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Articles tagged as mid century modern (view all)

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.

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

30 November, 2016 0 comments 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 2 comments Leave a comment

Who was Kurt Østervig? It seems a straightforward question but the answer wasn’t all that easy to find. 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.

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 AP 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 AP 19 Papa Bear Chair from Vintage Home Boutique

 Image from Vintage Home Boutique.

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.

Great Danish Designers 101: Ib Kofod-Larsen

07 September, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Although born and educated in Denmark, furniture designer Ib Kofod-Larsen didn’t achieve as much renown there as his contemporaries, in part because he worked with manufacturers based outside of his home country. He realized his first success as a designer at home, but the recognition he received there led him abroad, to England and Sweden, where he was asked to “breathe new life” into the designs of two furniture makers whose pieces had become tired and dated. (Brdr. Petersens) Today there is an increasing appreciation for Kofod-Larsen’s designs, with corresponding jumps in demand and price.

Ib Kofod-Larsen: Honouring the Innate Qualities of His Chosen Materials  

Ib Kofod-Larsen was born in Denmark in 1921. Like many of his contemporaries, he studied at the Danish Royal Academy in Copenhagen. His first recognition as a designer would come in 1948, when he won the Holmegaard Glass Competition. In that same year, he was rewarded for work in another medium, receiving the Danish Cabinetmakers Guild’s annual award. (Pamono.ca) Danish furniture maker Faarup Møbelfabrik saw his potential and hired him. It was here that he designed one of his more spectacular pieces: the Model 66 sideboard, shown below.

Model 66 Sideboard by Kofod-Larsen

Image from MCMDaily.com.

His work with Faarup established him as a designer. He followed the basic tenets of Danish mid-century design, creating versatile, practical pieces with a graceful, minimalist aesthetic. Yet, in the minds of some collectors today, he stands out from other Danish designers of the mid-century period because of his “talent for honouring the innate qualities of his chosen materials.” (Pamono.ca) Kofod-Larsen was known for working with the natural grains and patterns in the raw materials he used and making those elements the focus of his designs. One of the finest examples of this tendency is a rosewood sideboard he designed for Faarup:

Kofod-Larsen Rosewood sideboard for Faarup

Kofod-Larsen Rosewood Sideboard, Close-Up

Images from 1stdibs.

In this sideboard, Kofod-Larsen created symmetry from the natural grain of the wood, highlighting an X-shaped pattern in the centre of the piece. In a testament to how much his designs are valued today, the asking price for this particular sideboard is nearly $14,000.00.  

His work with Faarup brought Kofod-Larsen to the attention of furniture makers in Sweden and the UK.  In Sweden, he worked with OPE Möbler to create one of his most famous designs, the Salen or Seal chair which was first made in the 1950s.  The now iconic chair epitomized the human-centred design that was prevalent in the mid-century period. Comfort is the main focus, seen in the angled frame and arms that invite reclining, and the warm leather seating. Despite being made of heavy materials, there is still a lightness in the chair’s appearance, seen in the way the “leather shell seems to be floating inside the wooden frame.” (1stdibs)  

Kofod-Larsen Seal Chair via 1stdibs

A similar design for OPE Möbler received considerable attention from a very influential individual. Initially known as the U-56, this armchair was reportedly renamed after Queen Elizabeth II purchased a pair in 1958. Now more commonly known as the Elizabeth, the chair’s rosewood and leather version is among the most rare and valuable to collectors of Kofod-Larsen’s work. (JustCollecting) The chair shown below has an asking price in excess of $40,000.00. 

Elizabeth Chair by Ib Kofod-Larsen, from 1stdibs website

Image from 1stdibs.

The Elizabeth was also designed as a settee, an especially rare piece, shown below.

Elizabeth Settee by Ib Kofod-Larsen, as seen on MCM Daily

Image from MCMDaily.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have several of Kofod-Larsen’s armchairs at VHB, including the two below—one in teak and the other in walnut. Both sold very quickly, a sign that his designs still resonate with homeowners today. 

Ib Kofod-Larsen Armchair at Vintage Home Boutique

Ib Kofod-Larsen Armchair and Ottoman at Vintage Home Boutique

Among the seating Kofod-Larsen created, the “Penguin” chair was also very popular and remains one of his most well-known designs. The first incarnations were made in Denmark of solid wood. Later, the Selig company in the US would import the wooden components from Denmark and place them on a made-in-America metal base, as shown below.  (Remodelista)

Kofod-Larsen Penguin Chairs as seen on 1stdibs

Image from 1stdibs.

