Vintage Home Boutique

Great Mid-Century Designers 101: Florence Knoll

22 March, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

When describing her work, Florence Knoll has said that she did not merely decorate space—she created it. Her design legacy proves the truth of that statement. She did far more than just place furniture in a room.

Great Mid-Century Designers 101: Charles and Ray Eames

22 February, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

Eames is an instantly recognizable name in the annals of mid-century design. The husband and wife team continually pushed the envelope as they sought to design practical, functional, and cost-effective furniture.

How to Buy a Sofa—Five Steps for Doing It Right

08 February, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

In most homes, sofas are high traffic pieces of furniture. When buying a sofa, you want to make sure you’re getting something that can stand up to heavy use for many years to come. Here are five steps you can take to be successful at sofa shopping.

Selling to VHB

23 January, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

Are you looking to sell your Mid Century Modern furniture? Do you buy furniture?

Great Danish Designers 101: Peter Hvidt and Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen

30 November, 2016 1 comment Leave a comment

Peter Hvidt trained as an architect and cabinetmaker in Copenhagen. He created his influential Portex chair in 1944 but would realize his biggest achievement in 1950 with the AX chair, designed in partnership with architect and furniture designer Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen. The two worked together for 31 years, designing pieces for renowned Danish manufacturers like Fritz Hansen, France & Son, and Søborg Møbelfabrik. Scandinavian Modern notes that a common feature of the partners’ work was the construction of designs in solid wood, including “classics” like their storage units, day beds, and tables that are still highly sought after today. (Scandinavian.Modern, R & Company)

Great Danish Designers 101: Grete Jalk

09 November, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Grete Jalk worked in an era when female furniture designers were rare.

Great Danish Designers 101: Kurt Østervig

26 October, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Who was Kurt Østervig? It seems a straightforward question but the answer wasn’t all that easy to find. Images of his designs are plentiful, but the only biographical information we could uncover came from Wikipedia, and it appears to be a direct translation of this page:

Kurt Ostervig Bio

Leaving aside the first paragraph, which is an appeal for a picture of Østervig’s grave, we are left with about 100 words as our soul source of information about the man. His work will have to do the talking, and it speaks volumes. Østervig had a flair for the dramatic, infusing his furnishings with unique elements that stood out among the designs of the day.

Kurt Østervig:  From the Shipyard to the Wood Shop 

A Google translation of the page shown above tells us that Østervig was born in Odense, Denmark in 1912. His father was in the military. Østervig began his career in a related field, working as a naval architect at Odense Steel Shipyard. He soon discovered a passion for woodworking and changed careers, finding employment for a time at E. Knudsen Architects in Odense. He opened his own studio in 1947.

Østervig’s biography notes that he liked working with oak, but it is clear from browsing the websites of vintage furniture dealers and auction houses that—like his contemporaries— he also crafted many items from teak, rosewood, and walnut.

Using oak as his medium, Østervig created versatile looks, including two very different styles of dining chair. Both are minimalist but each has a distinct aesthetic. The first is boxy with a casual sensibility while the second, with its oak legs and teak backrest, is curved and tapered with a more sophisticated look:

Kurt Ostervig Oak and Rattan Chair

Image from Scandinavian Modern

Oak and Teak Dining Chairs by Kurt Ostervig

Image from Pamono.ca.

Another of his oak pieces recalls the rattan chair above, with is straight, sturdy legs and somewhat rustic appearance:

Kurt Ostervig Oak Sideboard

Ostervig Oak Sideboard with Doors Open

In this sideboard, manufactured in the 1960s, Østervig may not have used the organic, curving shapes common among Danish mid-century designs, but the prominence of the wood’s grain shows that he, like other designers of the period, had a keen appreciation for the natural beauty of wood:

Ostervig Oak Sideboard, Close-up of Wood Panels and Brass Hinge

Images from Pamono.ca.

