Clean, functional, and timeless: say “hej” to Danish Modern design. From Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair to Børge Mogensen’s saddle leather Spanish Chairs, Danish Modern design is laid-back, sophisticated, and just plain wonder-inducing. Want to know more about how this iconic style that kicked off the Mid-Century Modern design movement? Read on!
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The Guiding Philosophy
Founded in the 1940s, early Danish Modernists focused on pairing form with function. Inspired by German Bauhaus designers, Danish Modernists set out to create designs that was practical, aesthetically pleasing, simply designed and improved day-to-day life—talk about #goals! Danish Modernists were also adamant about making use of emerging manufacturing techniques (steam-bending was a favorite) to achieve never-before-seen organic shapes.
How’s it Different From Mid-Century Modern?
For better or worse, Danish Modern design often gets tossed into the Mid-Century Modern pool. To set the record straight on what’s what, we reached out to Mid-Century expert, Chris Saari of Savage Road Antiques. “I look at the Mid-Century Modern design as pushing the barriers of design and color,” Chris says. “If you look at American Mid-Century Modern designers like Adrian Pearsall, Vladimir Kagan and Milo Baughman, they used an array of mediums and design elements to push design. Alternatively, the Danish designed with just form, function, and simplicity in mind.”
Danish Modern Designers to Know
A Danish Modern founding father, Finn Juhl designed furniture that championed aerodynamic form and sculptural qualities. Subtly surreal elements checker his work, from the wavy wood chair arms present on his 45 Chairs to the double fang-shaped back that makes his Pelican Chair a total scene-stealer. Paired with colorful fabrics, Juhl’s pieces are just right for those looking to combine Danish Modern and Mid-Century Modern sensibilities.
Known for his reinterpretations of classic designs, Børge Mogensen’s body of work showcases practical forms and heirloom-level craftsmanship. Among Mogensen’s most-loved pieces is his Spanish Chair. Inspired by the antiquated Spanish throne chair, Mogensen opted to give the form a polished makeover with a squared-off base and cut-out leather seat. Innovation was also a keystone of Mogensen’s work, perhaps never more evident than with his drop-side sofa from 1945 (hello, first-generation daybed!).
From the Papa Bear Chair to the Wishbone Chair, Hans Wegner used steam bending to contort wood in never-before-seen ways. The results were always stunning, with his body of work ranging from pared-down and elegant to off-beat and quirky. Chances are that you’re likely to recognize a number of Wegner’s designs from modern-day remakes (the Wishbone Chair and Round Chair are crowd favorites). With their equal attention to function and form, they’re basically expiration-less.
As the designer behind Danish Modernism’s poster chair: the Egg Chair, Arne Jacobsen was a pro at pairing stellar form with ergonomic comfort. With their focus on accommodating the human form, Jacobsen’s chairs are the kind of pieces that beckon to be used. A master of materials, Jacobsen also mirrored the body’s natural curves in his work.
Known as the “First Lady of Danish Furniture Design,” Nanna Ditzel crafted some of the movement’s most editorial designs. With a jewelry designer background, Ditzel introduced a decorative element to Danish Modernism. Among her most iconic pieces is her psychedelic Butterfly Chair, which mimics a resting butterfly right down to the antennae-like legs, and her Ring Chair, which puts an undeniably glam spin on Danish Modern design.
The brainchild of two Americans who traveled to Denmark and fell in love with Danish design, Dansk specializes in simple and elegant housewares. Over the years, Dansk has worked with Danish modern heavy-weights like Jens Quistgaard and Cyan Gunner. Their speciality is sculptural teak salad bowls, simple enamel pots, and sophisticated metal and iron candle holders.
The Danish Modern Legacy
From the ubiquitous presence of the Egg Chair and the Wishbone Chair to the popularity of Scandinavian-leaning retailers like West Elm, Danish Modern is a style that never says die. “I think it has remained in favor for so long because of the simplicity and versatility of the design,” says Chris of Savage Road Antiques. “The design can work in almost any setting. I have seen designers use Danish Modern pieces in rustic settings, formal settings, and traditional settings. I’ve even in theme driven settings like a lodge. When a design is elegant, yet simple, it appeals to everyone.”