As with his Seal and Elizabeth chairs, the focus of the Penguin chair was the person sitting in it. The curved back and angled seat cradled the body, offering a surprising amount of comfort in such a simple design. The solid wood version is shown here:

Penguin Chair designed by Ib Kofod-Larsen

Image from Pamono.ca.

In 1962, Kofod-Larsen began working with British furniture manufacturer High Wycombe. The company had noticed a loss in market share as Scandinavian modern designs became more popular, and partnered with Kofod-Larsen to create the G-Plan line. (MCMDaily) The line included desks, sideboards, armchairs, sofas, and even room dividers, like this piece in our current collection.

Teak Room Dividers by Ib Kofod-Larsen at Vintage Home Boutique

His G-Plan designs proved very popular then and still sell well today on the vintage market. The desk and sideboard below show more of the range and style of the line. As with his initial designs for Faarup, you can see how he uses the wood grain to create a sense of symmetry, evident in the desk’s drawers and in the three doors of the sideboard.

GPlan Desk by Ib Kofod-Larsen on MCM Daily

Image from MCMDaily.

GPlan Sideboard by Ib Kofod-Larsen, via 1stdibs

Image from 1stdibs.

The G-Plan line also included furniture for the dining room, like this set from our past collection. The chairs and table are made of African teak:

Kofod-Larsen African Teak Dining Chairs, sold by Vintage Home Boutique

GPlan Teak Round Dining Table by Kofod-Larsen, sold by Vintage Home Boutique

We also have in-stock another Kofod-Larsen teak dining table. The close-up of the leg joint shows the incredible craftsmanship he was known for, as the leg blends virtually seamlessly to the table top.

Ib Kofod-Larsen Teak Oval Dining Table at Vintage Home Boutique

Ib Kofod-Larsen Teak Dining Table at VHB--Close-up of Leg Joint

Ib Kofod-Larsen passed away in 2003, but his designs live on, both as vintage collectibles and reproductions. His Penguin chair has inspired many knockoffs, but Danish company Brdr. Petersens has recently announced that it will produce a “sanctioned” Kofod-Larsen reissue, or a “Penguin for purists.” The company, run by twin brothers Egon and Elring Petersen, specializes in making Danish modern upholstered seating and has also re-launched Kofod-Larsen’s famous Seal chair, proving that good design never goes out of style.

 

Great Danish Designers 101: Arne Vodder

17 August, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

In 2009, Arne Vodder was asked what good design meant to him. He replied that a design must be useful and aesthetically beautiful. His very simple reply summarized the entire aesthetic of Danish mid-century design, which focused on maximizing function while also creating objects that were, in Vodder’s words, “beautiful to look at, with curves and organic forms.”  Although lesser known than some of his contemporaries, Vodder succeeded in marrying form and function, creating practical designs known for being handsome and “simple, but noble.” (ScandianvianMod.com)

Arne Vodder: A Long and Varied Career

Arne Vodder was part of the “second generation” of Danish furniture designers. Born in 1926, he trained as a cabinetmaker and architect, studying under Finn Juhl at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. After graduating in 1947, Vodder enjoyed a long and diverse career, keeping a hand in both furniture design and architecture.

Immediately following his graduation, he worked as a designer of office décor with Findsgaul in Copenhagen. He established his own design and architecture firm with architect Anton Borg in 1950. Together, Vodder and Borg designed furniture and more than 1,100 low-cost houses.

As an architect, in addition to his work with Borg, Vodder spent 25 years designing interiors with department store Havemann’s Magasiner A/S. As a designer, Vodder worked with many furniture manufacturers—including Fritz Hansen, France & Son, Cado, and Bovirke—but it was his work with Sibast that brought him the most attention. With Sibast he created desks, tables, chairs, and cabinets used mainly in offices.

