For a small country tucked within a cozy nook of the world, Denmark has featured a number of amazing designers. While the work originated in the country is based on clean lines and functionality, the designers have definitely managed to deliver a trailblazing change that has altered the way the world perceived modernism in the 20th century. It’s because of the efforts of these individuals that Scandinavian design has become the apple of the eye of so many décor lovers all over the world these days. So further, we’ll be taking a look at some major icons of the Danish furniture design movement and some of their most iconic works:
If there’s a single name in the 10th century Danish design movement that never fails to cross lists, it’s that of Arne Jacobsen. His work was experimental, but visionary nonetheless. He strived for excellence of aesthetic and was renowned for introducing ‘architectural functionalism’ within his creations. With a degree in architecture and a penchant for unleashing his imagination, Jacobsen was behind many classic Scandinavian furniture designs.
The Egg chair is one of Arne Jacobsen’s most famous works to date. In its design, he compiled modern materials and crafting techniques. The sculptural body of the chair is rather interesting and has a foam inner shell. The unique shape and beautiful design have a universal appeal – although it’s interesting to note that Jacobsen first designed the chair for the reception lobby of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.
With a passion for art history and a reluctant introduction to architecture, Finn Juhl became one of the trailblazers who brought the Danish design aesthetic to America. He later worked for 10 years at the architectural firm where he apprenticed and did work that led him to be awarded the C. F. Hansen prize for young architects.
Juhl came up with many innovative furniture designs throughout his career as well – and the most particular of them is the Poet Sofa. It’s a small love-seat that was first introduced to the world at the Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition around 1941. Juhl’s goal for the sofa was to be functional and aesthetically pleasing in small spaces, and he managed to do so beautifully with this particular piece.
Kaare Klint was a visionary whose impact on the Danish design movement remains strong. As a son of an architect, he already has a concept of spaces from an early age. He later helped establish the Department of Furniture Design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In fact, he was the guiding hand to some of his later contemporaries such as Arne Jacobson and Hans Wegner.
Klint designed the Safari chair as an ode to history in a sleek, modern format. He took inspiration from the past to come up with designs that would benefit and represent the future. That’s exactly what the collapsible design of the Safari chair entailed. On the surface, it seems sturdy and formidable. But at the same time it embodies the clean aesthetic of classic 20th century modernism to the fullest.
Mogensen is one of the pioneering fathers of the Danish Modern movement. His work helped bring the unique craft of Danish design to the mainstream world. With beginnings as a cabinet maker that segued into a future architect, Mogensen eventually became known as a renowned furniture designer. His work with in-built shelves and cabinets is what set the tones of their contemporary demand. He was a master at anthropometry and most of his designs were standardized to excellent product and human specifications.
The Spanish chair is one of Mogensen’s most famous designs. The solid oak wood and saddle leather chair is the epitome of sophisticated. Inspired by Medieval Spanish construction, the organic, natural beauty of the chair was designed to emulate the sleek elegance of the modern movement that was taking the world by storm at the time. Even to this day, the chair remains an excellent accent piece.
Kaj Gottlob was somewhat of an anomaly in the Danish design world as he started off as a royal building inspector and a professor who taught at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. His interest in classical design and the arts and crafts movement was quite apparent in the furniture that he eventually designed. In fact, he worked extensively with A. J. Iverson on various furniture pieces over the years. He also tried his hand at designing buildings and was quite a jack of all trades.
The Klismos Chair (1922) is one of Kaj Gottlob’s most famous works. Originally designed in ash wood, the curved, avant-garde physique of this chair has a very vintage classical aesthetic. It leans heavily on the midcentury modern scale and is sleeker than what you can find in the archives of history.
One of the very few women in the Danish design scene, Greta Grossman made her mark on both Europe and America. She was an avid designer – a pioneer or 20th century modernism and all that it had to offer. She not only had architectural projects in America, but also opened a shop on Rodeo Drive that became a huge hit. She brought delicate, cozy, and minimal Scandinavian tastes to the southern Californian market and was the favorite of many celebrity clients such as Gracie Allen and Frank Sinatra.
Her Grasshopper lamp is an instant modern classic. With its sleek, simple lines and minimal aesthetic, it makes for an excellent accent piece. The metallic body and subdued elegance only add to its gorgeous appeal. It boasts an understated beauty that is both pleasing and statement-worthy.
Master furniture designer and an overall pioneer of the midcentury modern movement, Hans Wegner designed almost 500 chairs throughout his lifetime. His creativity and innovation knew no bounds and his Danish heritage showed in the clean aesthetics and simple lines of all the products he came up with. He was an intrinsic part of the ‘Golden Age’ of the Danish Modern movement and prided himself on delivering the most concise, inventive, and prolific furniture designs.
