By Bolette Bramsen
Børge Mogensen was the most prominent exponent of Danish modern furniture design. Most of his popular designs are still retailed today, more than three decades after his death.
If you are unfamiliar with Børge Mogensen – the famous Danish furniture designer – all you need to do is take a stroll down Bredgade – a street leading off Kongens Nytorv by Nyhavn Canal. In No. 23 F, you find the Fredericia Furniture Showroom. Here they display several of the designs still in production, showcasing just why his designs became so popular. In Bredgade, you also find the leading stores within vintage classic Danish furniture design. Klassik – the oldest store within the business, recently relocated to an exclusive showroom on the corner of Nyhavn and Kongens Nytorv – offers an extensive selection of Danish furniture classics.
Further down the street, you find boutiques and showrooms retailing the somewhat older vintage designs appreciated by many collectors. Towards the end of Bredgade, you find the Danish Museum of Decorative Art, featuring exhibition interior by Kaare Klint – the grand old man of Danish furniture design. Mirroring his legacy, Børge Mogensen added several handsomely suited display and storage cabinets to Kaare Klint’s interior design.
Børge Mogensen assisted Professor Kaare Klint while studying at the College of Furniture Design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, and his first chair design was clearly inspired by his mentor. Just as Kaare Klint’s Bethlehem Church Chair, Børge Mogensen’s first chair featured a woven seagrass seat. Nonetheless, Mogensen’s personal idiom was in the making.
Graduating in 1942, this young emerging talent was hired by the FDB co-operative stores to head their furniture design studio. Since the 1930s, the FDB studio had aimed at supplying inexpensive quality furniture to average consumers. Through the FDB Studio, Børge Mogensen contributed to a range of basic furniture designs that reached a wide audience new to the designer furniture market.
Wartime supply in the early 1940s meant that designs were kept to minimum. Upholstery was limited, and the main materials were Swedish pine and Danish beechwood. However, these limitations nurtured innovation, and Børge Mogensen’s functional approach in designs, such as the Slatted Sofa and the Shaker Table and Chair, formed the basis of his working method and his later legacy within Danish design.
The master of wood
Børge Mogensen, unlike contemporaries such as Mogens Koch, Arne Jacobsen and Finn Juhl, was a skilled cabinetmaker. This background is no doubt why he primarily used wood in his designs – as opposed to Arne Jacobsen, who applied steel, chrome and glass.
Børge Mogensen regularly contributed to the Copenhagen Cabinetmaker’s Guild Exhibition, and in 1949 the prolific designer achieved full international recognition. Until then, Danish designer furniture had primarily drawn attention in Scandinavia.
In 1950, Børge Mogensen established his own studio and continued to nurture a close collaboration with Hans J. Wegner. They were not only born the same year, they were also both skilled cabinetmakers. But while Wegner throughout his career has focused on chair design, Børge Mogensen also designed office cabinet and storage unit designs.
An amazing legacy
In 1955, Børge Mogensen forged close ties with Andreas Graversen, the owner of Fredericia Furniture. Mogensen designed a commissioned leather sofa for the company in 1963. The sofa was later produced in a range of versions and would become one of the most plagiarised designs in the world. Tragically, Børge Mogensen died in 1972 at the early age of 58. He did, however, achieve world fame within his lifetime. And even today, more than 30 years after his death, the demand for Børge Mogensen designs is as great as ever. His furniture is not only magnificently crafted, but the designs are also true classics of their age.
Many of his designs are still in production. Fritz Hansen produces the Slatted Sofa, Kvist produces *Folkestolen and Søborg Møbler still manufactures the King of Diamonds Chair, which along with his 1944 Chinese Cabinet has just been re-launched. But Fredericia Furniture, with 47 catalogue numbers, is currently the main supplier of Børge Mogensen designs.
Danish designer furniture has been rediscovered internationally. Names such as Arne Jacobsen, Hans J. Wegner, Finn Juhl, Poul Kjærholm and not least Børge Mogensen are experiencing a renaissance, and worldwide they influence a new generation of emerging designers.