Danish design is distinguished from other design philosophies through simplicity and functionality. It first came about in the middle of the 20th century and is now widely referred to as mid-century, Scandinavian or retro styles. The style is partially rooted in the German Bauhaus movement, whereby Danish designers used new technologies and philosophies to create architecture with a completely fresh look and functional design.
The distinctive curves and wooden surfaces are more popular than ever, with entire industries built on supplying demand for more affordable replicas of these icons. Today, Danish design can be found in almost every facet of our lives, contributing heavily to the form and comfort we take for granted in day-to-day objects such as sofas and armchairs.
If you live in Sydney, you’ll be very well acquainted with the Sydney Opera House. This classic Australian icon was in fact also designed by a student of Scandinavian design: Eero Saarinen!
Here are a few of our favourite designers:
Borge Mogensen (1914 - 1972)
Borge Mogensen started his career as a cabinetmaker in 1934. After spending time in various design studios, he eventually worked with Kaare Klint, another prolific Danish Designer. As a result of spending time with Kaare Flint, he started producing classical furniture that as also extremely functional with a simple design.
During this time, he introduced the idea of building shelving and storage into a room, rather than placing storage furniture with a room. It is hard to believe that this was a foreign concept prior to the 1950’s!
Finn Juhl (1912 – 1989)
Despite being encouraged to pursue architecture by his father, Juhl aspired to be an art historian early in his life. Despite this, he began producing furniture in the late 1930’s and was entirely self-taught in the art. His style was free flowing in design, years ahead of his colleagues.
Like many early prodigies that produce new concepts, critics rejected some of his works labelling his early “Pelican chair” in 1939 as a “tired walrus”. At the time, his pieces were produced in small batches before being later commercially produced. His designs saw a decline in popularity in the 1960’s before re-emerging in demand in the 80’s.
Hans Wegner (1914 – 2007)
Wegner produced over 500 different chairs, of which 100 were put into mass production. His style has been described by many as being Organic Functionality, the result of a modernist school that placed a lot of emphasis on functionality and comfort.
Wegner’s unique style combined the old and the new to create a form and function in his furniture that was ultimately responsible for creating his reputation as a master in the realm of Danish design. Wagner showed a preference for working with wood and is responsible for some very familiar pieces such as the “Wishbone”, “Folding”, “Peacock” and “Shell”.
Arne Jacobsen (1902 – 1971)
Equal parts architect and furniture designer. Jacobsen designed not only entire buildings, but also the intricate internal details. These include textiles, lighting, wallpaper and silverware. Some of his armchair and sofa designs are perhaps the most recognizable of all the Danish designers, creating works such as “Egg”, “Drop” and “Swan”.
He died unexpectedly in 1971, leaving behind several unfinished works. His designs are described as having a great sense of proportion, which is perhaps partly responsible for his long lasting legacy.
Poul Kjaerholm (1929 – 1980)
Kjaerholm took a fresh perspective on furniture design, preferring industrial methods and materials. Unlike most of his peers who preferred to work with wood, Kjaerholm’s unique vision led him to his use steel combined with other materials like leather and marble.
Poul Henningsen (1894 – 1967)
Henningsen was a Danish author, critic, and architect. He made a valuable contribution to the field of lighting and was renowned as the world’s first lighting expert. Much of his work was dedicated to understanding the relationships shadows and glare. Some of his notable most notable works include the PH Artichoke and the PH5, which produce minimal glare and uniform lighting.
Verner Panton (1926 – 1998)
Employed as a furniture and interior designer, Panton was mostly known for his work with plastics, producing innovative and futuristic designs in vibrant colours. His interest in plastics led him to create the first chair that was able to be produced via injection molding in only one step. That is to say, after the plastic solidified in the die, no other parts were attached. The S Chair as it was known was also stackable.
Although Panton’s style as quintessential 1960s, his designs saw a resurgence of popularity by the end of the 20th century. His pioneering of new materials and manufacturing techniques enhanced the ability to produce designer furniture on mass, with little compromise on style.