As a major contributor to the genesis of the Danish Modern era of furniture design, the Danish architect Finn Juhl (1912-1989) was one of the most prominent designers of his time. This article features an interview with Henrik Sørensen, co-owner of Onecollection, who, together with Ivan Hansen, has been entrusted to bring Juhl’s iconic creations to life once again.
Danish designer and architect Finn Juhl undoubtedly had a major influence on Danish Modern design, which thrived from the 1940s through to the 1960s. In an exclusive interview, DANISH™ visited Henrik Sørensen, co-founder of House of Finn Juhl, in their production facilities and offices in Ringkøbing, Denmark.
Q&A with Henrik Sørensen of House of Finn Juhl & Onecollection
Regarding the copyright on Finn Juhl’s designs, what agreement did you and your business partner Ivan Hansen make with Juhl’s widow, Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, before she passed away?
Our journey began when Hanne Wilhelm Hansen contacted us to produce a 57 sofa. She wanted to arrange a memorial exhibition in relation to the 10 year-mark of Finn Juhl’s death – and that became the start of a friendly collaboration. Subsequently, we asked her for permission to make the Pelican and Poet sofa and Hanne was really happy with the result. Our cooperation culminated in 2001, when she handed us all the rights to produce Finn Juhl’s furniture. Hanne died a few years later, but luckily, she saw some of her husband’s most iconic designs brought back to life.
What goes through your minds when planning a relaunch of one of Finn Juhl’s pieces?
We’ve always taken quite an untraditional approach to this. We never ask: “Is the market ready for this piece of furniture?” We just try to follow our instincts. Since Finn Juhl’s legacy is like a treasure chest, we have plans to launch many of these unique designs for years to come.
Whenever we decide to relaunch something, we make sure to conform to the same values and quality as the original pieces. Our collection is based on original drawings and furniture from Finn Juhl’s own house and items in private collections and museums. In some cases, we have to imagine what Juhl would have done, which is often very demanding, but it’s also extremely exciting at the same time.
What does it feel like to be responsible for maintaining the spirit of such a big Danish design icon as Finn Juhl?
When we received the rights to Finn Juhl’s furniture in 2001, there was a substantial expectation that such a significant heritage should be treated with the deepest respect. Our aim is to relaunch Finn Juhl’s furniture while acknowledging his legacy but with a modern aspect to it. Therefore, all details must be just as delicate as if they were made in the original cabinetmaker’s workshop, while at the same time, they should be durable enough to last for generations.
Our furniture is mainly produced in Denmark in our own workshop in Ringkøbing and all the upholstery is hand sewn in the traditional Danish way. The wooden frames for the more complicated pieces, like the Chieftain Chair and the 45 Chair, are manufactured by our talented Japanese friends in Yamagata, before being shipped back to Denmark for upholstering. For these designs, we’ve chosen to utilize a combination of modern technology and meticulous manual craftsmanship. Without this approach, it wouldn’t be possible to reproduce the tremendous quality of Finn Juhl’s furniture today.
To produce these pieces, we try to understand Finn Juhl, which simply comes down to emotion. You can’t make his furniture by thinking only about the techniques and the commercial aspects. You need to be extremely critical about the details, because there’s no compromise when it comes to Finn Juhl. The cabinetmakers put their own personal imprint on each piece of Finn Juhl furniture, simply because the designs are so organic. Juhl was very inspired by art and that is clearly visible in his work:
“Art has always been my main source of inspiration. I am fascinated by shapes that defy gravity and create visual lightness.” – Finn Juhl
How do you try to follow what Finn Juhl would have done for new versions of a design?
Finn Juhl’s own dilemma was that many of his designs required techniques that had not yet been invented. Several of his pieces were impossible to produce then, while others were made in very few – often fragile – examples. Juhl was very aware of these limitations but spoke hopefully about his expectations for the future:
“One should not despair over the fact that some of the developments one has hoped for were never produced but only became a beginning. Perhaps they will be revived some day in the future, if necessary or reasonable, when the time is ripe.” – Finn Juhl