His other dining room furniture shows how much he liked to push the envelope in his designs. This stunning teak and leather chair is one example:

Kurt Ostervig Teak and Leather Dining Chair

Teak and Leather Chair by Kurt Ostervig, Back View

Rather than a leg at each corner of the seat, as nearly all dining chairs possess, Østervig shifted everything 90 degrees. The focal point of the chair is the elegant backrest that flows into a single back leg positioned in the centre of the seat. The corresponding front leg is also centred, giving the chair its unique structure.

Like other designers of the period, Østervig incorporated distinctive shapes in his designs. The circle was the chosen shape for the chair shown above, seen in both the back rest and the rounded seat:

Kurt Ostervig Teak and Leather Chair, Top View

 Images from Pamono.ca.

Triangles also featured prominently in many of Østervig’s designs, including the butterfly chair shown below. It has only three legs, attached at the corners of a triangular seat. The back rest consists of two slightly distorted triangles that recall butterfly wings and give the chair its name:

Kurt Ostervig Butterfly Chair

Image from Pamono.ca

Østervig used triangles in his tables to challenge conventions of structure and shape. Rather than place table legs at the corners and have them descend in a straight line to the floor as was typically done, Østervig decided to try something a little different. The results speak for themselves. His unique approach to table design has incredible visual impact:

Kurt Ostervig Coffee Table with Y legs

Image from 1stdibs.

Kurt Ostervig Coffee Table with Cane Shelf

Image from 1stdibs.

Kurt Ostervig Folding Dining Table

True to his Danish heritage, Østervig focused on efficiency and versatility as well as aesthetics. This rosewood dining table is a perfect example. Its legs swing closed and the leaves fold down via the intentionally visible and beautifully rendered hinges. Closed, it can serve as a console table; open, the table offers enough space to seat eight for dinner.

Kurt Ostervig Folding Dining Table, Closed

Images from 1stdibs.

In addition to the boldly geometric elements seen above, Østervig also employed a more subtle touch, using gentle contours to soften his designs, as seen in both his day bed and surfboard coffee table:

Kurt Ostervig Day Bed

Kurt Ostervig Day Bed, Side View

Images from MCM Daily.

Kurt Ostervig Coffee Table

Image from Invaluable.com.

Like his oak sideboard and other works, Østervig’s day bed and surfboard table demonstrate a reverence for wood typical of Danish mid-century designers. In our post about Ib Kofod-Larsen, we referred to his “talent for honouring the innate qualities of his chosen materials.” Østervig shows a similar tendency, choosing a minimalist aesthetic that allows the natural beauty of the wood to shine. Streamlined and sculptured, these pieces also showcase his extraordinary skills as a craftsman. 

Although intentionally exaggerated in their proportions, Østervig’s upholstered and leather lounge chairs are every bit as sleek as his wood pieces.  This ad from 1962 shows his Model 62H chair, a re-interpretation of a classic wing chair:

Vintage Advertisement for Kurt Ostervig Model 62 Chair

Image from DanishModernUK.

Østervig’s Model 57A features a round shape in a minimalist design that uses colour, in one version, and texture in the other to create “domestic cheer” and a sense of warmth. Both were important to Danish designers, living, as they did, through very dark and cold winters. (Scandinavian Modern Home)

Kurt Ostervig Model 57A Chair

Image from Wright20

Kurt Ostervig Model 57A Chair, Sheepskin Cover

Image from ArtNet

Østervig played with texture and proportion in many of his wood pieces as well.  In addition to contrasting colours, the bookcase shown below features dramatic tapering in the vertical supports, echoed in the cabinets and shelves.

Kurt Ostervig Teak Bookcase

Image from 1stdibs

Østervig, like many mid-century designers, was known to use tambour doors in his cabinets for practical and aesthetic reasons. These doors could open without being pulled out and taking up space, and the slats provided a contrasting texture for added visual interest.  In the pull-out table of the bar cabinet shown below, Østervig included another contrasting texture. The smooth black formica finish would have been seen as a very modern touch in the 1950s, but it also added an element of utility by providing the perfect surface for mixing cocktails.

