NV45 / FJ45 by Finn Juhl 1945

Chair NV45 was shown at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition in 1945 - with other furniture including a desk and sofa designed by Finn Juhl and made by Niels Vodder - in a room setting that was described as a ‘room for a managing director.’

Obviously this was not cheap furniture … a review in Berlingske Tidende noted that the furniture was designed for a deluxe office and added that not only had it been awarded first prize but had been sold in advance to an American customer.

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photographed at Galleri Feldt at Nordre Toldbod in Copenhagen


side by side

The Chair by Hans Wegner 1949

NV44 by Finn Juhl 1944

The Chair

Hans Wegner (1914-2007)
cabinetmakers Johannes Hansen, PP Møbler

now made in oak, ash, cherry or walnut
leather or cane

height: 76 cm
width: 63 cm
depth: 52 cm
height of seat: 44 cm


Finn Juhl (1912-1989)
cabinetmaker Niels Vodder

Cuban mahogany rosewood and leather

initially only 12 examples produced

height: 73 cm
width: 60 cm
depth: 52 cm
height of seat: 47 cm


Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl were almost the same age and The Chair, designed by Wegner, and the NV44, by Juhl, were designed and made a few years apart, in the late 1940s.

Both chairs are in wood, with a back rest in wood that is shaped and twisted to continue round into wood arm rests and both chairs are of a high quality - both made by highly-skilled cabinet makers - so, ostensibly, the chairs are of the same type.*

But clearly they are distinctly different - even if It is difficult to pin down and describe those differences - because once you have seen the chairs it would be difficult to mistake one for the other.

If you showed both chairs to someone who knows nothing about Danish design history and asked them to give a date to the chairs, my guess would be that some people, but relatively few, would suggest the 1940s. Many would see the chair by Juhl as more traditional or more old fashioned and might push its date back - back in the century or even wonder if it was older - whereas many would be surprised that the chair by Wegner is now nearly 70 years old and might hazard a guess for its date as being in the 1960s or possibly even more recent.

The NV44 by Finn Juhl is more sculptural, more dramatic - with a stronger sense of movement - so the back rail or back rest is shaped and twisted but there is a sense that the wood is still under tension and the arms are pulled outwards and the uprights are twisted out to support the arms to form a cup shape for the person sitting in the chair.

There are stretchers but not between the back and front legs - as in a conventional design - but, as they run from the back legs, they are tilted down and inwards to the centre of a deep stretcher between the front legs and that stretcher itself is curved but, surely, curved the wrong way because an arch supports and spreads weight, taking the load down and out to the ground, but a reverse arch, as here, creates the impression that the uprights are or could move together at the top. It creates a dynamic where the front of the seat itself seems almost as if it is slung between the front legs.

Obviously the arms and back rest on Wegner's design have also been cut to shape and twisted but, despite that manipulation, they seem natural and at rest. The legs of the chair are reduced down as much as possible by being tapered - that's why the Wegner chair is elegant - but the seat and the centre part of the leg, where the rails of the seat are joined, are strong enough and those joins, fixing the seat rail into the legs, are precisely cut and strong enough that stretchers were omitted completely.

The seat on Wegner's chair is slightly hollowed, to make it look and be more comfortable and it is wide and open - uncluttered - so it looks as if there is room to move around, however large you are, and the outward splay of the legs makes the chair, despite those elegant tapered legs, look stable, the chair standing square, calm and somehow self contained.

So is the chair by Juhl tense? If you prefer the chair designed by Finn Juhl then you might argue that the NV44 is more organic, voluptuous or sensual, and the lines and silhouette of the chair by Wegner not more pure but more mechanical.


Certainly the chairs could not have been more different commercially.

Finn Juhl was not concerned with commercial success or compromise and here one suspects that Niels Vodder, the cabinetmakers, had to work hard to realise the design. It was presumably the complexity and the cost of the work that explains why, initially, only 12 chairs were produced.

