Once you scratch the surface (figuratively, of course) of Danish furniture design there’s just no turning back. Boris Liger, Manager of Geneva’s La Boutique Danoise — for whom Danish design is not just a job, but a passion — explains why it elicits such enthusiasm and the reasons for its enduring appeal.
Boris, when did Danish design win acceptance with a worldwide audience and why has it remained so enduringly popular?
Danish design as we know it today comes from the will of the designers of the 1920s and 1930s like Kaare Klint, Mogens Koch and Alvar Aalto [Finnish] to create aesthetic furniture — functional and accessible to all — that is essentially based on the specific needs of the human body. Its founding fathers are Hans J. Wegner, Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Borge Mogensen, Verner Panton, Poul Henningsen. While this furniture and objects were immediately a great success at home it was only after the second world war that the phenomenon of Danish design really took off internationally. The golden age of Nordic design was uncontestedly in the 50s and 60s.
What are the underlying aesthetics, values, influences and ideas behind the success of Danish design?
The spirit of Danish design is defined by the creation of beautiful objects whose purpose is to simplify and improve daily life in the home. The environment is in fact the main source of inspiration for Danish artists and designers and results in an ubiquity of furniture and objects in wood, with clean lines.
Your shop window bears the insignia “House of Finn Juhl“. Who was Finn Juhl and what is his significance to Danish design? Which classic designs is he best known for?
The designer Finn Juhl is less known than some of his peers outside Scandinavian borders. Despite this he is an important designer of the Scandinavian design era. Finn Juhl first wanted to study fine arts before falling back, under pressure from his father, to architecture. An apprentice of talent under Wilhem Lauritzen he left his studies without having finished in order to try to keep pace with his master. He defined himself as a self-taught furniture designer. His love of art pushed him to comprehend design with a different eye, one influenced by contemporary movements. We can liken it to a modernist working as a sculptor who achieves forms that are largely organic.
Notably, Finn Juhl encouraged recognition of the work of woodworkers thanks to his designs for armchairs of the time. With his armchair model FJ45, the structure of highly worked wood is no longer hidden by a covering of foam and fabric, it is an integral part of the design, unlike his poet sofa or pelican chair for example. Many of his later designs used this new idea. Another highlight of Finn Juhl’s career: he had great success in the USA thanks to his partnership with the businessman C.W.F. France for whom he created a chair (France chair) to be exported as a kit. During his American experience he organized a traveling exhibition that was a great success. From this trip he learned to use metal in his compositions (nyvahn desk, table-bench, etc.).
One cannot create happiness with beautiful objects, but can spoil a lot of happiness with bad ones. Finn Juhl.
Are there other Danish designers with a similar enduring appeal; do you feature their work in your boutique?
Yes of course, as I said before, other designers like Hans J. Wegner, Mogens Koch, Kaare Klint, Arne Jacobsen, Borge Mogensen, Verner Panton and Poul Henningsen were propelled together onto the international stage with the same desire to conceive an avant-garde design from natural materials with clean lines. We’re very attached to the forerunners of this movement, which is why we’re eager to present examples of their work.
We’re well into 2018, but what are the top Danish interior design trends for 2018?
Danish design is in a position not to be too subject to the dictates of fashion and trends. Since its resurgence almost ten years ago it has imposed its own aesthetic in other creative areas as well. The design we offer at The Boutique Danoise has become classic design that certainly uses some elements currently in vogue but that doesn’t try to disguise itself in order to renew itself.
What does the future hold for Danish design? Will it go in new directions, stay true to its past or manage to do both? Who are up-and-coming Danish designers to look out for?
I hope that in the future Danish design will continue to build on the fundamental principles mentioned in answer one (above). However, Danish design calls for a skilled human workforce and as an intermediary in this market, I can only note the increase in the prices of the items from year to year. It is now very complicated for the new Danish design houses to offer a production made in Denmark.
Young Danish designers like Cecilie Manz, ByKATO and Norm Architects continue to develop and create products with innovative design, always with the same desire for functionalism. However, for the last ten years Danish manufacturers have been using talented designers from other countries such as Jaime Hayon and the Bouroullec Brothers, who have had a huge success with the public.
What do Genevans particularly embrace and enjoy about Danish design and decor?
Our Genevan public especially likes the quality of the finishes, the aesthetics of Danish design as well as its comfort. The simple and clean lines, the noble materials, the possibility for personalization, all its elements are essential for our customers. In addition, it’s very easy to create a warm and cozy interior with Danish furniture and also to integrate a Danish piece into an already furnished space; Danish design fits well into a pre-existing decor.
What do you personally admire about Danish design? Do you have favorite pieces, either in furniture or decorative elements?
I like the care taken in the manufacturing process. The nobility of the materials. The know-how, the techniques transmitted since the beginning of the 20th century and which remain the same. The coherence between aesthetics and functionality. The feeling of wellbeing achieved by the balance between pleasing the eye and the body. The timeless character of the lines. The influence exercised on the rest of the world during the great era of design from Brazil to Japan through the United States. It’s difficult to look at only a few pieces and to rate them, there are so many beautiful achievements, but I’m particularly sensitive to the output of the houses Finn Juhl, Møbler or J.L. Møllers. ♣
This is not a sponsored post. All photos by Creative Living Geneva.