The History of Danish Furniture and Design

Scandinavian & Danish Furniture - photo by BoConcept

Danish Furniture is a kind of functionalistic design developed in the mid-twentieth century. A lot of Danish designers made use of the new industrial technologies, mixed with thoughts of minimalism and functionalism to design furniture, buildings, and domestic objects, a lot of which have turned out to be iconic and still in use and influenced by the German Bauhaus school. Well-known examples are the PH lamps, Egg chair, and the Sydney Opera House.

Drawing on the Scandinavian tradition of functionalism, simplicity, and craftsmanship, a lot of Danish designers utilized the new industrial design methods to form a starting point for industrial production of their designs. The founding of The School of Arts and Crafts at The Royal Danish Academy of Art contributed a lot and played a significant role in the growth of Danish Furniture design in 1930.

The History of Danish Furniture and Design

Chair 3107, Arne Jacobsen – photo by 1stdibs, Inc.

For a better understanding of the reason Danish product design and furniture design, in particular, turned out to be globally renowned than the graphic design, this piece is considered necessary.

A chair numbered as 3107 produced by Jacobsen Arne was one of the iconic furniture designs from Denmark which brought recognition to Danish furniture design. Nevertheless, much more have to be described from the history of Denmark, before all the accomplishments of this gifted man can be spelt out. Fiells pointed out that the Danish tradition of craftsmanship went down back to the Viking Age when Danes learned how to process the current materials for creating objects for each day use.

They were able to learn how to create quality made products with such a profound history of craftsmanship. On the other hand, the making of industrial design was utterly started by the foundation of the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufacturing Company at the end of the eighteenth century. For the period of many years, Danes were influenced by a variety of elements but the fact is that the core principles ever remained the same.

Beauty, function, and an excellent selection of materials can be discovered in just about all designs which were made in Denmark even ten years ago. The Authors who were involved in the theme of Scandinavian design made it clear that all these elements that were formed in late 1930s Art Movement Danish Modernism were parts of Scandinavian Modernism and lasted up to the present days.

PH 5 Hanging Lamp – photo by MoMA Design Store

Shortly after the end of the Second World War in the late 1940s, situations in Denmark were perfectly well-matched to success in design. Despite the fact that the emphasis was on furniture, textiles, glass, ceramics, silver, and architecture also gained from the trend. Late industrialisation in Denmark together with a tradition of premium craftsmanship formed the foundation of steady advancement towards industrial production.

The Europeans were eager to look for new approaches like the light wood furniture from Denmark, at the end of the war. Support for freedom of individual expression in Denmark helped the course.

The lately founded Furniture School at the Royal Danish Academy of Art played a significant part in the growth of Danish furniture design. Depending on the proportions and size of objects, Kaare Klint taught functionalism, having substantial influence. On the other hand, Hans J Wegner, who was educated and trained as a cabinetmaker participated with a distinctive sense of form, particularly in chairs designing.

Borge Mogensen crafted simple and robust objects of furniture for an average Danish family, being the head of the cooperative FDB furniture design studio. When it comes to making chairs with an appealing but functional look, Finn Juhl established an individualistic approach.

Ant Chair, Arne Jacobsen – photo by Stools & Chairs

The American design also influenced Danish furniture in the early 1950s. This was when an American designed and produced chairs of moulded wood and steel pipes. It was this development that prompted Arne Jacobsen to come up with the Ant Chair, the world famous chair and the first industrially manufactured chair in Denmark.

A few years later, the likes of Nanna Ditzel, Verner Panton and Poul Kjaerholm followed suit by continuing the success story of the Danish furniture design. Kjaerholm performed extensively in leather and steel. However, Panton left Denmark in the 1960s to keep on designing creative but exceedingly eccentric plastic chairs even as Nanna Ditzel, who also had a strongly individualistic approach, was victorious in assisting to revamp Danish furniture design in the 1980s.

The Future of Danish Furniture

The huge success for Danish design was in the 1950s and 1960s, but as from this period, Danish furniture products haven’t attained such fame. It looks as if the designers are conscious of these circumstances because the Danish Design Centre remarked in the past numerous years that comparatively young companies started to incorporate innovative quality products to the market.

Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair – photo by Matt Blatt

One of the companies which realised that Denmark can’t live from previous fame alone but must forge ahead and grow was Hay. Hence, Hay Company was able to make creative furniture solutions just in seven years, even as the Danish Design Centre pointed out by working with young artists.

Their products like the Blow chair and the Princess chair honoured the fundamentals of quality techniques of production, Danish simplicity Modernism, the importance of good use of materials, and centred on the user. In addition, they don’t just imitate existing products, they offer something new and innovative into Danish furniture.

Final Thought

Right from the starting of the 20th century, the line of architects was working on graphic design projects and not after the first founding of the graphic design department. Danes have been unable to make graphic art which would turn out to be as iconic as furniture products from the 1950s and 1960s. Nearly all of the works were technically well produced but short of thoughts, which would produce better art from them and make them standard.

If the Danish graphic design works are compared with the ones from Europe, a lack of creativity can be noticed in their design solutions. This was however caused by working mostly on commercial projects where the creativity is normally restricted by instructions and wishes of customers.

Panton Chair, Verner Panton – photo by

Nevertheless, this can’t be measured with the furniture design which comprised of Panton chairs, Egg, iconic Ant, Egg, and PH lamps which are well-liked and well-sold after 60 years from the day they were made. The Danish modernism, being the furniture design in Denmark as it is generally called, is recognised for the accent on function, the utilisation of easy lines, the concentration on high-quality choice of materials and quality production. In the 1950s, these principles were considered by Arne Jacobsen, and by designers who worked on chairs for Hay more than 50 years later. Of course, this is the matter which made the Danish furniture to be extremely powerful.