Scouting pro Henrik Jensen, founder of JenMod Vintage, has master vintage shopping in Denmark, and recently traveled to design destination Copenhagen to hand-pick the very best of Danish Modern. With an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for Danish design, Henrik scours the summer fleas and insiders-only dealers of Copenhagen to bring the finest pieces of the period stateside. Read on below to get his pro tips for Scandinavian treasure hunting, and shop his stunning collection here!
Tell us your story about how you ended up starting JenMod, and have become one of the biggest importers of Danish furniture on the East Coast.
Henrik has spent more than 20 year career in banking, but always dreamt of starting his own business. We had a certain passion for art and design already and in early 2013, we started a business that developed customized art pieces and leased them out to commercial customers. In the fall of 2013, however, a long-time friend in Denmark involved in the vintage and antiques business asked if we could help him set up a warehouse in the US and start selling on eBay. We set up the warehouse and imported our first container load and while we have since moved away from the eBay model that’s how we got our start in vintage. We quickly developed a passion for the furniture and it took over the art and became our main business.
Are there distinctions between Mid-Century Modern furniture that came out of the US vs. in Denmark?
The Danes always took pride in focusing on ergonomics and functionality over aesthetics and they used wood to a higher degree than their US counterparts. The result were clean functional lines combined with a high level simplicity not quite found similar in the US “Danish Modern.” This became a very distinct style. The Danes mainly used teak which was abundant in Denmark after WW2 and was very durable, because it has greater natural weather-resistant properties than just about any other type of wood. American Mid-Century furniture was mostly made of walnut. Danish furniture usually has more of a “sculptural” quality than American. For example the handles for the doors would also be carved pieces of wood that echo the sculptural qualities present in the rest of the piece.
How does shopping Mid-Century furniture differ in the US vs. in Denmark?
It requires great expertise to buy the right things, because quality is very different from designer to designer and from factory to factory, so always try to find out who the furniture maker is. The main difference is that there is a lot more ‘Danish Modern’ being offered here in the U.S than anywhere else and in Denmark there is naturally an abundance of it. Otherwise, it doesn’t differ all that much from the US.
Which iconic Mid-Century modern pieces are your absolute favorites?
Some of the most iconic pieces have also become quite mainstream such as the Barcelona Daybed by Mies van der Rohe. It was designed in 1929 so it may hardly be called ‘Mid-Century’ but it is one of the most amazing pieces of furniture ever made. Another one is Harry Bertoia’s ‘Bird Chair’ for Knoll from 1950. Of Danish icons we love Hans Wegner’s Shell Chairs (he made several designs), Borge Mogensen’s ‘Hunting Chair’ from 1950 and Arne Jacobsen’s ‘Egg Chair’ from 1958. Most of these are mainstream icons today but we think for a good reason.
What are current vintage trends in Denmark?
While the Mid-Century trend remains very popular and thus more expensive we now see a trend of consumers moving more towards the fringes of the time-period in both directions. This means that there is an increasing demand for what we call ‘early’ mid-century covering the 1930-40’s as well as leather furniture from the 1970’s and even early 80s. Early Mid-century trend has not quite caught on in the US yet, but personally we like the leather from the 70s and we are promoting more and more of that on Chairish. But designers like Afdal, Norell, Resell and Gillon from that period remain expensive. One of the major trends is banana-shaped sofas from, among others Slagelse Møbelværk that has produced some of the great designers here in Denmark. People have a tendency to buy individual Mid-Century expensive furniture and mixing styles with single decorative objects like vases, lamps etc.
What are some of your tips and tricks for shopping Mid-Century Modern in Denmark?
If you want to make really good deals, then you need to study the market a little bit and look for designers and pieces that are not quite mainstream. Everybody recognizes furniture by Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner and it thus becomes very hard to get a good deal on it. Other designers such as H.W. Klein or Peter Hvidt as an example are not as recognized by the general public and you can make great deals on those.
On manners, dealing with vendors and speaking…
Danes are generally polite and somewhat reserved – so it helps being polite and not too pushy. It also helps to show some level of passion for the furniture which we as Americans are good at. The dealers always like to sell to people that appreciate the furniture as much as they do and they feel a certain pride when we speak highly of their Danish design.
Since flea markets aren’t as common, where can great vintage finds be uncovered?
Flea markets are numerous during the relatively short summer. And of course just like in the US you can find good deals at any given flea market especially when shopping smaller items, lamps and decorative pieces. But everybody is so aware of the demand for good Mid-Century furniture that real finds are rare to come by at flea markets. And there is a trend of people thinking that anything Mid-Century is worth a lot. So auctions and dealers have become a much better source if you want the better stuff. Similar to the US it’s hard to make a good living with a vintage store and many of the dealers are willing to offer a good deal at any given time.
What is your vintage shopping motto?
Don’t compromise with quality and always be ready to spend a little extra for the items we love.
What is your favorite vintage piece that you’ve ever purchased in Denmark?
We had a daybed by Finn Juhl produced by France & Son – we found it on an auction in Sweden where it was undervalued. It was in Green leather and rosewood and just stunning. It sold very quickly to a collector in the US.
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A big thank you to Henrik for lending his insight into shopping Denmark!