His partnership with Borg ended in 1975, but Vodder kept working as a designer. In the mid-1970s he partnered with manufacturer Erik Jørgensen, for whom he created several armchairs and easy chairs. In the 1980s he designed garden furniture with Kirkodan and worked on new designs for lacquered furniture with InterForm Collection and Xcol. In the 1990s he joined with Nilaus Furniture to create reproductions of Fritz Hansen designs. By 2006, it was Vodder’s designs that were being reproduced, in limited numbers, in response to growing consumer interest in his sideboards and dressers. Vodder passed away in 2009. (arnevodder.dk, 1stdibs, pamono.ca)

Vodder’s Iconic Sideboard

According to Scandinavian Modern, the sideboards and desks Vodder designed for Sibast were his most “beautiful and desired objects.” This is an assessment with which Vodder seemed to agree. When asked in 2009 to choose a favourite among his many designs, Vodder selected the Model 29 sideboard. The now iconic piece featured drawers shaped to avoid the need for handles. It also showcased the asymmetry with which Vodder often experimented. In the Model 29, the curves of the drawers provide a counterbalance to the rectangular doors:

Arne Vodder Model 29 Sideboard

 Image from RetroStart.

The design elements apparent in the Model 29 sideboard appeared in other pieces designed for the home, including Vodder’s hall furniture, dressers, and desks.

Vodder’s rosewood hall set also shows the asymmetry that appealed to him, with the tall mirror offset by a compact set of drawers with handles similar to those on the Model 29. 

Hall Set with Mirror by Arne Vodder

Image from 1stdibs.

Yet symmetry was not completely absent from Vodder’s designs. The dresser below is all symmetry, with each drawer perfectly balanced and seeming to flow into the next.

Arne Vodder Walnut Commode

Walnut Commode, Image from 1stdibs.

Also beautifully balanced, this Vodder desk combines teak and rosewood for added visual interest.

Teak and Rosewood Desk by Arne Vodder

Image from 1stdibs.

This mixing of woods was very typical of mid-century Danish designers who used imported, durable hardwoods in all of their pieces. Combining contrasting woods like teak and rosewood enabled them to create the illusion of added depth.

Colour was another hallmark of Danish mid-century design. As we have noted in previous posts in this series, Scandinavian designers used bold colours to add “domestic cheer” to rooms that could feel quite dark in the long winter season. As a designer of business and residential furniture, Vodder knew exactly when and where to use colour. For the home, he created bold designs with bright lacquer accents, as seen in a different version of the Model 29 which he enlivened with bright yellow:

Arne Vodder Yellow Lacquer Model 29 Sideboard

Image from pamono.ca.

In the dresser below, Vodder combined dark rosewood with bright blue lacquer.

Rosewood Sideboard by Arne Vodder

Image from 1stdibs.

And in one of his better known designs, he used multiple colours to brighten a desk and sideboard combination.    

Arne Vodder Desk and Sideboard

Image from pamona.ca.

On the business side, Vodder was more conservative. In fact, as a designer, he was keenly aware of the intended uses of his furniture, and was known for maintaining “sobriety in the boardroom [and] playfulness at home.” (1stdibs.com)This is likely the reason that his designs were chosen for such august locations as the United Nations Office in Geneva, President Jimmy Carter’s White House, and various embassies around the world. One could certainly imagine pieces like this rosewood conference table or “President desk” in such places:

Rosewood conference table by Arne Vodder

Image from designaddict.com.

President's Desk by Arne Vodder

Image from 1stdibs.

But for the busy executive who conducted business far differently from the way it is done today, another option in office furniture: a desk with built-in bar that, again, features the asymmetrical lines Vodder loved. 

Arne Vodder Teak Desk with Bar

Alternate View of Arne Vodder Desk with Bar

Images from 1stdibs.

Like all mid-century designers, Vodder did not limit himself to one particular type of furniture or iconic design. He was also known for his seating. On the domestic front, the chaise longue he designed for Erik Jørgensen stands out. It is evident just from looking at the chair that it was designed to follow the contours of the body, providing comfort while also looking beautiful itself.

Chaise Longue by Arne Vodder

Image from designaddict.com.

An article in Wallpaper magazine noted that the chaise longue was the “first item to be designed by Vodder with a full metal frame in matte steel and cast in the synthetic material ‘ironside.’” With these materials, Vodder was clearly showing an experimental side not uncommon among Danish designers who often incorporated modern materials into their work. The chaise longue was first designed and produced in 1972 but, as recently reported in the Wallpaper article, Erik Jørgensen began remaking the chair this year.

In his other seating, whether for the dining room or office, Vodder was known for creations that were “quiet in form—projecting an air of sturdiness and strength, rather than avant-garde styling.” (1stdibs)  The model 431 is a particularly stunning example of these traits:

Image from scandinavianmod.com.

The Model 431 chair was suited for business and home, and showed the “quiet form” and excellent craftsmanship for which Vodder was known. His easy chairs and dining chairs, some of which are shown below, had a similar aesthetic and are much sought after today.

