Maybe you are one of those who gets excited when you encounter an interesting piece of furniture. We’ve talked to a design historian and a housing researcher to dig deeper into this fascination with old design.
“My own fascination with old furniture stems from a certain interest in interior decoration from the post-war era. In those days there was a unique collaboration between the furniture designer and the master cabinet maker where lots of attention was given to the choice of wood,” says Birgit Lyngbye Pedersen, a Design historian and co-author of several books about Danish designer Finn Juhl. She has a great passion for furniture by Danish designers from the 1950s and 1960s.
This was a time where democratisation came all the way into people’s homes and affected the way they were decorating them.
“I’ve always been interested in furniture in the context of changing consumer cultures and especially in the Danish furniture golden age, Danish Modern, where lots of fantastic furniture was made; both different industrial pieces and also craftsmanlike furniture of very high quality. Finn Juhl has always had my deepest interest and his experimental and artistic approach to designing furniture is very fascinating,” she says.
We have asked Birgit to pick three of her favourite pieces of Danish designed furniture. The first one may not be surprising for some as it is the Bord-Bænk (Table Bench) by Finn Juhl. This hybrid piece was drawn in 1953 as part of a series for the company Bovirke. As the name implies, it can be used as both a table and a bench.
#1 – TABLE BENCH BY FINN JUHL
“All furniture has its ups and down depending on which era it was made in. Finn Juhl’s designs, for example, were considered elitist in the beginning and nobody would buy them. Today I think that the craftmanship and the organic shapes, the wood and the new textiles on the furniture give it a modern appearance in a mix with new furniture,” tells Birgit Lyngbye.
In Birgit Lyngbye Pedersen’s opinion, there should be room for many styles of furniture in a modern-day home. She adds that your home is supposed to be a crucible of all that you are and how you want to represent yourself.
‘Everything is allowed in modern-day home decoration. Furniture from the 1950s and 60s blends with new modern design, and the old furniture will either be reissued or bought as patinated vintage interior. These old grains of gold have an appeal with the young design-interested audience today – there’s no doubt about that.’
Mette Mechlenborg is Cand. mag., PhD in the science of literature and a housing researcher, and she confirms that the Danes have always had a certain bond to their homes:
“The Danes have a reputation for their special relationship with their homes and home decoration. Some substantiate it by reference to the Danish tradition of “hygge” or coziness, which describes an intimate and social activity that’s hard to copy. Others say that it’s due to the Danish climate that – compared to other countries with warmer temperatures – the Danes stay at home with their families. Another fact is that the Danes are some of the people in the world who spend most of their private income on their home – this shows that how you live plays a big part of the Danish lifestyle.”
A truly iconic piece of old furniture that fits perfectly into a modern Dane’s home is Birgit Lyngbye’s second choice of favourites, the Fredericia Furniture-produced J39 by Børge Mogensen. The J39 is also known as “The People’s Chair” or “Folkestolen” in Danish.
With its wide backrest and hand-woven seat, the J39 is a comfortable dining chair with a subtle idiom that can be included in an existing home decor or be a visual centre of attention in the room.
#2 – J39 BY BØRGE MOGENSEN
Birgit Lyngbye’s third and last choice of favourite furniture is The Flag Halyard Chair, designed by Hans J. Wegner. This chair was designed in 1950 and is to this day considered a great Danish design icon.
This chair is well-known for its futuristic shape and in 2002, PP Møbler were awarded Danish home magazine Bo Bedre’s Klassikerpris – “Classic Award” – for reopening the production of the chair.
Though it was drawn almost 70 years ago, it is still very modern in its appearance with its body of solid stainless steel and 240 meters of specially made flag line typically covered with a long-haired sheepskin.
Mette Mechlenborg says the following about the importance of chairs in Danish design:
“Chairs are one of the signature objects in Danish design –in both the past and the present – and that is no coincidence. The chair is a statement in its simple expression and functions within the practice and situation that the Danish home ideal rests upon: everyday situations, working communities and the fervour between furniture, home and occupant.”
#3 – THE FLAG HALYARD CHAIR BY HANS J. WEGNER
Birgit Lyngbye Pedersen bought Finn Juhl’s house in 2008 and donated it to the state of Denmark.