Wegner’s work portfolio is farreaching, but the two items that remain timeless masterpieces even to this day include the Wishbone Chair and the Shell chair. While the former consists of delicate work and a back that is designed in the image of an actual wishbone, the latter has wide, curved lines and an iconic visual value. The Wishbone chair has been in continuous production since the 1950’s.
As a Danish architect and furniture designer, Peter Hvidt pioneered many creative pieces over the course of his career. After graduating from Design school, he worked at a number of firms to accumulate a lot of experience in the field. It was in 1944 that he co-founded Hvidt & Mølgaard, a company where he unleashed his true potential with furniture designing.
It was with Hvidt & Mølgaard that he came up with the design of the Portex chair in 1945 with collaboration with Orla Mølgaard. This laminated solid beech chair became quite a popular design back in its day. Its sleek lines and relatively simple design was classic midcentury modern with an authentic Scandinavian appeal. It’s gorgeously vintage and perfect for emulating an old-school modern aura in your spaces.
A Danish designer with humble beginnings in the cabinetry making business, Poul Kjærholm turned out to be an iconic name in midcentury modern history. He had an inherent love for steel and natural materials, and that shone through in his aesthetic – especially in the furniture that he designed over the years. He believed in expressing the quality and integrity of the material. Neat and understated were his style. His work was never flashy, but always artfully simple.
Poul Kjærholm’s work ranges a number of furniture items – the PK collection is very extensive, but the PK22 chair remains a classic to this day. This lounge chair made out of stainless steel and a comfortable fabric canvas seat is perfect for all modern and contemporary interiors. Its clean lines and chic design are as timeless as they come. It’s beautiful in a subtle way and was even awarded the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale!
You can’t really round off the midcentury modern movement without mentioning Jens Risom. This Danish American furniture designer was the son of renowned architect Sven Risom. He moved to America in 1938 and spent 2 years as the Director of Interior Design at Dan Cooper’s studio. After that, he struck out on his own as a freelance furniture designer and eventually collaborated with the world-renowned manufacturer: Knoll.
The Risom Lounge Chair is an ode to simplicity and aesthetic frugality. The design is an innovative leap of faith and was first conceived during wartime material shortages. Risom cleverly used scraps of wood and rejected nylon straps to come up with the chair’s design. To this day, it remains one of the beloved, classic, and iconic pieces of 20th century modern furniture.
One of the first furniture designers who paved the way for the Danish Modern movement, A. J. Iversen was an icon who collaborated with many a architects and designers. With roots in cabinet making and a streak for the eclectic, he was known for collaborating with artists from all around. Most of his work was inspired by history and maintained a sense of chic sophistication and refinement. He liked showcasing tradition while using modern technology. His imagination and articulation were masterful.
One of the most popular furniture designs by Iversen includes the Ming Round Occasional Table. It has a classic vintage appeal but smooth curvy lines – the perfect combination of old-school and contemporary. Other notable pieces include the T-Chair and Egyptian Stool.
Jacob Jensen is one of the most renowned and iconic Danish industrial designer. He’s somewhat of an all-rounder with an extensive portfolio of items that range a number of consumer products including but not limited to appliances and furniture. Throughout his long life, he worked with many famous brands such as General Electric and Boform. Many of his works have been featured in the Museum of Modern Art and he’s won a number of design awards over the years.
Jensen’s impact on the 20th century furniture design scene is very widespread. The office chair he designed for Labofa Mobler in 1960 remains an inspiration for modern designers even to this day. With gorgeous, comfortable upholstery, beautiful stainless steel swivel wheel styling, and a clean Scandinavian aesthetic, this office chair is definitely timeless enough to remain classic for a while to come.
Being a designer, architect, and a critic gave Poul Hennigsen a lot of leeway in the field. His unfinished degree in architecture was laid aside in pursue of art – especially painting. However, that did not take away from his inventive side at all. In fact, it only contributed to it as Henningsen came renowned for his innovation in the field of lighting design.
Light fixtures are an important part of the whole Scandinavian style aesthetic, and Poul Henningsen definitely contributed to this lot with the highly avant-garde yet sleekly modern design of his Artichoke lamp. His work on the PH series is inspired, and the luminary effect of the Artichoke lamp awe people to this day.
So, these are some major pioneers of the Danish Modern movement. Not only some of them shape and mold future talent, but they floated some amazing ideas into the world that are still regarded absolutely inspired. The absolute style, aesthetic appeal, and timeless beauty of their creations has made the 20th century a total classic as far as history books are concerned.