Photo by Tom Rossiter.ining Room of Fred & Kay Krehbiel’s Palm Beach Home. 

Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago home, with a George III Carved Mahogany Settee, attributed to Thomas Chippendale, circa 1775 (lot 53; $20,000 – 30,000). Photo by Tom Rossiter xxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago home, with one of a pair of George III Goncalo Alves demilune cabinets (lot 6, $8,000-12,000) and one of a pair of George III giltwood mirrors (lot 7, $8,000-12,000). Photo by Tom Rossiter.

 “The joy of our business is that even if there is a sense of loss connected with selling a beloved object, you can know that it will find its way to a new home, a new collection. Rarely is the business so personal as it is with this collection.  My brother Liam and I hope the next owners of these objects will get as much joy as my parents did from collecting them,” Jay Krehbiel said.

A view of the El Vedado Palm Beach home, inside and out.

“Our first visit as children to my parents’ new house at 135 El Vedado in Palm Beach certainly left its mark.  Previously owned and decorated by a bachelor, the house was the ultimate man cave, a style which appealed to Liam and me in our youth,” Jay Krehbiel said. “In every room there was a massive television, a drinks center and a telephone, and each room looked a little like a sports bar.  On this canvas, I think my parents created their most beautiful house ever, working once again with longtime partner in crime Imogen Taylor.  At once comfortable and luxurious, the house was wonderfully layered with colors, fabrics and objects.  The contents had been collected by my parents from their travels around the world, including a new interest in French and Venetian furniture. I don’t think that it is too bold or self-absorbed to say that the design team and my parents were at the peak of their decorative they remade the house.”


Bedroom Detail of Fred & Kay Krehbiel’s Palm Beach home with three mid-19th century paintings, Views of Naples, in the manner of Salvatore Candido. Photo by Tom Rossiter.


Imogen Taylor returned the compliment in the catalogue:

“Fate was very kind the day I first met Fred Krehbiel.  I went on to design and decorate five or more homes for him and his wife and his sons over many years, Fred was the best client any designer could have as he had a huge passion for houses, furniture and objects, but allowed me the great freedom to try new ideas.”

Among the most interesting features of the 11,300-square-foot Cuban Colonial-style  Palm Beach house is a chequerboard floor from a monastery in Southern California.

Lot 1025 | An Italian Specimen Marble and Carved White Marble Table
Second quarter 19th Century.
Estimate: $10,000 – 15,000 Lot 1025 | An Italian Specimen Marble anxx xxxx xxdd 

Lot 1136 | A Pair of North Italian Neoclassical Bronze Mounted Polychrome Painted Armchairs
First Half 19th Century
Estimate: $8,000 – 12,000

Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago home, with a George III ‘Lac Bergaute’ and black gilt-japanned secretary cabinet-on-stand (lot 66, $15,000-25,000) .Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago home, with one of a pair of George III white-painted and parcel-gilt armchairs attributed to Thomas Chippendale (lot 56, $20,000-30,000), one of a pair of George III gilt bronze mounted marquetry demilune 

Photo by Hindman

Fred and Kay Krehbiel’s Chicago home, with one of a pair of George III white-painted and parcel-gilt armchairs attributed to Thomas Chippendale (lot 56, $20,000-30,000), one of a pair of George III gilt bronze mounted marquetry demilune cabinets (lot 72, $10,000-20,000) and one of a pair of George II giltwood mirrors after a design by Thomas Johnson (lot 75, $30,000-50,000).

Photo by Tom Rossiter.

We spoke with Hindman’s Corbin Horn, Vice President and Senior Specialist of European Furniture and Gemma Sudlow, Managing Director of the New York Region, both of whom have worked closely on the three auctions.

“Working with this impressive collection has been a project many months in the making. Our team began by spending an entire week at the Krehbiels’ Chicago home, cataloguing and inventorying the collection room by room. Then we spent several more months researching the provenance of the objects and consulting with colleagues in different collecting categories. It was a memorable experience for myself and our entire European Furniture & Decorative Arts team,” Horn said. “The breadth and diversity of the collection is remarkable. By organizing the collection into three days of auctions, we were able to both capture different periods in the Krehbiels’ journey as collectors and drive bidders to what interests them in an efficient way. The spirit of Mr. and Mrs. Krehbiel’s taste is preserved through beautiful photos of the objects in-situ, appearing online and in print next to each item.