In contrast, it's known that Hans Wegner collaborated closely with the cabinetmakers who used their skill and their experience, as he himself said, "cutting the elements down to the bare essentials" so together, they produced a chair that is not just rational but, from that process of simplification, it meant that, if not exactly made on a factory production line, the chair could be produced in relatively large numbers. 

The NV44 by Juhl has much more conventional upholstery with the leather taken over the frame of the seat and that meant it needed a good upholsterer with real skill - look at the piping on the edge of the leather where it is taken around the uprights supporting the back and arms - and the work could only be done on the fully finished chair.

With the leather version of The Chair by Wegner, the leather seat and upholstery were over a separate frame that was dropped into place when the chair was assembled so seat and frame could be made independently.

But also the design of the frame of the seat on The Chair meant that it could be in cane … in fact the first chairs were all with cane seats and the leather covered version was introduced later.

That, in part, explains the success of The Chair which is still in production, made now by PP Møbler.

And it is not just the choice of seat because The Chair was one of the first chairs where the same design could be customised to take on a different character if the customer chose a different type of wood or different finishes for the wood so it takes on a different character in different settings. Not just a very beautiful chair but a bit of a chameleon.


note: *

ostensibly similar because in their classification of chair types at Designmuseum Danmark, the chair by Juhl is a Chinese Chair and Wegner's chair a Round Arm or Klismos Chair.

OneCollection at northmodern

At northmodern OneCollection showed the recently re-released France Chair that was designed by Finn Juhl and produced by France & Son from 1958.

Known originally as Chair FJ136, it was delivered as a flat pack which seems to have contributed to its popularity, particularly for the export market. 

More restrained than many of the designs by Juhl, the complex curves of the seat and back of the chair are a development of the 108 Chair of 1946 and the pronounced but gently-curved elbow rests on the arms are reminiscent of the arms of the Chieftain Chair from 1949.

OneCollection, France Chair


C W F France was an English businessman who from 1936 ran the Danish company Lama at Ørholm with the cabinet maker Eric Daverkosen, producing mattresses and furniture. After the War, the company expanded rapidly and at one stage, by the mid 50s, produced up to 60% of Danish furniture exports. The company changed its name to France & Son in 1957.  The working relationship between Juhl and France & Son was fascinating … Juhl was certainly not the most commercially focused designer of the post-war period.

It would be interesting to see production numbers for the chair because it was, possibly, the most overtly commercial of Juhl's designs. Clearly, this was not 'flat-pack' furniture as we think of it now but, unlike Mogensen and Wegner and most other major designers of the post-war period, Juhl did not produce furniture for the lower priced, more popular, sector of the market so he did not design for FDB - the Danish COOP.


A book on the France company - and their work with major Danish designers, including Finn Juhl, Grete Jalk, Ole Wanscher and Hvidt & Mølgaard - has recently been published: France & Søn – British Pioneer of Danish Furniture by James France from the publisher Forlaget Vita.

NV 44 by Finn Juhl 1944

NV 44 by Finn Juhl in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark



In 1944, Finn Juhl was in his early 30s when he designed the NV 44 Chair. NV are the initials of the cabinetmaker Niels Vodder. Juhl first collaborated with Vodder in 1937 and they worked together on many designs through until 1959.

From 1930 to 1934 Juhl had trained as an architect under Kay Fisker at the Royal Danish Academy and then worked in the architectural firm of Vilhelm Lauritzen for ten years although increasingly he focused on interior design and on designing furniture. 

This chair came at a turning point in his career and in 1945 he left Lauritzen to set up an independent design company and his reputation now is based on his furniture designs rather than his work as an architect.

The NV 44 chair is quite a virtuoso piece with shapes and lines curving and flowing through different planes. An English form of chair called a balloon back has a similar line for the back with the back legs flowing up in a single curve into the rounded arch of the top of the back rest but here the arm rests also flow round and through the same shape so it looks almost as if it should be made in a mould rather than constructed from separate pieces of shaped wood.

There are interesting technical details like the side braces that, rather than running between the back and the front legs, are set at a sharp angle to run up from the back legs to the centre of the front frame of the seat forming a V shape. This means that in silhouette the space between the legs looks uncluttered.