 

All images from 1stdibs.com.

The final word on Vodder comes from the man himself, through the interview he gave before his death in 2009. He was asked why his furniture was still popular. His answer is a perfect summary of his creative output. He talked about the timelessness of the designs and noted that people appreciate “that there is thought about the quality, and it does not look factory produced, but looks like real craftsmanship. Organic, aesthetic and beautifully created.” 

      

Great Danish Designers 101: H. W. Klein

25 May, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Although Norwegian by birth, H.W. Klein is closely associated with the Danish modern style. His early education did not suggest a future career in furniture design, but the twists and turns of life led him in that exact direction.

H.W. Klein: Mathematician, Marine & Modern Designer

Henry Walter Klein was born in Norway in 1919.  As a young man, he studied mathematics and linguistics. He would later serve in the Norwegian Royal Marines, where he developed an interest in cabinetmaking. In 1949, he moved to Denmark to study interior design at the Tekniske Skole in Frederikberg, where he trained under renowned designer Finn Juhl. Three years later, upon completing his education, he moved back to Norway to open his own business designing furniture and interiors. He returned to Denmark in 1960, working closely with furniture manufacturer Bramin. Very little documentation exists about Klein’s life, but some sources say his work for Bramin helped finance a newfound interest in plastics that would see him develop a new method for manufacturing plastic furniture. (http://bit.ly/1TtMZ07)

An historical record of his experiments with plastic is hard to come by, but we can look to Klein’s Danish inspired furniture—in demand and highly collectible still—for examples of his skill and artistry as a designer. 

Klein’s Danish Design Aesthetic

Like his contemporaries, Klein followed the Danish design aesthetic of “well proportioned, well crafted forms” that seemed to float while also being perfectly grounded and balanced. The end result? Stunning visual impact, as the following examples show.

Looking at this piece, it’s reasonable to assume that Klein incorporated his background in mathematics in his designs. This rosewood desk combines rectangular, square, and triangular shapes in a fluid geometry:

Rosewood Desk by H.W. Klein

Image from 1stdibs.com.

Klein’s 4-seater sofa offers a similar aesthetic to the desk, with a long rectangular shape balanced on a spare base:  

4-seater sofa by H.W. Klein

Image from One Kings Lane.

As the 4-seater sofa shows, Klein also followed the Danish trend of using colour and texture when designing furniture.

In her book Scandinavian Modern Home, Elizabeth Wilhide talks about the ways Scandinavian designers incorporated “domestic cheer” and “psychological warmth” as a counterbalance to the dreariness of winter’s short days and long nights. These feelings of warmth and cheer were achieved through the use of bold colours and textures like those seen in Klein’s 4-seater sofa. In addition to the green shown above, Klein used several other bright colours in his furnishings.

The colour in this ingeniously designed recliner is very typical of Danish modern furniture, adding panache and making a strong visual statement. The design itself creates a sense of comfort through both the warmth of the fabric and the curved shape that cradles the body.  

H.W. Klein recliner and ottoman

Image from 1stdibs.com.

Klein favoured other primary colours in his living room furniture, seen in pieces that, like the recliner above, followed the Danish tradition of human-centred design:

H.W. Klein red egg chairs

Image from 1stdibs.com

H.W. Klein reclining chair (chaise longue)

Image from 1stdibs.com.

This advertisement of Klein’s furniture, dating from 1962, shows how bold colours were combined to brighten a room:

Vintage H.W. Klein print advertisement

Image from danish-modern.co.uk.

While not as warm as wool, leather is another textile that was commonly used by Danish designers in the mid-century period. Leather and leatherette fit beautifully with the Scandinavian aesthetic: they were visually appealing, very modern, and could be rendered in bold colours. Like other designers of the period, Klein used leather in both living room and dining room furniture.

When talking about Klein’s leather chairs we have to start with this one, a particularly striking example, shown in its original black leatherette:

Black Leatherette Armchair with Built-In Ashtray by H.W. Klein

This armchair includes a feature that is not necessarily desired today, but would have had considerable appeal at the time of manufacture: a built-in ashtray.

Ashtray built into armrest on H.W. Klein armchair

Images from liveauctioneers.com.

Note the characteristic streamlined design—the armrests are so beautifully rendered, one would never even guess that anything lies within.

Danish designers in the mid-century period were known for reinventing classics, as Klein did with his leather swivel chair, shown below. This piece combines old and new: the bright colour and chrome are thoroughly modern while the tufted leather recalls more traditional leather armchairs.