 “The Krehbiels’ Chicago and Palm Beach homes are equally impressive, but clearly distinct. Their Chicago home reflects scholarship around English furniture and country house preservation, with a striking Thomas Chippendale group anchoring that home and this collection. When Fred Krehbiel was working with Imogen Taylor to furnish their Florida home, the vision very much became the spirit of Palm Beach. The Krehbiels and Taylor were clearly inspired by travels to Venice, and the home was filled with painted Italian and French furniture, works of art, and whimsy.

“Mrs. Krehbiel’s collecting of porcelain was encyclopedic. There are fine and early wares from Meissen, Vincennes and Sèvres, as well as beautiful Chinese exports. Mr. Krehbiel’s furniture, though diverse, is concentrated at the third and fourth quarters of the eighteenth century.”

We asked Horn what he predicts will be the most exciting bidding opportunities?

Lot 1048 | A George III ‘Blue John’ Urn
Early 19th Century
Estimate: $2,500 – 3,500

“Clients from the UK to Europe to Hong Kong are already eager for the auction, with many having flown all the way to Chicago to view the collection,” Horn said. “ A Cartier carved rock crystal, aventurine and moonstone flower model is a distinctly special item. In the late 19th century, Fabergé led the world in creating extraordinary lapidary works of art, some of which found their way to Royal collections. In the 1920s, Cartier employed some of the same lapidary artisans who had departed Fabergé following the Revolution. This small but mighty sculpture was likely made by those hands. We expect bidders worldwide to compete for it.

Lot 1134 | A North Italian Rococo Polychrome Painted Cabinet on Stand
Mid-18th Century
Estimate: $6,000 – 8,000

“Overall, it’s a delight to know that while these items will be finding new homes, in some ways they will also be returning to their original homes – a rare Sèvres teapot Chinoise Fragonard of circa 1819 could return to France and a unique English ‘Lac Bergaute’ cabinet, originally from Houghton Hall, could end up back in the UK.”

We asked Gemma Sudlow how a new collector might add one of these treasures to their homes to become a beloved standout piece.

“Following the pandemic, more and more people are investing greater time in their homes, but also thinking about how they can acquire one-of-a-kind items in a sustainable way. A juxtaposition between what is old and new always makes for an engaging interior. It’s all about finding what catches your eye – while it’s certainly nice to have a beautifully planned room, this often comes together when objects are acquired over time.”

 We asked Horn what he might be watching for during the bidding.

“We are keeping a close eye on a pair of giltwood armchairs anchoring a spectacular group of Thomas Chippendale furniture. These armchairs are likely from a set which was Chippendale’s only Royal commission, made for Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the brother of King George III. There is a group of matching chairs in the British Royal Collection at Clarence House, London.

“The Palm Beach collection includes three rather special Blue John ornamental urns. Blue John, as you know, is a rare fluorite mineral which was mined during the 18th and 19th centuries and is prized for its decorative quality.”

We asked Sudlow if she expected any surprises during the auction.

The sale is full of interesting one-off items. With that, and a great story attached, it is always possible to be pleasantly surprised by something in the auction! In our experience, it is often something of modest value but great style that ‘takes-off’ and produces a memorable result when two (or more) bidders fall in love with it.

Horn told us about the online auction:

Part III includes 390 lots from both the Krehbiels’ Pam Beach and Chicago homes, presented together in an online-only bidding format. There are wonderful and interesting decorative objects, furniture and works of art, many at approachable price points.”


Foyer of Fred & Kay Krehbiel’s Palm Beach Home. Photo by Tom Rossiter

 “Over the years we came to host almost every major family holiday at that house—Eastern luncheons, Thanksgiving dinners, and New Year’s Eve parties.  Friends of my parents danced with my brother’s and my friends late into the evening in a mixing of generations which my parents so enjoyed,” Jay Krehbiel has recalled.  “Lester Lanin hats would fly as the hour approached midnight—we still have many of those hats, in every color.

Bidding for the all three sales is available via Hindman’s Digital Bid Room, and will begin at 10am CT on March 15, 9am CT/10am ET on March 16, and 10am CT on March 17. Bidding for the March 15th and 16thsales will be available in-person at the Chicago and Palm Beach salerooms and via absentee bid, and telephone.