POUL KJAERHOLM: The Man Behind the Masterpieces

Poul Kjærholm - Photo by Fritz Hansen

Kjaerholm is a reputable and great Danish furniture designer. He was educated at Copenhagen, where he was employed as a teacher from 1952 to 1956. Furthermore, he tutored at the Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen. He autonomously designed for both Hansen and Christiansen. Kjaerholm was a leading figure who used ordinary materials and steel frames in his work in the history of Danish design.

The products this man created remain the symbol of classics minimalist design as a craftsman, designer, and architect.

Poul Kjaerholm became a professor at the Art Academy in Copenhagen in 1976, where he was a director until his demise.

The Biography of Poul Kjaerholm

Poul Kjærholm (1929-1980) – Photo by Sean Kelly Gallery

Poul Kjærholm who was a Danish furniture designer during his lifetime was born on 8 January 1929 in a place called Oster Vra in Denmark. He started his career as an apprentice cabinet maker or carpentry in 1948 before going to the Copenhagen School for the Applied Arts from 1949 to 1952, where he studied furniture design.

In the year 1953, he wedded Hanne who was also a successful architect. He was a man who was very eloquent and as a result of his natural authority, he began an exceptional career as an instructor in 1952 without stopping his education with his lecturers.

Poul Kjaerholm designed different pieces that actually represented a mix of new technologies, techniques, and craftsmanship. This approach was exhibited in his diploma project known as PK 25 Chair of 1951. He used cut chromium-plated sheet steel for the frame of the chair, while the back and seat of the chair are of flag rope wrapped around the frame and drawn tight.

The seat furniture designed by Poul Kjaerholm can be referred to as Standard Modern, by way of the severe formalism of that school restrained by softer, lighter forms and the usual Scandinavian use of natural materials like woven cane, leather, and wood.

Poul Kjærholm PK22 Wicker Chair – Photo by 1stDibs

Poul Kjaerholm also considered steel to be a natural material, which in his own opinion had artistic qualities on the same level as those of wood. A two-piece construction of molded laminated wood called PKO was designed in 1952 by Poul Kjaerholm. It was of sculptural elegance.

From 1955 to 1956, the light, stylish PK22 chair, was designed by Kjaerholm. The chair slightly evokes the Barcelona Chair. The seat of this chair comprises of woven cane and stretched leather. The surface of Hammock aka PK24 chaise longue also designed by Kjaerholm in 1965 also comprises of woven cane and its lengthened form evokes the LC1 chaise longue but appeared much lighter and simpler than the earlier piece.

Poul Khaerholm designed the renowned PK 91 folding stool in 1961. It was covered in sailcloth or leather. He later designed the PK 20 swing chair in 1967. All his designs are implemented by his friends and associates.

The Life of Poul Khaerholm

Poul Kjaerholm PK61 Coffee Table – Photo by 1stDibs

Poul Khaerholm worked for his friend who produced a wide range of his furniture from the mid-1950s. His idiosyncratic style was obvious in his PKO minimalist plywood series as early as 1952. The PK61 coffee table of 1955 was a good-humoredly irrational supporting frame noticeable through the glass top.

He was given global recognition for his contributions to the Formes Scandinaves trade fair held in Paris and the award of the legendary Award for his PK22 chair, both in 1958. In 1957 and 1960, Poul won the Milan Trennali Grand Prize. He became the deputy and lecturer at the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Arts in 1959.

The PK24 Chaise Longue symbolized the mature style of this Danish designer in 1965. The flowing lines of the lounge combined woven cane and steel. Furthermore, he was honored with the Danish ID Prize for product design in 1967.

In 1973, Khaerholm became head of the Institute for Design and later a professor in 1976.

Works of Khaerholm

Poul Kjaerholm PK24 Chaise Lounge – Photo by Machine Age

Most of the furniture works of Khaerholm was first made by his friend in Hellerup. A wide range of his products has been manufactured by Fritz Hansen, a foremost Danish furniture manufacturing company since 1982. His works are in the permanent locations of Museums of Modern Arts in Germany, Denmark, New York and London.

A good number of Kjærholm’s contemporaries opted for wood as their primary furniture construction material in typically Scandinavian fashion. Kjærholm opted for steel as his major but always mixed it with other materials like marble, cane, leather or wood.

The steel’s useful latent is not only the interesting aspect of the artistic work of Khaerholm, but also the refraction of light on its surface is an important part of his creative work. He considered steel a material with similar artistic merit just like leather and wood.

Kjærholm Productions was founded by Kjaerholm’s son in 2004 to continue the manufacturing of the furniture of his father friend had stopped its production in 2003.

The complete and ultimate reference work of Khaerholm otherwise known as The Furniture of Poul Kjaerholm was published in 2008.

Examples of Some of His Works

Poul Kjaerholm PK25 Lounge Chair – Photo by CHICiCAT
  • The PK25 Lounge Chair (1951/52). The production began in 1956. The chair was made on one single sheet of steel cover was done with sailing rope/cord
  • The PK61 aka Coffee Table (1955): Produced to complement PK22. The top of the chair can be in slate, granite, marble, or glass
  • The PK22 Lounge Chair (1956). It was very famous.
  • PK20 Rocking Chair (1967)
  • PK91 X Stool (1961)
  • PK80 Day Bed (1957)
  • PK24 Hammock Chair (1965)
  • The Tulip Chair (1961)
  • PK33 Tripod stool (1959) : The construction was similar to PK80 daybed. Its top and feet sticks together using rubber rings

This Danish designer eventually died on 18 April 1980.