Finn Juhl furniture
DANSK DESIGN

Finn Juhl and his poetic furniture

Get to know Finn Juhl and his furniture. Most people are familiar with the sofa The Poet, which is almost one of Finn Juhl’s landmark designs. However, very few people are fortunate enough to own one. We give you the story behind the architect

At a time when most Danish designers strictly adhered to an austere functionalism, Finn Juhl was inspired by the world's diversity to create a large number of furniture classics. Learn more about Finn Juhl and his furniture in this article.

During his time as a student at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, Finn Juhl became influenced by his teachers Kay Fisher and Vilhelm Lauritzen, and he adopted their functionalist way of thinking.

Finn Juhl found inspiration in paintings

Already in his youth, Finn Juhl possessed an inherent love of art. He would often wander around the paintings in the National Gallery of Denmark and dream of studying History of Art. When he shared his boyish dreams with his father, he was brought down to earth and his future plans were promptly changed.

However, Juhl did not abandon his love of art completely, but managed to merge it with his architect studies, discovering an interest for creating playful furniture and untraditional interior design.

He graduated in 1945 and started his own company in Gothersgade in Copenhagen. He was a trained architect, but it was furniture and interior design that interested him most.

Insurgence against the authorities

Even though Finn Juhl had graduated, he was far from being fully developed as a furniture architect.

And even though he was coloured by the functionalists' practical way of thinking that a piece of furniture should be designed based purely on its functionality, Finn Juhl wanted to break out of these confining boundaries.

In 1949, he gave a lecture in the Danish Arts and Crafts Association, where he commented sarcastically on one of his contemporaries in Danish design, the renowned Kaare Klint, who taught his own furniture vision to masses of students at the Danish Museum of Art & Design’s school.

Kaare Klint believed a new interpretation of the classic chair types was called for, which he spent a long time measuring and analysing.

Finn Juhl argued for a more open expression in Danish home décor, and in the same year he made the chair FJ49, which was partially inspired by African art.

Chieftain chair by Finn Juhl

Chieftain chair

The chair was accordingly named ‘Chieftain’, which it has been called ever since.

In the early 1950s, Finn Juhl’s fame reached far beyond the borders of Denmark. In the first year of the decade, he met Edgar Kaufmann Junior, director of the design department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

It was due to him that Finn Juhl’s work became exhibited and known in the United States, and subsequently all over the world. At the same time, Finn Juhl was given the prestigious task of designing the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN Headquarters in New York. In collaboration with his faithful carpenter Niels Vodder, Juhl designed a chair and an armchair for the Council Chamber that was put into production in both Denmark and the United States.

He also designed the hall's colourful ceiling, which was inspired by a multi-coloured festive flag he had seen in a church in Siena, Italy. Finn Juhl was just 38 years old when he designed the room destined to keep him on the immortal list of famous design heavyweights.

A unique style

Finn Juhl's strength lay in his ability to create an interaction between the furniture and the room it existed in. He also became the pioneer of what is called today 'The Danish Teak Style'. He developed new methods for treating teak wood and paved the way for new uses of this material.

Finn Juhl furniture

Poet sofa

Pelican chair

In 1940, five years before Finn Juhl had even established his own company, he designed a chair for the annual Cabinetmakers Guild’s Furniture Exhibition, which in many ways would become characteristic of his work.

'Tired walruses', was the unflattering term used by one critic to describe his furniture at the exhibition, which was heavily padded and twisted in curved forms – not something the Danes were used to at all. One of the chairs was given the nickname ‘ The Pelican’.

With inspiration from modernist artists like Jean Arp and Pablo Picasso, Juhl allowed art to penetrate and influence his designs. This can be seen in the design of the Pelican Chair, where Juhl’s fascination for imaginative and unrestricted boundaries is clearly apparent.

Pelican chair by Finn Juhl

The Pelican was designed in 1940 and is a perfect example of Finn Juhl’s love of organic forms.

These chairs have become some of the most famous of Finn Juhl’s designs. As was common for architects at that time, Finn Juhl often named his design with the initials from his name – FJ – or the letters FD together with a number.

However, furniture like the FJ137 and FD133 were soon given other names by the public, like the Japan Chair and the Spade Chair. Such names are used today on par with other famous chair names like the Egg and the Ant. Finn Juhl's designs, such as a pair of FJ45 chairs, currently sell for up to 700,000 Danish kroner / 116,000 US dollars / 727,000 Chinese yuan / 910,000 Hong Kong dollars.

More Finn Juhl furniture

Finn Juhl always sought to develop complete functionalistic solutions, and also created popular bookcase systems, like this one from 1953 for BoVirke. It is available today from Onecollection, which produces a wide range of relaunched products.

Chairs, sofas, bookcase systems, sofas, dining tables and desks. Finn Juhl filled his own house with his own designs.

FINN JUHL - TIMELINE

1912: Finn Juhl is born in Frederiksberg to wholesaler Johannes Juhl. Finn Juhl’s mother dies three days after his birth.

1930: Graduates from Sankt Jørgens upper secondary school.

1934: Finn Juhl is employed at Vilhelm Lauritzen’s design studio.

1937: Enters his first collaboration with carpenter Niels Vodder.

1937: Marries for the first time to Inge-Marie Skaarup.

1942: Finn Juhl designs his famous house on Kratvægnet in Charlottenlund, Denmark.

1945: Establishes his own design studio.

1950: Finn Juhl designs the interior of the Trusteeship Council Chamber in the UN headquarters in New York.

1960: Moves in with his second partner, Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, who he remains together with until his death.

1989: Finn Juhl dies in Charlottenlund, Denmark.

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