Kurt Ostervig Bar Cabinet with Tambour Doors, Front View

Kurt Ostervig Bar Cabinet, Close-Up of Doors

Kurt Ostervig Bar Cabinet, Open

Images from SimplyMod.com 

While little has been said about the man, Kurt Østervig’s design legacy helps tell his story. Østervig died in 1986 but his furnishings are still in demand today, fetching high prices on the resale market. His day bed, a rare find, was listed at more than $17,000.00 at the time of writing, while a complete butterfly dining set—including table—was priced at over $20,000.00.  And that single, beautiful teak and leather chair had an asking price of nearly $2,000.00.

 

 

 

 

Amy Walsh-Harris: Bars and Streetcars

16 October, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Amy Walsh - Harris will be releasing her new collection of work titled Bars and Streetcars. This spectacular collection combines the intimacy of indoor with the grandeur of Toronto's iconic steercars. As always, Amy focuses on her hometown and showcases the interesting and sometimes overlooked aspects of our great city.

Save the date:

November 3, 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Vintage Home Boutique 710B St Clair Ave W
Wine and appetizers will be served.

Great Danish Designers 101: Niels Møller

12 October, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

The mission statement of furniture maker J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik describes a “proud tradition of classic craftsmanship.”  Founded in 1944 by Niels Møller, the company is now run by his son but adheres to his very exacting standards, producing many of Møller’s most cherished designs today using methods established over 70 years ago. Known for their exceptional quality, Møller’s original pieces are also in high demand on the collectors' market. (jlm.dk, Danish Teak Classics)    

Niels Møller:  Five Years Invested in Each Design

Niels Møller was born in 1920 in Århus, Denmark. After completing an apprenticeship in cabinetmaking in 1939, he enrolled at the Århus School of Design for further studies. In 1944 he opened his own furniture company, JL Møllers Møbelfabrik, in a small workshop in his hometown. By 1952 the company had begun exports to Germany and the US. With increased production, they found themselves in need of more space and opened a larger facility just outside of Århus in Højbjerg. By 1974 they were exporting to Japan where their minimalist designs proved extremely popular. Japan remains one of the company’s biggest markets today. (Design Within Reach)

Soon after setting up shop Møller was recognized for his “consistent excellence in quality and workmanship.” (Pamono) His son Jørgen elaborated in an interview about his father: “My father never compromised on anything…When he designed a chair, he would find the materials and then design the furniture. Each design took him five years to complete.” (Design Within Reach)

Such dedication meant that Møller produced far fewer designs than his contemporaries, but the relative scarcity of his pieces makes them even more valued.

The emphasis on old craft traditions endures at JL Møllers. Even today the company avoids the use of assembly lines and, as far as possible, modern technology. An outline of their processes shows the attention to detail in their furniture production:

  • Each chair is handcrafted, with individual employees specializing in particular processes.
  • Tenons, mortices, and dowels are all glued by hand. While other components are dried down to 8% humidity, dowels are dried down to 5%. As a result, when the dowel contacts the glue, “it expands and is immovably fixed in position.
  • Believing that polishing machines “treat all wood alike,” the company ensures that all chairs are polished by hand. With each chair getting individual attention, the best attributes of the wood can be brought out. 
  • After being thoroughly inspected, chairs are packed fully assembled, not as “knock-down furniture in a box.” The workmanship is so sound, the company states on its website that it is “literally impossible to pull a Møller chair apart.”

Production methods may be the same as they were in the mid-century period, but the choice of materials has narrowed. Rosewood, a favourite of Niels Møller, is now an endangered species and cannot be used today.  The company continues to use teak in some of its designs, but works more often with oak, beech, and walnut, and sometimes cherry or maple.

