A Short Introduction to Designer Furniture
The core difference between regular furniture you can find at any local store and designer furniture is that the latter is designed by world-renowned furniture designers, artists or architects who paid great attention to details and developed their ideas according to certain design philosophies and considerations, keeping in mind the materials available, production techniques and both aesthetic and functional aspects of their designs.
Danish Furniture Designers
Design, furniture and décor are firmly rooted in the traditions of Scandinavian craftsmanship and the golden era of Danish furniture design. With a culture that places a great emphasis on social events that are taking place at one’s home, the Danes always took great care about the look, style and cosiness of their homes. The generation of world-renowned Danish designers who worked in the 1950s and ‘60s was inspired by this tradition, but also by the contemporary stylistic and ideological movement. The ideas of Organic Functionality as well as the belief in progress, future and rationalism played a crucial role in shaping the careers of some of the best known Danish furniture designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Børge Mogensen or Poul Henningsen.
Despite the fact that most of the Danish designers gained both critical acclaim and public recognition for their chairs, sofas and ottomans, a big part of Danish design is concerned with lighting. Some of the biggest names in lighting architecture are Danish designers which produced lighting fixtures for home and public spaces alike, including Henningsen, Jacobsen and Verner Panton.
Attention to Detail
With designer furniture, everything truly is in the details. The unique look and the unwavering popularity of these iconic classics are largely due to subtle, yet crucial details which can make the final product appear refined or quirky, elegant or informal, subtle or striking. The visual expression of any single piece relies on the way it fits into intended space, while the experience it provides is related to comfort, lighting and the general décor style. That’s why these designers took great care to think not only about a single design but also about how it can fit into a broader context.
For example, PH Artichoke lamp with its unique and striking appearance provides both a sculptural and aesthetic addition to the room and the pleasant, functional and glare-free lighting – the balance many lamps lack.
Another example is Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair, where the shape of the round back allows for multiple chairs to be placed in a circle, thus creating a semi-closed circular space which separates the people sitting from the others present in the same room – a perfect solution for big lobbies and reception areas it was originally designed for. In addition, the swivel function allows the chair to rotate, so even in that context, the person sitting can choose to use the rounded back of the chair to “shield” himself and create a sense of private space in a larger group.
Different Styles of Furniture
Despite the fact that we’re used to think about furniture design as a modern development, the truth is that, in one way or another, it has been a here as long as furniture has been – that is, throughout the human history. No matter what period or part of the world we look at, we can notice the common trends in the ways furniture is designed, used and thought about.
For example, as far back as 3000-2000 BC, in Ancient Egypt, furniture was, for a larger part, reserved for the ruling class and the majority of the population couldn’t afford it. Even though it’s hard to imagine from a modern perspective, sitting on the ground was quite natural for centuries and chairs were reserved for aristocracy or clergy.
Over the centuries, the furniture design and production developed in a way which largely followed broader stylistic and aesthetic movements which have dominated visual arts, architecture and music.
The style of Baroque was absolutely dominant throughout the Europe in the period between 1640 and 1720. Characterized by grandiosity, numerous ornaments and items, this movement was reflected in highly decorated furniture, without any clear order.
This style was dominant in a relatively short time span between 1730 and 1760 but left its unmistakable mark on the history of art and design. Rococo Cushion is, even today, quite a popular item in many Danish homes which got publicity through the movie Zappa from 1983. Funnily enough, this “pouf pillow” isn’t actually a Rococo pillow, but a pouf from Morocco and it is typically in the North African countries that you can buy these. Stylistically, the Rococo period was inspired by the cultures of the Orient and East Asia.
The Rococo style is very similar to Baroque being very heavily decorated but less symmetrical. Designer furniture, architecture, handicrafts and textiles are characterized by ornaments, corrugated and asymmetrical lines, elegance and decoration. Although the style is known for being asymmetrical, the furniture from the period is oddly symmetrical, due to the smart positioning of asymmetric ornaments. The key decorative elements included rocaille, seashells and palm branches.
This style originated in France when porcelain was a new material. The inspiration came from East Indian silver porcelain that was developed over time into independent form and ornaments. The decoration was used on all the furniture from the period, as well as entire rooms and buildings. The Versailles castle just outside Paris is probably the most famous building decorated in Rococo style.
Neoclassicism spanned between 1750 and 1850 and was initially parallel to Rococo. This style is known for the combination of grandeur and simplicity and was inspired by Ancient Greek and Roman art. The period is also called Romantic period, based on the notion of past greatness.
Furniture designs from this period are typically divided into a couple of different styles – Empire, Directoire, Hepplewithe and Louise Seize.
Another style that was known for furniture decorated by ornaments, with motifs such as ivy leaf and tulip.
This aesthetic style was prominent in the period between 1919 and 1933, a crucial time for the development of Danish designer furniture. Bauhaus was a huge influence on designers like Arne Jacobsen and was pioneered by the big names of international design like Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Eames.
The period is the response to the decades of heavily ornamented furniture with its clean and simple lines which clearly influenced Danish Modern. Bauhaus isn’t so much a limited period as it is a philosophy that was part of the early Modernism.
Architectural style that was most prominent between 1925 and 1940.
Modernism was a broader movement that spanned between 1930 and 1945 and was noticeable in a vast array of different domains, including visual arts, architecture, literature and even ideology and culture. Stylistically, Modernism was in line with the clean lines and surfaces of Bauhaus with which it shares many of the same traits. When talking about Modernism in Danish design, one must mention Arne Jacobsen who was one of the first to be characterized as a modernist furniture designer.
In Denmark, Modernism was closely related to Functionalism whose focus on practicality stands in stark opposition to the ornament-heavy approach from the previous periods.
Furniture Design Today
Contemporary designer furniture is still strongly influenced by the core ideas and developments of Modernism, at the same time encompassing a wider variety of trends and ideas. This type of furniture and the related décor style is extremely popular in Denmark today thanks to the work of many Danish designers who marked a whole era of mid-century Danish design with their internationally recognized works such as Arne Jacobsen’s Egg and Swan chairs or Poul Henningsen’s Artichoke lamp.
Interior decoration and furnishing are rather high on the list of the Danes’ priorities and although the economic crisis of 2008 left its mark on the sales figures, designer furniture pieces like the Swan, Wishbone chair or one of Eames’ chairs are still popular investments today.