Spanish Chair by Børge Mogensen 1958

photograph taken at the showroom of Fredericia in Copenhagen


Børge Mogensen - the zebra skin and the wall hanging suggest that the photograph was taken in 1958 on the exhibition stand of the cabinetmaker Erhard Rasmussen at Kunstindustrimusset


designed by Børge Mogensen in 1958
shown by Erhard Rasmussen at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition at Kunstindustrimuseet in Copenhagen in 1958

made by Fredericia

height: 67 cm
width: 82.5 cm
depth: 60 cm
height of seat: 33 cm

The Spanish Chair designed by Børge Mogensen was first shown in September and October 1958 at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Exhibition at Kunstindutrimuseet in Copenhagen - now called Designmuseum Danmark. Produced by the Danish furniture company Fredericia - they are now celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The chair was shown in an interesting room setting along with a very large sofa upholstered in a giant check that was said to be large enough to sleep three and there was a zebra skin on the floor and models of yacht hulls across the wall … all with the title “furniture for a country house.”

They were described by the critic Johan Møller Nielsen as -

“the chair and couch for the consummate idler! It is hardly possible to make furniture more expensive than this. The whole interior is wonderful to look at and to to be in, and it would be well suited to be exhibited in one of the rooms of the ‘Louisiana’ museum of modern art as an example of the best furniture design of our age. But it is of no value whatsoever to the average citizen …”

Louisiana - just up the coast from the city - had only opened that August.

Even reading the criticism several times, and having typed it out, it’s not clear if this is praise or criticism.

Of course, it’s ironic that Børge Mogensen, is being damned here, apparently, for designing furniture that the average citizen could not afford, because he was and is best known not just as one of the great designers of his generation but through the 1940s as the head of design for FDB - the Danish Coop - when they produced well-designed modern furniture of a high quality and at the lowest price possible.

For the exhibition in 1958 the set of Spanish chairs were made by the cabinetmaker Erhard Rasmussen but the design was then produced by the Danish furniture company Fredericia who still make the chair.

To mark the anniversary of the Spanish Chair, Fredericia have relaunched the dining chairs, with and without arms, that were designed in 1964 that have the same form of set and back rest with leather stretched across the frame and held in place with large buckles.


Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition - part 2


Today there was a second visit to the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition at the museum at Øregaard in Hellerup. In part this was because I wanted to double-check some of the information that was in the first post because the Stack Chair in the exhibition was not the piece of furniture that appeared in the catalogue and the Wedge Chair and Stool were not actually in the published catalogue … my fault for not writing down the information on the labels properly on the first visit although it was hardly an onerous task to go back but a really good opportunity to look again at the furniture.

I have to confess that actually I started the visit with a coffee in the museum cafe and that itself was also fortunate as chatting to the people working there I was directed up to the space above the cafe where there was a terrific exhibition of work from a school who had visited the museum during the week. These were year 4 pupils so I think that means they were about 10 years old and inspired by the furniture they had seen, they had designed their own furniture and made models that were still on display.

With this second visit to Øregaard, some extra photographs have been added to my catalogue of images.


Stavl - Stack, Henrik Ingemann Nielsen de Place Furniture by Lars de Place Bjørn

Wedge Chain + Wedge Stool, Foersom & Hiort-Lorenzen, HIKI Snedkeriet på Hans Knudsens Instituttet


With this second visit to Øregaard, some extra photographs have been added to my catalogue of images.

This second post is also an opportunity to include more photographs of the interior of the house - specifically the elegant staircase which shows exactly why Øregaard has been such an appropriate venue for the exhibition.

Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling - the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition 2015

There are 83 furniture makers and designers in the association (sammenslutning) of cabinetmakers and for their annual Autumn exhibitions they work together in pairs to produce pieces of furniture within a pre-determined theme. The theme for this year was Petite - as in elegant and refined - and the pieces were restricted to a footprint of 60 x 60 cms or less.

In part, this reflected and respected the venue for the exhibition this year which is the house at Øregaard in Hellerup - now a museum - that was built in the early 19th century as a summer residence by the architect Joseph-Jacques Ramée for the merchant Johannes Søbøtker.

But also, crucially, the French theme is important because the exhibition will transfer to the Maison du Danemark on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris where it will open on the 27th January 2016 and run through until the 3rd April.

