Mid-century modern design has almost become synonymous with Danish Modern design, especially in the world of furniture. Modern design began in the halls and classrooms of Germany’s Bauhaus school but the mastery of the Danes propelled the modern aesthetic to the next level.
Europe was the epicenter of many groundbreaking modern movements with most of the famous figures in art and design working collaboratively or otherwise impacting one another’s work. These artists came from Germany, Russia, Scandinavia, France, Italy, Hungry and all points between. The rocky politics of Europe helped to spread the modern movement as artists from turbulent areas flocked to the Bauhaus to take part in the fervor of creativity exploding from the famous school. America was a benefactor of a large exportation of genius with the outbreak of WWII. In fact many of the famous “American” designers and artists of the 20th century were in fact European ex-pats. The Saarinens, Jens Risom, Harry Bertoia, Mies Van Der Rohe, Raymond Loewy, Marcel Breuer, among others, were all European immigrants whom accomplished some of their best work on this side of the Atlantic.
Modernism existed in America, but it was largely influenced by the Danish who lead the way in 2oth Century furniture design. The U.S.A had our own heavy hitters as well. George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames, Milo Baughman, and Adrian Pearsall pioneered futuristic looks and new materials to bring us designs that have never been seen before. Molded plastics, bent woods, foam, fiberglass, and metals were all applied in new ways. Commercial enterprises and every day folks were wowed by these latest designs, as they sought to make their new lifestyles more stylish, reflecting the optimism of the post war, space-age.
Americans became more aware of the greater world as a result of the war and jet-set era. Danish furniture represented sophistication to the cultured middle and upper class crowds. Those who couldn’t afford true Danish were satisfied with less expensive but otherwise worthy imitations by mainstream American manufacturers.
What makes Danish furniture so special? Simply put, craftsmanship. The Danes are reputed to be some of the finest cabinet maker’s on the planet. There expertise is no accident. Scandinavians are notoriously meticulous, it’s part of their culture. Subpar is not acceptable. This Danish value was put into practice with the creation of the Danish Furniture Maker’s Control Association. You may have seen this black circular emblem on your teak or rosewood furniture. Established in 1959, as a result of the wild popularity of Danish furniture, the association sought to protect the quality of furniture exports leaving their country to preserve and celebrate the reputation of their product. The Danish Control mark was given to manufacturer’s who adhered to certain standards for materials and production methods. The members of this association took the honor seriously and were subject to random inspections to make sure they followed the strict quality rules set forth by the organization.
The Danish did not skimp on their furniture. They used only the finest specimens of exotic teak and rosewood. In fact, you may have noticed that nearly all Danish furniture is teak or rosewood. These exotic, long lasting, strong, hardwoods were chosen because of their strength and beauty. It was not enough for the Danes to just make furniture. They handcrafted furniture that was built to last. For the Danes, “lasting” meant physical fortitude and timeless beauty. The Danish aesthetic is marked by clean minimalism. This minimalist core was borrowed from the philosophies of the Bauhaus and perfected in Denmark. Modern design meant minimalism. Politics of the past century had left a bad taste in the mouths of this next generation who rebuked the decadent flourishes of the Victorian age. Those era’s belong to the elite, those whom pushed the world into disorder. The new age was for the common man. This enlightened middle class coveted the clean lines of modernism that represented the machine age and death of pomp. Americans and Europeans alike welcomed the unpretentious charm of Danish Modernism.
Danish design isn’t all straight lines. The Danes looked to nature when they wished to add a little pizazz. Danish embellishment often comes in the form of curves so elegant you would think they were carved by a steady flow of wind or water. Angles on chairs, tables and legs resembled the silhouettes of animals like deer. Scandinavian art and design were much informed by their environment. Such keen study of the world around them from the natural surroundings, to the political climes, resulted in a quietly profound visual vocabulary that has proven to be both timeless and borderless.
Furnish Me Vintage is proud to continue the legacy of fine design by offering some of the most intriguing, well-made furniture from the 20th Century. We procure these pieces, restore them and bring them to market in hopes that they will last another sixty years. With the proper care and love, they should last far beyond our projections.