On balance, the design seems more dated, more fixed in the 1940s, than Wegner’s comparable chair, The Round Chair, from 1949. Perhaps it is the deep leather-covered seat although that too is given a rounded shape … earlier leather chairs would normally have had flat front and side rails with the leather fixed by a line of nails along the bottom edge … as with the Red Chair and the arm chair from Rud Rasmussen both designed by Kaare Klint in the late 1920s.

This comparison with the work by Klint shows just how much the form of armed chairs in Danish design changed over less than 20 years from something solid and robust, still linked to cabinetmaker’s work of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to a style that was fluid and sculptural.



In 2012, to mark the anniversary of the birth of Finn Juhl, a limited edition of the chair was produced by OneCollection



photographed at Illums Bolighus in Copenhagen


design classic: Pelican Chair by Finn Juhl 1940


Finn Juhl (1912-1989) had trained as an architect, at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, and not as a furniture maker, so his design for the Pelican Chair was realised with the cabinet maker Niels Vodder and two of the chairs were shown at the exhibition of the Cabinet Makers’ Guild in 1940. With their strong sculptural form and simple but hefty wooden legs set at an angle, the chairs must have caused a fair bit of discussion and controversy at the exhibition and subsequently commercial production was limited. 

A version of the chair - with thinner and upturned wings set lower to the back - was shown at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition in 1939 with a sofa, desk, chairs and shelves that were all made by Niels Vodder. In a review, Hans Hansen wrote in Arkitekten that the "general opinion will probably be that the whole arrangement is most peculiar, but it offers a valuable chance to challenge established norms, and arouse discussion ...." and when this, the final version of the arm chair, was shown in 1940, Eiler Abel, again in Arkitekten, thought the chairs "resemble more than anything tired walruses."

OneCollection reintroduced the design at the Cologne furniture fair in January 2001 and now,  to mark its 75th anniversary, have produced a special edition of the chair covered in a fabric based on a drawing from 1942 entitled Macbeth by the Danish artist Asger Jorn - a contemporary of Juhl’s who studied in Paris under Fernand Léger in the late 30s and also collaborated with Le Corbusier.



Although the new Pelican is true to the scale and shape of the original chairs from the 1940s, those first chairs had a pine frame with several layers of upholstery but for the current version this has been replaced with a hard foam shell with a steel core.


height: 68cm

width: 85cm

depth: 76cm

height of seat: 37cm


details of chair now in production from OneCollection

3daysofdesign - the importance of contract catalogues

SP34 in Copenhagen - the bar and reception area of the hotel with a set of chairs, the CH88 designed by Hans Wegner in 1955 for Carl Hansen, around a table by Nanna Ditzel and the Heritage Chair designed by Frits Henningsen in 1930 and still in production by Carl Hansen


3daysofdesign was, primarily, a trade fair in and around Copenhagen to show the products of some forty designers and manufacturers: lecturers and receptions were clearly aimed at people working within the industry or buying for independent stores or on a contract basis for commercial interior design or furnishing projects although these open days were an opportunity for the public to look around showrooms that are usually open by appointment or normally only visited by trade buyers. 

Presumably, few customers, walking into a furniture store to buy a chair or a table or a sofa, ever give a second thought to the contract catalogue of the manufacturer although, either directly or subliminally, that may well be what has influenced their choice.

Of course a contract to supply furniture to a hotel or a new restaurant is important income for the turnover of a company but it can also mean high public exposure for designs that are a long-term and ongoing advert that can consolidate the reputation of both the designer and the manufacturer.

One example of a Danish company that produces clearly commercial furniture alongside high-quality furniture for the home is Getama who make seating for theatres and auditoriums, including the Royal Danish Playhouse and the Nørrebro Theatre in Copenhagen, and beds for Danish Embassies, the Danish Army and numerous hotels. Although, presumably, few in the audience leaving the theatre will think that what they really need for their apartment is a theatre seat, a reputation for making such heavily used and robust but stylish furniture contributes enormously to the reputation of the company and their furniture.