One of the resulting adaptations the company has had to make is seen in the very popular Model 75 dining chair. Once made in teak, as shown below, new versions of the Model 75 are now only available in oak:

Niels Moller Model 75 at VHB

VHB’s original Model 75 chairs in teak with new Danish cord seating.

When describing a Møller chair, people use words like “sculptural,” “clean,” “simple,” and “timeless.” Those words are all applicable to the Model 75. The back, shown below, seems to be constructed of a single piece of wood. It is utterly absent of ornamentation, yet is still elegant and sophisticated in appearance. It is also curved ever so slightly to provide comfort.

Niels Moller Model 75 from 1stDibs

Image from 1stdibs.

A similar aesthetic exists in Møller’s other dining chairs. The Model 78 in rosewood is a particularly striking example:

Niels Moller Model 78 Chair from Pamono.ca

Closeup of Back of Moller Model 78 Chair      Second closeup of the back of Moller's Model 78 chair

Images from Pamono.ca.

Again, the design is very simple, with only a subtle, pointed flourish on the front of the legs and the very top of the chair. The backs of these chairs are a testament to Møller’s exceptional workmanship: the horizontal and vertical pieces flow almost seamlessly into one another with the curves providing the sculptural quality he was known for.

His Model 65 armchair shows a similar grace, with tapered legs that create considerable lightness in appearance:

Moller Model 65 via 1stdibs

Full view of Niels Moller Model 65 Chair from 1stdibs

Images from 1stdibs.

Like many mid-century modern designers, Møller experimented with different shapes.  The sharp angles of the Model 84 chair, created in the 1970s, contrast significantly with the sinuous curves of his earlier work, yet still have a similar sense of sculpture and flow:

Moller Model 84, Pair, from 1stdibs

Model 84 Chair by Niels Moller from 1stdibs, Closeup

Images from 1stdibs.

Inspired by nature and organic forms, Danish mid-century designers would create pieces that highlighted the natural grain of the woods they worked with. Rosewood, with its pronounced grain, was a favourite among designers from the period, including Møller. The pieces he created in rosewood are among his most beautiful. This round dining table is one example:


Closeup Moller Round Rosewood Dining Table via Pamono.ca

Niels Moller Round Rosewood Dining Table
Images from Pamono.ca.

This Møller coffee table also showcases the natural beauty of rosewood:

Rosewood Coffee Table by Niels Moller, via Scandinavian Modern

Image from Scandinavian Modern.

Møller did not design a lot of sideboards, but he applied his usual attention to detail when he did. In the sideboard below, he used the wood’s natural grain to create symmetry between the two doors:

Rosewood sideboard by NIels Moller

The interior is equally eye-catching, with darker hues used for the shelves for contrast:

Interior of Niels Moller rosewood sideboard via 1stdibs

Images from 1stdibs.

In the larger sideboard shown below, the wood grain is more subtle but still provides a sense of symmetry. The interior shows typical mid-century Danish practicality, offering flexible storage with its adjustable shelves:

Niels Moller large rosewood hutch/sideboard, via 1stdibs

Interior Niels Moller rosewood hutch/sideboard

Images from 1stdibs.

By 1969 both of Møller’s sons had completed their training in cabinetmaking and joined the family business. Younger son Jørgen added to the company’s legacy with the Model 401, designed in 1974 while he was a student at the Copenhagen Design School. Although the overall feel of the chair is different, the influence of his father is clear in the workmanship and sculptural qualities:

Jorgen Moller Model 401 dining chair via jlm.dk

Image from jlm.dk.

In 1981, the company received Dansk MøbelIndustri’s Furniture Prize.  In explaining their choice, the jury mentioned J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik’s “ability to combine the best craft traditions with modern furniture manufacture” and went onto say that the company “has always obstinately held firm to its high quality level.” (jlm.dk) Indeed it has, as both its new output and vintage pieces show. 