For the exhibition the display has been designed by the architectural practice Norm and their work is crucial to the character and style of the event. Their work is noted for being restrained and subtle and here that is important.  In Hellerup the main rooms in the house have been painted in a range of classic Danish colours in soft greens and greys and, with the clean white lines of the architectural features and the large sash windows, overlooking the park and gardens of the house, this gives the space a specifically Danish and specifically 18th-century Danish feel.

This review is in danger of sounding like text from an advertising copywriter or travel brochure but it is a very serious point that has to be made. The rooms are reminiscent of a painting by Vilhelm Hammershøi and this must be deliberate. In his interiors there is no clutter. Furniture is expensive and good but arranged sparingly. The interiors are calm and restrained. In the paintings and here at Øregaard there are no spotlights, no bling - or their equivalent - and nothing loud or demonstrative. In a very Danish way you have to look carefully and think about what you are looking at to appreciate the skill and the craftsmanship.

Modern Danish taste has it’s roots much further back than the 1950s or 1960s. Colours and styles of furniture and furnishings, in a specifically Danish form, go back to the interiors of the late 19th century; back to the period of the Golden age of Danish painting in the early 19th century and, in some aspects, on back to the way furniture was arranged and interiors were decorated in Denmark in the 17th century and back further to the interiors of the late medieval and early modern period. 

The simple blocks and plinths of the display here in this exhibition also use some mirrored surfaces which reflect the natural light coming in through the large windows but also plays with the idea of reflections - some 18th-century interiors used mirrors between windows for similar effects - so in some parts of the exhibition it is possible to see the underside of pieces of furniture. Any good piece of furniture and certainly furniture from a cabinet maker should be properly finished and that includes the underside and parts that you cannot see. And that is not just about quality and pride in workmanship but is also about something tactile. The most difficult part of visiting this exhibition is that you should not touch but wood in particular, as a material, is to be touched and actually joints and corners can be best judged by feel with the eyes closed … a dovetail or a mitre joint should look perfect and in the very best work it should be impossible to feel or trace with a finger.

What the exhibition also celebrates is the important and enduring connections in Danish furniture design between architects, specialist furniture designers and furniture making or cabinet making by craftsmen. Here, in these exhibition pieces, that collaboration is an essential part of the creation and production process.

However, these pieces of furniture are not shackled or restricted by the past … simply aware of the past even if materials and forms are new … so pieces here are made in acrylic or MDF as well as in exotic timbers: one table is covered with salmon skin - others pieces are perfectly coloured using powder coating. 

There is also humour here - so Pause is a cabinetmakers’ cupboard for an iPhone guarded by an all seeing eye - and there is clever playing with ideas and forms - so Doublé uses a mirror to make two half tables look like two separate complete tables and neither table could stand up without the mirror they are fixed to because they each have only two legs.

Some designers played with 18th-century themes so Tricorn looks to the shape of an 18th-century tricornered hat and Dress Chairs plays with 18th-century costumes - one with the form of the sleeve of a woman’s summer dress and the other a bonnet and exotic timbers are used in some pieces in a very appropriate way because the house and gardens were built with money from sugar plantations and trade in the West Indies.

Nor are the pieces simply expensive games for the showing off of skills but can be experiments or trials that will, further on, lead to commercial products although they are also reminiscent of the work or master piece that an apprentice produced to be judged as he finished his apprenticeship and became a master

Back to sounding like a travel advert, I would urge anyone and everyone interested in design and furniture design to visit the exhibition. Look carefully and enjoy because these pieces truly deserve admiration and respect.


Note, I have posted a separate catalogue of photographs of all the furniture in the exhibition 

The photographs are in the same sequence as in the museum's exhibition catalogue where there are short descriptions of the furniture and those notes can also be found on the exhibition web site

Over the coming months I hope I will be able to use these pieces of furniture as a starting point for interviewing and writing about some of these designers and makers to see how these one-off pieces fit within the broader pattern of their design or production works.

Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition 2015 - Petite

The Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition has just opened at Øregaard Museum in Hellerup. This year the theme for the exhibition is 'Petite' - as in refined and elegant - and works had to be free standing and were restricted in size to less than 60 x 60 cm.

The exhibition will also been shown at Maison du Danemark, Avenue Champs-Élysées in Paris from 27 January to 3 April 2016.

The exhibition continues until 18 October 2015