BORGE MOGENSEN: A Marriage of Danish Design and Passion

Børge Mogensen at home test-reclining on a prototype of his “Embassy Sofa” - Photo by Fredericia

Right from the early 1900s Danish furniture designs set the pace of what will eventually be called modern furniture designs. There were many furniture designers who helped to make Danish furniture achieve international acclaim. One of such persons was Borge Mogensen. He was regarded as one of the most recognised furniture designers of his time, a season where Danish Modern furniture became the demand of the world owing to their simple yet functional designs. Together with the likes of Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen, they helped define the future of furniture designs going beyond just making furniture but redefining this part of architecture that had previously been unexplored in such a way. This was such that Danish furniture designs became respected all over the world and remained in high demand worldwide for well over half a century. Those were great times for Danish furniture designs and Borge Mogensen was part of the team that was front and centre of that movement.

His Early Life

Borge Mogensen – Photo by Danish Red

Borge Mogensen was born on the 13th of April 1914 in Aalborg, Denmark. He started his career as a cabinet maker at the age of 20 years in 1934. His education in the art of furniture design was quite rich; first, he studied furniture design 2 years after commencing work as a cabinet maker in 1936. His study was at the famous Danish School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen and he studied there for two years till 1938. He then went on to undergo training in architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of fine arts’ School of Architecture for an additional 4 years, graduating in the year 1942. His time at the Royal College led him to work with various designers including the legendary Kaare Klint who was a professor at the Academy. It was not long before Mogensen design career entered into full gear. Immediately after his graduation, he was the studio manager at the FDB’s furniture design studio, a position that he maintained for 8 years till 1950. He was also a teaching assistant to Professor Klint at the Royal Danish Academy between 1945 and 1947. During this time, he received different recognition among which was the Eckersberg Medal in 1950. In 1959, he decided to set up his own design studio which led to him leaving the FDB’s furniture studio.

Career with Professor Klint

Boligens Byggeskabe by Borge Mogensen and Grethe Meyer – Photo by Artnet

Professor Kaare Klint was no doubt one of the famous architectural and furniture designers of the time and Mogensen was interested in the innovative designs of Klint as depicted by designs of varying sizes and proportions. It was this drive that gave rise to the Boligens Byggeskabe project. Mogensen collaborated with another designer, Grethe Meyer, and together they produced this masterpiece in 1954. The idea behind this was to construct cupboards in a house. Then, shelves were mostly bought while you move into your home, but the idea behind this design was to incorporate these storage parts into the original building thereby negating the need to buy one to fill up the space. This, no doubt, was a revelation of Mogensen’s long commitment that furniture designs should not just be attractive but simple, classic and very functional for day to day living. This quest led him to different research into contemporary lifestyles learning how basic domestic tools could be made fit for everyday use. His keen attention to detail made him undergo personal research into the standard sizes of cutleries, for example, knowing the average number owned by each individual, a knowledge that he would apply to developing a standard depth and width for the shelves that house these cutleries. The work was so ingenious that it became a published manual on building storage systems. This achievement did not stop his vision for pushing barriers in modern designs and between 1955 and 1967, he took up an even more daunting task to unravel the likely storage need of every home that could arise in the modern era. This passion and unrelenting desire were born from years studying under and working with the famous professor Kaare Klint.

His different designs

Shell chair by Børge Mogensen – Photo by 1stDibs

While it is true that Mogensen is known today for his work in the designs of home storage, he was also an excellent furniture designer. His work was on show on almost every Copenhagen Cabinetmaker’s Guild exhibitions and in the 1940s, he was the Head of Furniture Design appointed by the Danish cooperative wholesale society. His work was able to bridge the divide between skeptics who were not open to modern designs and those who felt otherwise about classical designs. In 1945, for example, he designed a sofa with leather tie allowing the sides of the sofa to come down. In 1949, he designed a chair regarded as a model for modern chairs that featured a curved and sloping backrest, and a cut that appeared in the shape of a dewdrop. Another of his design was in 1953, where the living room had both a sewing table and a workbench, pushing the imagination of the time that diversity in the home can be achieved as members partake in different activities at the same time.

Awards and Legacy

Vintage Daybed by Børge Mogensen with original fabric designed by Lis Ahlmann – Photo by Pamono

Borge Mogensen received different awards including the Eckersberg Medaillen in 1950 and the C.F. Hansen medal in 1972. His marriage to Alice Mogensen was blessed with two sons. Mogensen’s legacy is one of redefining furniture designs for our modern world. He had many other designs between 1959 and 1962. Following the death of his former tutor Kaare Klint, Mogensen would go on to succeed him as a designer for the famous Danish Museum of Decorative Art. Most of his works that were featured there were in combination with master weaver Lis Ahlmann, a time where Mogensen revelled also in the art of textile designs. Mogensen can be remembered for many of his furniture designs and his different architectural works today, but by far his legacy would remain in being one of the designers who redefined Danish furniture making for the whole world to admire and gave Danish designs its international acclaim till date.