Niels Moller passed away in 1982. His legendary company is still producing several of the models first made famous in the mid-century period, along with works from new designers. Niels’ son Jørgen is currently managing the company, with his son Michael following in his footsteps as the next generation to run the iconic firm. 

Great Danish Designers 101: Hans Wegner

21 September, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Although he designed many types of furniture, Hans Wegner was best known for his chairs. He designed more than 500 of them, with many still produced today. Wegner had very specific ideas about chairs, paying heed to comfort and craftsmanship, but also to aesthetics.  He famously stated that a “chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles.” (AZ Quotes) As we will see, he followed his own advice, and was eventually recognized for creating the world’s most beautiful chair.

Hans Wegner: Tireless Pursuit of the Perfect Chair 

The son of a cobbler, born in Tønder, Denmark in 1914, Wegner apprenticed as a carpenter before moving to Copenhagen. He trained at the Technical Institute in Denmark’s capital and then attended the School of Arts and Crafts, graduating in 1938. Two years later he joined the architectural office of Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller where he helped design furniture for the Aarhus City Hall, known then and now as a “classic example of Scandinavian modernism.” (ArchDaily

By 1943, Wegner had opened his own office and began working on a series of chairs that would later be known as the “Chinese chairs.” Like other Danish designers of the mid-century period, Wegner looked to the past for designs he could re-interpret. In the case of this first series of chairs, it was ancient China that inspired him. His Wishbone chair was the most famous among these early designs. It recalls Ming furniture produced in fourteenth-century China and, according to many sources, is Wegner’s most commercially successful design. (Wilhide, Carl Hansen, DanishDesign.com) The Wishbone is still produced by Carl Hansen today. An original is shown below:

Hans Wegner Wishbone Chair

Image from 1stdibs.

Elizabeth Wilhide, author of Scandinavian Modern Home, described the Wishbone as an example of Wegner’s “mastery of form,” noting how the curve of the back legs is echoed in the semicircular top rail and wishbone shaped back support. Similar design elements would appear in Wegner’s later chairs, including the Peacock. 

An adaptation of the classic Windsor chair, the Peacock was first produced in 1947 and debuted at the annual exhibition of the Cabinetmakers’ Guild of Copenhagen.  Technically known as the PP550, the more poetic “Peacock” name was supposedly bestowed by noted designer Finn Juhl, in reference to the fan-shaped slatted back rest. Always designing with comfort in mind, Wegner improved the slats, which were traditionally just round dowels, by flattening them at the exact point where the shoulder blades meet the chair:

Hans Wegner Peacock Chair

Image from 1stdibs.

Wegner was a presence at every Cabinetmakers’ Guild exhibit from 1941 until 1966, debuting a new chair each time. Wilhide credits Wegner’s “tireless pursuit of the perfect chair form” as a driving force behind his work. Many say he found perfection, or something very close to it, in the PP501/503, also known as the Round Chair.  Initially produced in 1949, the Round Chair was nicknamed inadvertently when Wegner asked an assistant to bring a chair to him from his design studio. When the assistant asked which one, Wegner replied very simply, “the round one.”

This seemingly simple design brought Wegner international fame. In 1950, the American magazine Interiors featured the Round Chair on its cover and called it “the world’s most beautiful chair.”

The presence of the Round Chair in the first televised US presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon only added to its reputation:

John F. Kennedy Seated in a Hans Wegner Round Chair

Image from API Images.

It is still regarded as a landmark design today. In its review of Wegner’s most iconic designs, Dwell magazine is effusive in its praise of the Round Chair, saying it is:

minimalist art reduced to its bare essentials. It required incredible craftsmanship to create such smooth curves—each of the crescent-shaped armrests are fashioned from a block of wood, and interior mortise-and-tenons hide the connection between the arms and legs.”

