Finn Juhl(1912-1989) was one of the most influential designers of the Mid-Century era and the first Danish architect and designer to be known and appreciated internationally.
He studied architecture at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen and for ten years -after he graduated in 1934- worked as architect in the Vilhelm Lauritzen‘s architect studio.
Juhl never studied to become a furniture designer, the first furniture he designed were for his own use and not designed thinking to a mass production.
They were more ‘devoted’ to form than to function; a breakthrough in the Danish design tradition.
The Pelikan Chair designed in 1939, one of his first furniture project, was exhibited during the Guild Exhibitions -a yearly Cabinetmaker’s Exhibition- and highly criticized because of its organic form far from the Danish furniture tradition of functional objects.
However, despite the numerous criticisms Finn Juhl works started to be appreciated abroad throughout the 1940s for the virtuous, radical and organic design clearly inspired by contemporary artists like Alexander Calder and Hans Arp and by natural forms; like the early Pelikan Chair and the Chieftain Chair.
Moreover, his role of Senior Instructor for the Copenhagen’s Interior Design School -starting from 1945- made him very influent in the Danish design movement.
Finn Juhl’s Success Abroad
The mix of craft manufacture, care for the details, high quality materials and contemporary art influences made the Finn Juhl’s pieces easy to distinguish thanks to the organic and sculptural forms. The exclusive design caught the US company Baker Furniture attention that mass-produced Juhl’s furniture from the early 50s on; the Baker Sofa is one of the piece he designed for the company.
But Finn Juhl did’t design furniture only, he also was involved in designing the interiors for exhibitions and apartments including home accessorizes like wooden bowls and vases for Kay Bojesen, kitchen appliances for the General Electric, rugs for Unika-Vaev and glass accessories for Georg Jensen.
The great interiors that Finn Juhl designed for the Trusteeship Council Chamber in New York in 1951, helped the young architect to be noticed in the US and it definitely helped the ‘Danish Modern Design’ to become internationally known and valued.
The Finn Juhl’s Teak Style
As I wrote in The Greatest Inspiration for Your Mid Century Modern House, the Aalto’s House-Office, Scandinavian architects and designers often chose natural materials like the wood for their works; sometimes taking it to the most extreme use possible.
Also Finn Juhl gave his significant contribution to the wood-manufacturing implementing new Teak processing techniques that allowed him -for example- to bend the wood giving to his pieces organic and virtuos forms; starting what was later called the ‘Teak style’.
After two decades -60s and 70s- of disinterest, from the 80s Juhl’s furniture are appreciated again and in 2010 the OneCollection brand -the current manufacturer of all the Juhl’s furniture- won the Wallpaper Design Award in the ‘Best Reisue/Sofa design’ category.
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