Red leather swivel armchair by H.W. Klein

Image from 1stdibs.com.

Leather was also a predominant feature of dining chairs from the mid-century period, and Klein made frequent use of it in this context. We have a beautiful example in stock at VHB: our set of six teak dining chairs with their original leatherette upholstery, shown below.

H.W. Klein teak dining chairs with original leatherette seats from Vintage Home Boutique

Klein designed many dining chairs, and all possess the hallmarks of Danish design: exquisite workmanship, fluid design, and an openness that visually lightens pieces made from heavy materials like leather and teak or rosewood. His chairs are also timeless, as seen in the fact that replicas of one of his more famous designs, sometimes referred to as the Bramin chair, are still produced today:

Replica of H.W. Klein "Bramin" chair

Image from Place Furniture, Australia

Also present in Klein’s work are the practicality and efficiency for which Danish design was known. These traits are apparent in his sideboards which maximized space and had a tidy appearance. This image shows a model in teak; its sliding doors glide neatly over the centre drawers to reveal additional storage.

Solid teak credenza/sideboard by H.W. Klein

Image from room-of-art.de.

VHB has a similar sideboard in gorgeous rosewood:

H.W. Klein for Bramin rosewood sideboard, at Vintage Home Boutique

Klein designed multiple variations of the sideboard, including this model, deemed “one of his finest creations” for Bramin:
Sideboard by H.W. Klein for Bramin, front view.       Sideboard by H.W. Klein for Bramin, front view, doors open

Images from scandinavianmod.com.

Here is another made of rosewood that emphasizes the beauty of the wood’s grain:

H.W. Klein rosewood sideboard, front view         
       H.W. Klein rosewood sideboard, side view showing wood grain

Images from 1stdibs.com.

Also in the spirit of maximizing space, Klein designed elegant dining tables with a minimalist aesthetic that could suit parties large and small, like this one from our collection, which includes leaves to extend the seating to ten people:

H.W. Klein for Bramin round teak dining table

Klein was a prolific designer, known for dining room furniture, lounge chairs, coffee tables, sofas, and even fold-down sofa beds, as this 1961 advertisement shows.

Vintage print advertisement of H.W. Klein sofa bed

Image from danish-modern.co.uk.

As a Norwegian mathematician who became a quintessential Danish modern designer, H.W. Klein made his mark in a very singular way. Although very little has been written about him, his creative output speaks volumes about his talents as a craftsman.


Next in our series: Arne Vodder

Read more in this series: Johannes Andersen, Kai Kristiansen, Poul Cadovius, Poul Hundevad, Finn Juhl, and Kaare Klint 


 This guest post was written by Crystal Smith of Pertingo Content Marketing.

Great Danish Designers 101: Kaare Klint

02 March, 2016 1 comment Leave a comment

Kaare Klint is widely recognized as the father of Danish modern design. It is hard to overstate his influence. He developed an entirely new analytical approach to furniture design that his students at the Danish Academy of Art would emulate for years to come, yet was also inspired by historic designs from various cultures, modernizing and re-interpreting classic pieces for new generations. 

Kaare Klint: Function and Form 

Kaare Klint was born in 1888 in Frederiksberg.  By the early years of the twentieth century, his father, Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint, had developed a reputation as Denmark’s leading architect, which certainly would have influenced young Kaare’s career path. The younger Klint studied painting for a time but began training under his father in 1903. He landed his first job in an architecture practice, working with Carl Petersen. It was while working with Petersen that Klint found his first success as a furniture designer. Just 26 years old, Klint co-designed the Faaborg chair for the Faaborg Museum.

Faaborg Chair by Klint

The Faaborg chair. Image from 1stdibs.

In 2015, Architectural Digest commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Faaborg chair, noting that it “was one of the first pieces of Danish furniture that expressed a new design language focused on simple form and rigorous function while stripping away superfluous ornamentation.”

How did function affect the form in this case? The chair had to be light and easy to move so patrons of the museum could position it exactly where they wanted for optimal viewing of the artwork on display. The chair also had to provide support from all angles so museum visitors could comfortably shift their vantage point. By first understanding how the chair would be used, Klint was able to determine the best form and materials. He chose rattan because it was light and would allow the decorative tiles on the floors of the museum to be visible. The back and armrest were sleek and economical, providing comfort and support without adding excessive weight. (1stdibs)

The attention to form and function evidenced in the Faaborg chair would become the driving force behind Klint’s future work as a designer and teacher.

