Furniture: The Danish Way

Høvdingestol by Finn Juhl at the House of Finn Juhl

The Furniture Design Program at DIS is actually quite like my home school. I took this course because I knew of Denmark’s rich history in furniture, specifically handcraft, and thought this would be an ideal place to study abroad. Classes are 9-5 every weekday. There might be a lecture then it’s all work time. On the first day of class we met in a classroom in the main building. We sat for a short lecture about furniture history and what we should gather inspiration from, then immediately we went straight to the workshop in a different building next door. Everyone found their own desk, it’s about the size of an average drafting table, we mingled, drew up some ideas, then the rest of the day was a furniture field trip.

Kaare Klint Faaborg chair replica

The class of 25 split into two groups and visited three furniture showrooms. All of the showrooms featured classic mid century modern Danish furniture. There were some originals such as the Hans J. Wegner coat chair. While others were perfect recreations of the originals such as the Thonet bent beechwood chair and the Kaare Klint Faaborg chair. We were instructed to bring our measuring sticks and take note of the seat height, back height, arm to seat height, depth, and overall size, as this would help to be the start of our creations. The majority of the class are product designers and architects, while I have a background in a woodshop and furniture, so it was easier for me to measure what would be of use.

In Denmark, designs are quite minimalistic with an emphasis on sustainability and accessibility to an average buyer. Less material emphasizes the design and creates less waste, as well as make things easier for the middle class who simply want a well made piece of furniture. My designs tend to include a sculpture-esq flare, so it was a bit of a challenge to drop my original plans. Due to my more artistically oriented nature, I was sent on a personal mission by one of my teachers to inspect Finn Juhls designs at the House of Juhl showroom, which is a few blocks from class. I really enjoyed his designs due to their organic simplicity. I drew some sketches and took a lot of pictures of qualities I liked in his furniture, then reported back to the workshop.

Our homework assignments were assigned through out the first week and consisted of:

  • Multiple sketches of chairs
  • Ideate on a few sketches
  • Refine a sketch
  • Build a ⅕ scale model (Metric)
  • Analyze the model and refine details
  • Apply real world measurements
  • Draw three 1:1 scale silhouette drawings
  • Pattern your pieces
  • Make a 1:1 full scale model in cardboard

All of these tasks were interwoven with periodical meetings from each teacher (there are two). I took my new knowledge from the many furniture showrooms and Finn Juhl’s work then applied some of those fabrication techniques in my design, in order to study them further. One aspect of my design that has stuck in all of my iterations is the illusion of the lower back leg connecting into the lower chair back support as if it was threaded through the seat. This will be done by inserting an invisible dowel through the leg, seat, and back. It is incredibly difficult to achieve, but I am confident my experience in woodworking and furniture design will allow me to accomplish this without compromising the structural stability of the leg or back. Wish me luck!

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