In his book Scandinavian Style, Bradley Quinn commented on the elegance of the design, seen in the way the armrests and back merge gracefully into one another. And Elizabeth Wilhide talks about the “minimal use of material, exquisite craftsmanship and refined form” that give the chair a timeless quality. In her assessment, Wegner reached his ultimate goal with the Round Chair, since it is, indeed, beautiful from all angles. The images below, of a Round Chair from VHB’s collection, show all of those angles:

Wegner Round Chair at Vintage Home Boutique, Side View

Wegner Round Chair at Vintage Home Boutique, Front View

Wegner Round Chair at Vintage Home Boutique, Back View

Images from Vintage Home Boutique.

The Round Chair was originally produced by Johannes Hansen, a small Danish furniture manufacturer with whom Wegner worked very closely. While it was common for Danish designers to collaborate with manufacturers, Wegner was “unusual” in that he worked alongside the company’s skilled craftsmen to fine tune his designs, rather than leaving them to figure out the technical details. (Wilhide)

Wegner’s relationship with Johannes Hansen was a fruitful one. Along with the Round Chair, Johannes Hansen produced the Peacock and the PP512, a chair that combines several traits of Danish mid-century design. It was streamlined and minimalist, used organic materials (wood and cane), and was highly practical since it could be folded and hung on the wall, as the reproduction below demonstrates.

Hans Wegner Folding Chair, Open Hans Wegner Folding Chair, Hanging on Wall

Images from twentytwentyone.

It was also with Johannes Hansen that Wegner designed the Ox Chair, a significant shift in direction for the designer. Known to “revere” wood, Wegner was apparently inspired by Picasso’s drawings of bulls when he created this dramatic armchair with ox hide and chromium-plated steel legs:

Ox Chair by Wegner

Image from 1stdibs.

As the Ox Chair shows, Wegner was known, on occasion, to have a little fun with his designs. Several years before the Ox Chair came to be, Wegner had re-imagined the wing chair. His thoroughly modern take on this very traditional piece was playful in appearance but also showed his commitment to human-centred design. As Wilhide notes, Wegner believed that a chair should “not impose a single posture” but allow people to be comfortable in any position they choose. The PP 19 fit the bill. This chair became known as the Papa Bear chair after a critic commented that the arms look liked paws reaching around to hug the person seated in it.

Hans Wegner Papa Bear Chair

Image from Pamono.ca.

Also known as a “witty” design was the multi-purpose Valet chair, which provided seating but also served as a place to hang a man’s suit. (Wilhide) The backrest is in the shape of a coat hanger, and pants could be hung on a rail at the edge of the seat which lifted to reveal more storage. The reproduction, below, shows all of the storage options and the detail of the unusual back:

Wegner Valet Chair, Reproduction from PP Mobler

Image from PP Møbler.

Beyond seating, Wegner created many other types of furniture with a wide range of Danish manufacturers. The bar bench, below, is another well-known design made by Johannes Hansen:

Hans Wegner Teak Bench

Image from 1stdibs.

Sleek storage solutions were always important to Danish mid-century designers and Wegner was no exception. He created many sideboards, some with distinctive elements that added flair and visual interest. His Model 20 sideboard was one of his most popular. The two-level construction sets it apart from others of the period:

Hans Wegner Model 20 Sideboard from Scandinavianmod.com

Image from scandinavianmod.com.

The CH 304 sideboard was originally made by Carl Hansen, a Danish company that still produces Wegner designs today. The crossed legs have brass supports, giving this piece a very unique look:

Hans Wegner Model CH 304 Sideboard from 1stdibs

Image from 1stdibs.

Wegner was so prolific that it is nearly impossible to capture all of his designs in one article. With such a large volume of work, it is no surprise that he won several prestigious awards in his lifetime, from the Lunning Prize and the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale in 1951 to an honourary doctorate from Royal College of Art in 1997. He continued to work into his eighties, and passed away in 2007 at the age of 92. His designs live on in modern reproductions, and many are featured in museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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