A great deal of professionel competency, unlimited curiosity and the desire to test new methods and materials. These attributes of cabinetmaker Gert Kjeldtoft explain why he is such a sought-after development partner among furniture designers – whether young or established – who want to transform their wildest ideas into functional furniture.
‘Making is thinking’ is the mantra in Kjeldtoft’s workshop. You truly experience that conviction when you meet the small team of craftsmen who work long and hard there, creating furniture that combines sense and sensibility. Here, within the workshop’s rustic space, there is room to think big and explore alternative ideas: to create crazy experiments dictated only by the necessity that the bar must always be raised. This desire to step onto new paths and be part of a creative process has given rise to interesting and productive collaborations with a series of furniture designers, architects and manufacturers of furniture. Not only has the customers had specific assignments to be solved: They have also needed to watch their ideas given physical form through the coop with Kjeldtoft.
Kjeldtoft recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ownership of the furniture workshop. People compete to work with Kjeldtoft. The reason: Kjeldtoft claims himself, how he has difficulty saying no to exciting assignments, but the real success should probably be found in the fact that he is able to think not only with his brain but also with his hands.
“My small team has a great love for the materials of nature – especially wood – and we like to explore the potential of the materials and their ability to interact with one another. At the same time we are crazy about pushing the boundaries of our craftsmanship, which we rule and love” – so explains Kjeldtoft. He assigns great importance to his team’s ability to combine craftsmanship with a profound interest in design and with new thinking about how to shape, build and create pieces.
Above all, Kjeldtoft values his ability to see an idea clearly and then transform it into a piece of furniture. He also showcases on a regular basis at the Danish Craftsmanship Exhibition (Designudstilling SE), where manufacturers work in cooperation with designers on new items that showcase new ways of working: essential in a business that must constantly renew itself.
“I have often participated as the manufacturer of several pieces of furniture developed in cooperation with different designers at just one exhibition, but this year I have narrowed it down to only one product – a flat-pack bench, designed by Andreas Lund,” explains Kjeldtoft. He cares a great deal for the often very time-consuming work of development: “One of the strengths that we possess in our company is that we are good at experimenting, inventing and finally developing. This is also why we are contacted by a lot of young designers who would like to cooperate during the process.”
Not a family legacy
Kjeldtoft has been fascinated by design since he was a child, despite the fact that his childhood home did not provide much in the way of aesthetic stimulation. “I’m from a very traditional Danish home with no pieces of furniture seeking attention. The only piece of design in our house was the Y-chair designed by Hans J Wegner. Somehow it was clear to me how this chair distinguished itself from the rest. Even though my interest for design was not brought to me with mother’s milk, I started at a very young age attending design exhibitions.”
Kjeldtoft had only just graduated as a cabinetmaker when he first got to work with some of the finest architects in Denmark, kicking off a lifetime of collaborative endeavour. “The main part of the assignments we are involved in today takes its beginning in a cooperation with a designer or an architect. It can be a thought-through solution with customised tables in a city hall, a welcoming desk for a music conservatory, a complete line of furniture consisting of beds to kitchen closets for a mansion or the total decoration of a shop,” he elaborates.
His résumé also encompasses interior design for Michelin-starred restaurants such as The Studio in Copenhagen, Frederikshøj in Aarhus and Henne Kirkeby Kro in Henne. “One of the latest projects of mine was a collaboration with the renowned designer Jasper Morrison. Together we developed a combined cabinet-bed-TV piece of furniture for a palace in Qatar.” He recognises that that project was more unusual than most, but says it also illustrates perfectly how he and his team like to be challenged.
These challenges often show themselves in the faces of picky and demanding customers, while other challenges are presented by architects and designers with brilliant ideas, but Kjeldtoft and his team also like to test themselves: “I think of exploring new materials and new methods as my playground – it could be “stung tree”, which acts so much as plastic that you can actually tie knots with it. It could be 3D laminate or new composite materials that result in new methods.”
Kjeldtoft sometimes develops new tools himself as he strives to push the boundaries of how far one can challenge wooden material when shaping it. “Wood is our most important basic material, but we also work with marble, rock, metal, concrete and linoleum – the common denominator is nature, and how these materials that patinate and grow more beautiful with age.”
Jasper Morrison, designer – about working with Gert Kjeldtoft:
Kjeldtoft were recommended to me by the owner of the wonderful Fredericia, makers of many Danish classic furniture designs. I was looking for a very high level of craftsmanship for a demanding client who wanted the best and insisted on a Danish carpenter. The resulting quality of joinery in the finished piece (which was large and complicated) was remarkable, far better than I or the client had expected, and I greatly appreciated their ability to work around the inevitable problems.
If it’s quality and efficiency you’re after, go see Kjeldtoft.