Scandinavian designer furniture: classics of nordic interior design

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Scandinavian furniture can be found in many households today – it inspires with its simplicity and functionality. Even the large Scandinavian furniture chains such as IKEA and Co. refer to the designer greats of the 1950s – whose furniture classics not only serve as inspiration, but are still real bestsellers today. In this article, we introduce you to some designer greats and their iconic pieces of furniture from Scandinavia!

Scandinavian designer furniture: what is Scandinavian design?

Although the first principles of Scandinavian design had already been hinted at in the years before, the 1950s were the time of its emergence and heyday, when social democracy emerged in the northern European countries and also had a lasting influence on the design world. Beautiful and functional furniture should no longer be available only to the rich elite, but to the general public.

Building on democratic values, it was recognised that furniture should be oriented towards people’s needs – Scandinavian furniture is therefore characterised above all by functionalism and formality (“form follows function”). The furniture designed by Alvor Aalto and Arne Jacobsen is sleek, minimalist and simple, and at the same time impresses with organic shapes that ensure a particularly high level of comfort.

It is therefore probably not surprising that the most popular and best-known designer furniture is therefore comfortable, well-shaped and simple seating furniture such as chairs and armchairs.

Arne Jacobsen series 7 chair
Chairs are among the most popular Scandinavian designer furniture, here models by Arne Jacobsen.

Danish designer furniture: the creators of classic chairs and armchairs

When we talk about Scandinavian design, in most cases this is synonymous with Danish design. This is simply because most of the impulses, developments and great designers came from Denmark. Copenhagen is not only home to numerous iconic pieces of furniture, but is still regarded as a trendy city and is home to many established and up-and-coming Scandinavian design labels.

Nyhavn in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is considered the capital of Scandinavian furniture design.

Kaare Klint

Kaare Klint (1888-1954) is considered the “father of the Danish furniture school” and was one of the earliest and most influential designers of modern Scandinavian design – the most important attributes of the Scandinavian style to this day can largely be traced back to him.

The trained architect and painter initially designed neoclassical furniture before turning his attention to modernism and designing numerous chairs. In 1924, he founded the department of “Furniture Art and Interior Design” at the Danish Academy of Fine Arts, where numerous renowned designers studied.

Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) is one of Denmark’s best-known and most successful designers, architects and furniture manufacturers of the 20th century. His designs characterised Scandinavian design, functionalism and modernism. He paid particular attention to the organic form of his furniture.

After an apprenticeship as a stonemason, Arne Jacobsen studied architecture in Copenhagen – the beginning of a triumphal procession through the design world, as he was awarded the Silver Medal at the World Exhibition in Paris at the age of 23, with numerous other honours and prizes to follow.

In addition to a number of important buildings that Jacobsen designed, he is best known for his extraordinary chairs and armchairs, which have since achieved cult status. He worked with Fritz Hansen from 1932 onwards, designing one classic and milestone after another, such as the “Series 7” range (perhaps the best-selling chairs of all time) or “The Egg”, which are still available and popular today.

Hans J. Wegner

As a co-founder of Danish Modernism, Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) also had a significant influence on the development of iconic designer furniture from Scandinavia. The trained carpenter studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen and worked as a freelance architect and lecturer in furniture design. The brands he worked with, and which still offer his furniture today, include Carl Hansen & Søn and Fritz Hansen.

He is also particularly known for his chairs, for example he designed the seating for Aarhus Town Hall, which was a collaboration with Arne Jacobsen. In total, he designed over 500 different models of chairs, some of which are still in production today. What is special about Wegner’s chairs is that they are mostly made of wood and surprise with unusual but always organic shapes.

Børge Mogensen

Børge Mogensen (1914-1972) was a trained carpenter and studied furniture architecture under Kaare Klint in Copenhagen. Together with his contemporaries Jacobsen and Wegner, he left his mark on Danish design, which experienced its heyday in the 1950s.

Mogensen focussed primarily on creating restrained and functional furniture that made everyday life easier and more beautiful, especially for “average families”. He also drew inspiration from traditional Chinese or Spanish furniture to create well-shaped chairs and stools.

Verner Panton

The architect and designer Verner Panton (1926-1998) stands in contrast to his renowned predecessors and contemporaries, although he is also considered one of the most influential furniture designers of the 20th century.

In contrast to his colleagues, however, Panton focussed on new ways of creating furniture and was one of the first to introduce Pop Art into furniture design. A mere further development of established Scandinavian design traditions was out of the question for him; instead, he opted for bright and gaudy colours, artificial materials such as plastic or rubber and geometric shapes.

Danish designer brands for furniture

  • &Tradition
  • By Georgsen
  • Fritz Hansen
  • HAY
  • Pretty
  • Muuto
  • Nordal

Swedish designer furniture: simplicity from Stockholm

Bruno Mathsson

Together with Carl Malmsten (1888-1972) and Yngve Ekström (1913-1988), Bruno Mathsson (1907-1988) is considered Sweden’s most important furniture designer. Of them, Mathsson was the most strongly orientated towards functionalism and ensured that he also gained popularity in Sweden.

In contrast to his contemporary colleagues in the Funkis movement, the master cabinetmaker was more orientated towards the Danish approach and created furniture that was intended to adapt to the human body and its natural posture. His creations, which he designed for Fritz Hansen, for example, in collaboration with other great designers of the time, were soft and organically shaped.

Nisse & Kajsa Strinning

Nisse Strinning (born Nils Strinning, 1917-2006) studied architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and is one of Sweden’s most successful and best-known furniture designers.

After graduating, he and his wife Kajsa Strinning (1922-2017) developed numerous furniture classics for their companies Swedish Design AB and String Desing AB, laying the foundations for world-famous Scandinavian and Swedish design.

They achieved particular success with the String bookshelf systems, which can still be found in many Swedish households today. Like the other Strinnings’ furniture, the shelves are characterised by functionality, stability and aesthetics.

Swedish designer brands for furniture

  • Design House Stockholm

Finnish designer furniture: The origins of Scandinavian design

Alvar Aalto

The Finn Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) was not only a pioneer of the Scandinavian style, but is also one of the greatest and most renowned designers of modernism in general. He worked not only as a furniture designer, but also as an architect and urban planner, and created numerous public buildings and objects that today have classic status.

He was one of the first designers to use predominantly wood in the production of his furniture, thus paving the way for the importance of natural materials in Scandinavian design. He also focussed strongly on the functionality and comfort of furniture, whereby his furniture had organically curved shapes, which many of his successors took up.

Scandinavian designer furniture Alvor Aalto
The library designed by Aalto in Vyborg, Russia, is also furnished with typical Scandinavian designer furniture.

Together with his wife Aino Marsio-Aalto (1894-1949), he founded the Artek company in 1935. The name refers to the philosophy of the two – the fusion of “Art” and “Technology“. To this day, Artek is one of the leading brands when it comes to Finnish designer furniture and decoration.

Finnish designer brands for furniture

  • Artek

More designer furniture in Scandinavian style

Scandinavian designer furniture is not only tied to specific designers. Especially nowadays, the names behind the furniture are often no longer the most important thing; the focus is primarily on the brand. Some furniture chains now also offer their own brands that capture the essence of the Scandinavian style and are in no way inferior to the designer products, which are much more expensive.

Brands with Scandinavian designer furniture on offer

  • Frederiks
  • Mørteens
  • Studio Copenhagen
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