Slightly out of Copenhagen along the coast to the north, at the north end of the main street in Hellerup, is The Shop of the New. This opened at the end of last summer and is in fact the store for the Copenhagen furniture makers Københavns Møbelsnedkeri who have their workshops in Islands Brygge - the area on the east side of the inner harbour in Copenhagen and immediately beyond Christianshavn.
Again the style is probably not what is immediately recognised as Classic Danish although what is clear in the design of the furniture is the Danish love of and deep respect for wood and craftsmanship. I hope to talk to some of the craftsmen at the workshop at some stage but until then what I can see is that there is a deliberate stepping back from current Danish design. Not stepping away but stepping back in time and returning to earlier principles and earlier methods of design and production. The photograph in the shop and on their web site, with the craftsmen from the company dressed and posed to look as if it was taken a century ago, is clearly tongue in cheek - funny and ironic - but actually a very clear statement about returning to earlier principles. This is not nostalgia. This is saying that if you feel concerned or feel that something is wrong with where you are then, rather than blundering on, hoping to find your way, it is often better to go back to an earlier fork in the road and try a different route. So this is a return to the techniques and the view point of craftsmen c.1900 and not a return to their designs.
In the work of the cabinet workers from companies such as Rud Rasmussen, working with designers like Hans Wegner in the 1940s and 1950s, you can see and appreciate that between designer and maker there was a mutual respect and a common understanding of workshop techniques and together they explored what was possible and together tried new forms and developed new techniques.
It is significant that on the wall in the shop in Hellerup is displayed a definition of the role and status of the artisan. With its political and moral overtones, this view has been rather sidelined for fifty or sixty years but this must be the right time to reassess those values to see if they could and should have relevance now. That’s the idea of apprenticeships; the reassessment of the values we put on certain skills and the idea of respecting and carrying forward knowledge and experience.
What you can also see here, I suspect, is inspiration from what is called vernacular or craft furniture. Go to the open air museum in Aarhus or look through the houses at Frilandsmuseet, the open air museum north of Copenhagen, and you will see robust, honest furniture made by joiners and carpenters from villages and country towns, made locally; made to be functional; made to last but far from crudely made. Look at the way that furniture was made to improve the life of the owner and make lives more comfortable and more enjoyable … that is one basic but important definition of what makes a design good.
The Shop Of The New also sells their own lamps in turned brass, children’s furniture from Collect Furniture, skate boards from One Village, chopping boards, grinders and yard brooms from the Philadelphia company Lostine and T-shirts and shorts from the Pacific Island company of M.Nii.
Again, as with the other shops, look at the distinctive packaging, the use of good graphics, the careful presentation in the shop to reinforce the style, type and form of furniture that they are making and selling.
There’s also a really good coffee shop in the store and the bus from the centre of Copenhagen stops outside … just in case you are worried about venturing that far out of the city.
The Shop Of The New, Strandvejen 213, 2900 Hellerup, Denmark