When a nation of craftsmen mixed with a late move towards industrialization in the 1900s, an influential new school of design was born in Denmark.
A chair may be something to sit in, and a lamp may help to light a room, but Danish designers have made these ordinary objects extraordinary. Perhaps their success is linked to the fact that Danish life is so centered around hearth, home and the concept of hygge – one’s surroundings should always be familiar, functional and beautiful.
Danish Flair for Design
Danish design in the 1950s and 60s brought a whole new look to furniture, lighting and homeware, avoiding the hard geometrical shapes apparent elsewhere in the design world, and imbuing everyday objects with a tactile organic quality. This iconic look has survived the test of time. Arne Jacobsen’s egg chair (on top) is a prime example.
Today the Danes are still at the forefront of design. Old and new companies alike – such as Fredericia Furniture, Gubi and Normann – are keen to promote new designers, revitalizing the principles of Danish functionalism and creating tomorrow’s classics. Whether in museums, conference rooms or homes, Danish design always brings a sense of elegance to everyday life.
Subtracting unnecessary elements
“It always starts with a task,” said designer Hans J. Wegner. “I never say to myself, I’m going to make a good chair.” Danish designers “subtract and subtract” unnecessary elements from products and tools to find true function and form,” said Jens Bernsen of the Danish Design Center. “Sometimes these designs even turn out to be beautiful.”
Danish design in the home
For all its elegance, Danish design is not something limited to galleries and museums. In Denmark, it is found everywhere – hotels, restaurants, cafés, offices and, most importantly, homes. Nearby every Dane, it seems, has some sort of sleek designer lamp hanging over the dinner or coffee table.
For special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays and office receptions, Danes give presents such as salad sets, candle holders, salt and pepper grinders, pot holders – even mixing bowls.
Enemy number one
“The kitchen drawer is good design’s enemy number one,” says Erik Bagger, whose wine-serving tools are well known in Denmark. Danish-designed products are meant to be used, however, meaning that Denmark probably has the most stylish contents of kitchen drawers anywhere in the world.
The visually striking sound system designed by Bang & Olufsen are praised worldwide, and are found in many a Danish home. Even such prosaic items as cupboard handles and other household fittings are given due attention by Danish designers. Organic shapes abound, and recently a certain amount of whimsy has crept in: witness Normann’s award-winning grass vase.
Feature image (on top): Arne Jacobsen’s egg chair. Photo: Fritz Hansen
Danish Flair for Design, written by Tor Kjolberg