In 1923 Klint helped establish the department of furniture design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. He began teaching there in 1924. He became known for his radical teaching methods, instructing students to construct furniture “from the inside out,” starting with a thorough analysis of the piece’s function before deciding on design and materials. (carlhansen.com)

To help with this analysis, Klint developed a set of data based on human measurements, proportions, and dimensions, believing there should be an interrelation between “the proportions of the human body and the object it sits on.” Beyond considerations of the human form, Klint and his students also “strived to create ideal proportions for all objects,” (Scandinavian Style) as seen in the analysis that preceded the creation of his first dining room sideboard.

The website dmk.dk describes this very scientific process. Klint had his students “compile a list of all the objects a sideboard might contain and the list was accompanied by the standard dimensions on all the objects. After having analyzed the many notes and measurements, Klint and his students arrived at an approximate common denominator and began test arrangements.” Klint said this work “…formed the basis for a simple systematic organization of china and glass by size. In reality, the basis for a standardization.”

The end result of the dinnerware analysis was a sideboard that could hold a full dinner service for 12 people: 60 plates, 78 glasses, coffee service, bottles, decanters, and other objects required for meal time. Holding true to his Danish heritage of efficiency in design, Klint’s sideboard consisted of multiple compartments with sliding trays that made everything accessible. These trays could also be removed to carry items to the dining table. The schematic below shows that virtually no space in the sideboard was wasted:

Schematic for Kaare Klint Sideboard

And the final product:

Kaare Klint Sideboard

Sideboard images from dmk.dk.

Klint’s tendency to look to the past is also in clear evidence here. His sideboard recalls both Chinese and English Chippendale chests and buffets, remade to maximize function and remove the “superfluous ornamentation” that added visual and literal weight to the object. How important is this design? At the time of writing, an original Klint Cuban mahogany cabinet was available through 1stdibs and valued at $55,000.00. 

Klint would create two of his most iconic designs in the early 1930s. Like his other work, these pieces showcased his two primary design principles: form following function, and “creative revisitation.”    

His Safari chair, created in 1933, is said to be modelled on a camp chair designed toward the end of the 19th century by British Army engineers stationed in the Indian town of Rorkhee. (Popular Woodworking, Apartment Therapy

Klint’s intention with the Safari chair was to make a light, portable armchair. He clearly succeeded. Still made today, the chair can be rolled into a carton for shipping. (Scandinavia Design). The Safari chair has been called the world’s first DIY furniture because it can be assembled and disassembled easily without tools. A brief YouTube video shows the simplicity and genius of the chair’s design.

Kaare Klint Safari Chair from 1stdibs

The Safari chair. Image from 1stdibs.

Klint’s teak deck chair, also dating from 1933, is one of his most famous creations. The comfortable, humanistic design of the chair is readily apparent. Its foldout footrest offers essential functionality suited to the chair’s purpose: lounging poolside. That it was collapsible and made of canework with a removable cushion and headrest only enhanced its functionality.

Kaare Klint Deck Chair with Footrest   Kaare Klint Deck Chair, No Footrest

Kaare Klint Deck Chair, Collapsed

Deck chair. Images from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

As with all of Klint’s designs, the aesthetics were not sacrificed for the sake of functionality. Encyclopedia Britannica notes that all of his pieces balanced “a beautiful appearance with a fulfillment of purpose,” and goes on to comment on the deck chair specifically, saying it was “unquestionably functional and …designed to provide the maximum amount of comfort, yet in itself a clean and beautiful piece.”

Kaare Klint died in 1954, having lived long enough to witness the start of the “golden age of Danish design” which he helped usher in.  He was a mentor to many Danish designers who would go onto build very successful careers for themselves, including Hans J. Wegner, Mogens Koch, Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen, and Poul Kjærholm. Klint enjoyed a long working relationship with cabinetmaker Rudolf Rasmussen, whose firm still operates today, offering modern versions of many of Klint designs. Given the company’s dedication to maintaining Klint’s legacy, it seems fitting to give the last word to Rasmussen

Klint’s work was characterized not only by the harmonious balance between form and materials, but also by his objects’ relationship to their environment, with Klint ensuring that his pieces never dominated a given space. His were objects of timeless utility that united form and function to create a greater whole. 


The next designer in our series: Niels Moller. 

Read more in this series: Johannes Andersen, Kai Kristiansen, Poul Cadovius, Poul Hundevad, and Finn Juhl.