Hallmarks of Danish Modern Furniture

The ongoing mid-century modern revival in the interior design world has brought about renewed interest in Danish Modern style. Part of Scandinavian Design but unique in its own way, Danish Modern Design is a renowned, stand-alone aesthetic. In this article we discuss a bit of history and later the design elements to look for when identifying Danish Modern furniture.

Safari Chair - Danish Modern furniture by Kaare Klint

Brief Background on Danish Modern

The Danish Modern movement began in the 1920s with a handful of Danish designers, starting with Kaare Klint’s famous chair designs throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including the Propeller Stool, Safari Chair and Church Chair. Klint was a renowned Danish furniture designer, architect and professor. He promoted Functionalism in the design of his pieces, which favors form and rejects ornamentation. Klint studied the human body’s shape and built his designs around the needs of our form. This concept would become an important principle in Danish Modern design.

The movement gained momentum when Danish furniture designers and cabinetmakers collaborated with Danish architects to promote the emerging design aesthetic. Cabinetmakers were the forerunners of the interior design community at the time. The highly popular annual cabinetmaker exhibits began to showcase furniture by architects and furniture designers and produced by partnering cabinetmakers. The era of Danish Modern furniture experienced its peak years from 1940 to 1960.

Shell Chair by Danish Modern Furniture Designer Grete Jalk

Other influential designers that helped form Danish Modern style include Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, and Grete Jalk. Danish architect and designer Finn Juhl is credited with introducing the Danish Modern design style to the United States. His most acclaimed works include the Pelican Chair, Chieftain Chair and Baker Sofa. Hans Wegner is well known for his iconic Peacock Chair, Shell Chair and “The Chair.” Arne Jacobsen’s Ant, Egg and Swan Chairs are in high-demand to this day. Grete Jalk, influenced popular moulded and bent plywood designs of the time, created her own sculptural laminated plywood designs.

The Chair y Danish Modern Furniture designer Hans Wegner

Design Elements of Danish Modern Furniture

Danish Furniture design generally included the use of natural materials, such as wood and leather, used simply and purely for function. Danish Modern Furniture features simple, clean lines in its structure, much like Modern furniture. In contrast with Modern design, Danish Modern pieces often exhibit a higher level of woodworking. Minimalism along with traditional materials and craftsmanship was a focus. For example, Børge Mogensen’s A232 Cabinet is beautifully built yet very plain and simple, designed for function.

Teak Cabinet by Danish Modern Furniture designer Børge Mogensen

Danish Modern is easy to pick apart from the broader Mid-Century Modern movement but its differences with Scandinavian Design are subtler. Norwegian and particularly Swedish Modern furniture feature more soft, organic lines and an expressive nature, while Danish Modern tends to be more severe and serious. Darker, austere woods are employed. Teak was commonly used in Danish Modern furniture design, followed up by European Oak.

The Kurt Østervig Drop Leaf Teak Dining Table is a gorgeous example of austere Danish Modern furniture. Constructed of teak and exhibiting a focus on function over form with careful woodworking, Østervig’s table proves to be an iconic piece of the movement.

Teak Oval Dining Table by Danish Modern Furniture designer Kurt Østervig

Danish Modern, and other Modern designers of the era, had to be resourceful during wartime. Jens Risom’s Knoll Chair #645 (aka Risom Lounge Chair) features a seat made of superfluous military nylon webbing. Bent plywood was used when wood was scarce during the Second World War, and is therefore very common in Danish Modern furniture.

Risom Lounge Chair by Danish Modern furniture designer Jens Risom

Higher end Danish Modern furniture designers, such as Poul Kjærholm, did expand into other materials, such as marble, glass, steel and other industrial materials. If you are looking to identify a vintage Danish piece in your home, visit Danish-Modern.co.uk to help you determine the designer, style name and age of your piece.


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