OneCollection have produced furniture from designs by Finn Juhl for the Danish House in Paris and furniture for the Danish embassy in Washington and, of course, new seating for the recent refurbishment of the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN building in New York that was designed by Juhl in 1951 - all high profile and prestigious projects that have contributed to the rapidly-growing international reputation of the company.

Furniture for fashionable hotels and restaurants give designers and furniture manufacturers important and ongoing exposure … NOMA in Copenhagen was refurbished in 2012 with dining chairs from J L Møller that were designed in 1962 but are combined with new tables designed specifically for the restaurant and with new, low, armed chairs, the Ren Chair, designed by Space of Copenhagen for Stellarworks

Furniture, including Beetle Chairs and bar stools from Gubi have been used for the Standard on the harbour front in Copenhagen and their Masculo Chairs, designed by GamFratesi, are used at the prestigious restaurant Amass.

For many people their first chance to actually sit in or use a design piece may well be in a restaurant or in a hotel room and this can mean that some are tempted to buy the designs for their own homes. Certainly, new ideas tried in hotels do transfer across to the domestic market ... so, for instance, the demand for en-suite bathrooms and the increasing fashion for wet rooms in homes in England must surely be driven by a wish to imitate something enjoyed in a stay at a hotel. And, of course, advertisements for the hotel or restaurant and reviews in newspapers will also show off well the furniture. Many hotels and restaurants are also used as sets for photo shoots for ads for glossy fashion magazines, again making readers of those fashion magazines familiar with good recent furniture designs or with possible new trends in interior design.

But well-designed furniture does not just have an influence when used in expensive places to stay or eat. Muuto have ensured that their chairs comply with high standards required for contract use in hospitals and schools which should reassure customers that they are robust and easy to maintain.

Even good, well-designed furniture used in schools can have a long-term influence - at the very least teaching children to appreciate good design. At the beginning of the year at Northmodern, the design fair at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, I was talking to a manager from the Paustian furniture store in Copenhagen. As a child he had been to a school in Copenhagen that was designed by Arne Jacobsen - presumably Munkegårdsskolen - and it was only after leaving school that he found out, much to his surprise, that not all children had Jacobsen furniture in the classroom. I wonder how much his choice of career was influenced by the furniture he sat on in school for all those years?

architect and designer Finn Juhl

Finn Juhl's own house on Kratvænget, Ordrup - north of Copenhagen - dating from the early 1940s

Finn Juhl's own house on Kratvænget, Ordrup - north of Copenhagen - dating from the early 1940s

Of the great furniture designers working in Denmark in the middle of the 20th century, probably the least well known in England is Finn Juhl.  

He was born in 1912 and trained as an architect, first under Kay Fisker in the Architecture Department at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and then in the office of Vilhelm Lauritzen.

However, from 1937 he collaborated with the cabinet maker Niels Vodder and they regularly showed their furniture designs at the exhibitions of the Cabinet Maker's Guild. Increasingly Juhl focused his talents on designing furniture and interiors. 

In 1948 he came to the attention of Edgar Kauffman, head of the Department for Industrial Design at Merchandise Mart in New York who was touring Scandinavia looking at designers and manufacturers - Juhl's work appeared in an article in Interiors magazine and was included in the Good Design exhibition in Chicago in 1951.

In that same year Juhl began work on designing the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN headquarters in New York - a major and well-publicised commission. 

Success continued through the decade: in 1957 he was awarded a gold medal at the Triennial in Milan and he was responsible for remodelling the Georg Jensen store on New Bond Street in London; in 1960 he furnished the ambassador's residence at the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington and in the same year organised the Arts of Denmark exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York which then travelled on to Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The strong influence of Scandinavian design in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s can be seen clearly in the well-known Case Study Houses. This was a programme of house building in California instigated by Art and Architecture magazine in Los Angeles under its editor John Entenza. The design for Case Study 1 was produced in 1945 and the last house, Case Study 28, was produced in 1966. The houses were designed by a number of architects, mainly American. Most are on large plots and most are single-storey, most with flat roofs. Common features are large rooms with extensive use of glass, for floor to ceiling windows, and the furniture, informally arranged, is usually of simple contemporary design. For instance Bailey House in Pacific Palisades, Case Study 20, by Richard Neutra had armchairs designed by Alvar Aalto.

