What’s old typically becomes new, right? Whether it’s fashion, music, dance styles or décor, never count a trend down and out, because the chances are good that it will see a revival.
Scandinavian décor hit it big again a couple of years ago, especially in the midwest United States. And now, we’ve niched that down to a return to the “Danish modern” period of furniture design.
While once the epitome of tasteful, modern décor, Danish modern is now considered vintage, and in high demand. While some authentic pieces may run into the thousands of dollars, there are still bargains available if you don’t mind using pieces from lesser-known designers.
The Danish modern period runs, roughly, from 1920 to the 1960’s.
Danish modern history
The early 1900’s saw a plethora of new inventions including adhesive tape, the airplane, the ballpoint pen and the Model T. Furniture designers around the world also became caught up in the movement toward new concepts and ideas.
Kaare Klint, a designer from Copenhagen, felt otherwise. According to Andrew Hollingsworth, author of “Danish Modern,” Mr. Klint, a traditionalist, felt that there was no need to reinvent furniture.
Changing the lines and materials were all that was required to modernize traditional pieces. Klint ascribed to a design ideal that put comfort and utility over design.
Subsequent designers of note, such as Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl and Ole Wanscher expanded on Klint’s foundation to create what is now known as Danish modern furniture.
Danish modern furniture is, overall, simple, or, as Andrew Hollingsworth describes it, “austere.” While chairs were designed primarily for comfort, designers carefully sculptured them into works of art.
Free-flowing designs, such as Finn Juhl’s Pelikan chair, are examples of this concept: comfort combined with artistic flair.
Danish modern cabinetry has simple lines, chairs typically contain pointed arms and sofas are streamlined, many with asymmetrical backs.
One of the hallmarks of true Danish modern furniture is dark wood. Teak was one of the more commonly used materials, with European oak running a close second. Rosewood was employed in higher-end designs, according to Andrew Hollingsworth.
Mahogany, while not common, was utilized during the latter half of the period. After World War II, when materials were scarce, designers began using plywood, bending it and molding it into their designs.
The famous Ant Chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1952, used a single piece of plywood, bent into the design.
Poul Kjaerholm’s designs diverged from those of his contemporaries by his extensive use of steel instead of wood. In keeping with the main hallmark of Danish modern design – comfort – he combined steel with wood, leather and other materials.
Overall, the play of light on steel ignited his artistic sensibilities and provided stunning Danish modern pieces that today’s collectors clamor after. Check out this 3-seat sofa that sells today for more than $44,000.
Fabrics that define Danish Modern
Another common hallmark of Danish modern furniture is the choice of leather for upholstered pieces. Chairs and stools were frequently upholstered in different types of leather, with the patterns of ostrich leather in high demand.
Later in the movement, while leather was still prominent, stretch fabric was utilized frequently. While the darker colors, such as black and deep brown, were the most popular, toward the end of the period green and light blue leather were in vogue.