OLE WANSCHER: Redefining Modern Furniture

Ole Wanscher 149 Colonial Chair - Photo by Hive Modern

Beginning Days

Ole Wanscher (1903 – 1985) – Photo by Vintage Design Furniture

Danish furniture designers are known for a lot of breathtaking works of fine art and Ole Wanscher no doubt made a name for himself in the hall of fame of Danish furniture designers for different works. At the forefront of the Scandinavian design movement, when Scandinavian designs were front and centre on the world stage, was Wanscher. Owing to the modern nature of their designs, Scandinavian designs quickly achieved popularity throughout the regions of the West and the World. Ole Wanscher was one of the designers who spearheaded that movement. Ole Wanscher was born on September 16, 1903, in Copenhagen Denmark and little did the world know that one of her foremost furniture designers and instructor had been born. The course of his education took him to the Danish School of Art and Design, where he studied under the legendary Professor Kaare Klint. He was not just instructed by Prof. Kilnt, he worked under him. As a matter of fact, when he completed his studies, he worked with the design professor for 3 years between 1924 and 1927, which was around the time Wanscher also set up his furniture design office. His goal was simply to focus on producing exquisite furniture designs with the knowledge and skills that he had acquired at the time.

Work Life

P. J. Furniture, Ole Wanscher EGYPTIAN STOOL – Photo by Sumally

The professor was not the only notable designer that Wanscher worked with. In the 1930s and 1940s, Wanscher also worked with A. J. Iversen. The duo was said to have produced breathtaking furniture designs in their numbers. Their designs were so astonishing that they are currently regarded as modern classics. Rightly so, too, a nomenclature that is truly befitting for such master class. Wanscher, however, did not remain in private business forever; this was despite the amount of success he achieved on this front. In the 1950s, he made a decision to leave his private firm and this led him to collaborate with another expert designer in P. Jeppesens Mobelfabrik A/S. Together, the pair started an association, opening a new phase of Wanscher’s professional career that will extend for the remainder of his professional life.

Work in the field of Academics

Ole Wanscher, unlike other notable Danish furniture designers and architects, did not spend all his years in the wonders of his own creativity with one awesome design after another. He also ventured into academia and became not just an architect but also a Professor himself, like his previous instructor professor Klint. He was regarded as a master teacher by his students and so the title of Professor of Architecture was both literarily and practically correct. As a Professor in Architecture, his specialty was not just in building designs but actually in the art of furniture making that covers both designing and crafting them. In 1955, following the death of Professor Klint, Wanscher took over from his previous teacher, becoming the Professor at the renowned Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Interestingly, he remained at this position till he eventually retired in 1973. Wanscher had several publications to his name depicting the history of furniture design. Titles like ‘The History of the Art of Furniture’ and ‘Five Thousand Years of Furniture’ were both acknowledged to him. His writings were said to have stemmed from his Father who was himself a historian.

His Designs

Teak Easy Chair by Ole Wanscher, Produced by France & Søn – Photo by 1stDibs

Wanscher got his inspiration for his designs from a wide variety of sources; this is such that his work was not from a sole source. This is not surprising because his teacher, Professor Kaare Klint, also studied various cultural designs and background. For example, the Egyptian Stool which is one of Wanscher’s most popular furniture designs that was produced in 1960 was greatly influenced by ancient Egyptian designs. Apart from Egypt, Wanscher also drew inspiration from the 18th century designs in the British Empire as well as designs from the Chinese Culture. Wanscher was also attracted to the Greek designs and it reflected in some of his works also. Ole Wanscher was no doubt very famous for a lot of his work with fellow design master, A.J. Iversen, and together they both revolutionized the Danish furniture design industry with different styles and masterpieces. However, Wanscher also had some great works of his own one of which was the teak easy chair which was designed in 1951. The chair was made for France and Son and it remains one of Ole Wanscher’s designs that received popular acclaim. An area in furniture production that was always fascinating to Wanscher was mass production and it was said to be an influencing factor in many of his designs. Wanscher is described as a man with a very strong attention to detail and that is why it is not surprising that many have termed his work delicate, orderly and elegant; words that can be said are not just descriptive of the man’s design but his approach towards the art of furniture making itself.

His Legacy

An Ole Wanscher palisander ‘Colonial Chair’, PJ 149, by Poul Jeppesen – Photo by Bukowskis

Wanscher was not just a Professor of Architecture; he was a member of the Fellows of the Royal Academy. Till date, his furniture is regarded as modern classics as they combined a perfect blend of sophisticated design and functionality with an overall keen interest in detail. A great way to describe his legacy would be by his chairs which are described as long lasting. The slim dimensions, slender armrests that are curved; coupled with their resilient forms, these were some of the defining features of Wanscher’s furniture. From his publications to his work of art, his dedication to not just the knowledge and practice of furniture designing but also the application and impartation of that knowledge to his students; Ole Wanscher’s legacy is sure to live on. Another part of his legacy is his perspective on furniture designs which he did not just view as fine art, but as a branch of architecture itself. Ole Wanscher still remains no doubt one of the furniture designers and architects who redefined the world of furniture making in Denmark and extended their influence into the surrounding Scandinavia countries.