This period in Scandinavian and American design has seen a revival of interest over the last few years ... in part perhaps because, with the passage of time, the design of the period seems attractive for reassessment ... but of course, in no small measure, due to the popularity of the television series Mad Men and the skill of their set designers.  

Where designs by Hans Wegner seem restrained and depend on the skill of the furniture maker, understanding and exploiting remarkable craftsmanship, furniture by Finn Juhl seems to be more experimental. He used darker wood, more extreme shapes and used bold blocks of colour.


Last year there was exhibition of Juhl’s furniture and drawings at the Design Museum in Copenhagen to mark the centenary of his birth. I had not seen many of his drawings before and what surprised me is that he approached designing furniture in an almost rigidly architectural way, producing neat elevation drawings - I had expected more free sketches of the complex shapes and curves - but, never-the-less, his furniture seems more organic and the lines softer and more rounded than work in wood of contemporary furniture designers.

Finn Juhl House

Finn Juhl designed a house for himself that he completed in 1942 with money inherited on the death of his father. 

The outside of the house is unremarkable, almost awkward, with single-storey ranges forming an L shape and with shallow-pitched, sloping roofs and a barely related mixture of windows and doorways.

However, inside the house there is a series of well lit and carefully linked spaces and in these rooms, still much as Juhl designed them, you can begin to see just why his work was so important and so influential in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly in the United States. He was featured in Interiors magazine and in 1951 was involved in the Good Design exhibition in Chicago. Subsequently, he was commissioned to produce designs for General Electric and gained a prestigious commission to design the Trusteeship Council Chamber for the United Nation's Building in New York.

Juhl died in 1989 and after the death of his widow in 2003 their home became a museum managed by the Ordrupgaard Art Museum ... the garden of Finn Juhl’s house backs on to the garden and park of the museum so the two are now actually linked by a gateway in the boundary hedge.

The Finn Juhl House and the Art Museum are about 7 miles (11 Kilometres) north of the centre of Copenhagen. You can reach the museum on public transport - it is possible to take a C train from the Central Station in Copenhagen to the railway station at Ordrup and there is then a walk of just over a mile (2 Kilometres) to the museum. 

Note that access to the house is through the gardens of the museum rather than through the gate on the street frontage of the house.

The Ordrupgaard Art Museum at Vilvordevej 110, 2920 Charlottenlund is certainly worth a visit in its own right. It is based around an important private collection of French and Danish art formed by Wilhelm Hansen in the first half of the 20th century and is displayed in his home, a large house set in extensive and attractive gardens in the north suburbs of Copenhagen. After Hansen's death, his widow passed the house and the collection to the nation and the gallery opened as a state-owned museum in 1953.

A large extension to the museum designed by Zaha Hadid was completed and opened in 2005 to provide large new exhibition galleries and space for a book shop and a cafe.

Extensive gardens provide an attractive setting for the three buildings.

sideboard by Finn Juhl

The Side Board was designed by Finn Juhl for Bovirke in 1955 and is a substantial piece of furniture, 180cm long, 90 cm high and 45 cm deep.

It stands on a frame of hand-burnished steel and has drawers or trays at one end with two sliding doors. It comes in a yellow / red range of colours or the alternative version in a range of blue and white colours. The photograph of the blue version was taken at the One Collection showroom in Copenhagen. 

Juhl used the idea of a stack of trays in different colours in several pieces of furniture including filing cabinets and a desk ... the example shown here also photographed on the recent trip to Copenhagen.

Turning Tray


Nord stocks the Turning Trays that were designed by Finn Juhl in 1956 and are now produced by the Copenhagen company Architect Made.

They have a teak frame and are reversible with laminate surfaces to the tray in different colour combinations - Kimono Red and black, Alaska White and black, Husky Green and black and Angel Blue and black. The trays come in three sizes - 23cm x 45cm, 30cm x 48cm and 38cm x 51cm.