What a great start to the month! We've just spent a fantastic weekend staying in a Robin Spence designed Modernist house on the Norfolk coast. Amid the big skies and sandy dunes sits a steel-framed structure with glass walls to front and back, and an equally stylish interior (with a design library to die for!). In fact, once installed, it was hard to leave the house - even with the beach just around the corner! This haven of light and space made a refreshing change to the typical seaside flint cottage, and is all set for an appearance in the next issue of Midcentury.
And while we're talking inspiring places to visit, read below about a Modernist home a little further afield - that of iconic Danish designer Finn Juhl.
But it hasn't all been lazing by the beach - we've also been busy putting together issue 03, due out in May, and have got plenty of exciting content in store! If you haven't yet subscribed, please visit our website or click here.
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Finn Juhl (1912-1989), a key protagonist in Scandinavian design, is acknowledged as being instrumental in bringing Danish furniture to the world stage. Working usually in teak and employing his own construction techniques, he used soft, sculptural lines, reflecting a fondness for abstract sculptors like Hepworth and Arp and also for African art. This is evident in signature pieces like the 'Model 45' chair (1945) and the 'Chieftain Chair' (1949) produced for Niels Vodder, as well as his carved bowls for Kay Bojesen and glassware for Georg Jensen. Juhl had actually trained as an architect and it is incredible that his skills as a product designer were largely self-taught. In 1945 he became Senior Instructor at the School of Interior Design in Copenhagen, from which position he helped steer the course of Danish design.This year is the centenary of Juhl's birth and in Copenhagen the bunting is out (or at least an understated Scandinavian version of it), so what better time for a long weekend in this refined city and a visit to the great man's house? Mid-century dealer and design blogger Dan Thomas of Modernish packed off the kids, bought a couple of air tickets and did exactly that. Juhl believed that design and art helped to create harmony in the home and had the opportunity to put his theories into practice in 1942, when he built his house in Ordrup. It is a unique example of Danish Modern and, left almost exactly as it was when he died in 1989, it serves as a visual representation of the designer's career. It was opened to the public in 2008 and visitors can now see how Juhl lived with his own design.
Set at the edge of a quiet forest, a half-hour walk from the city, the location of the house could not be more apt, sitting between turn-of-the-century country house Ordrupgaard and the 21st century style icon-de-jour, Zaha Hadid's sleek black lava art gallery. Juhl's work references the craftsmanship of earlier times and yet his organic forms continue to influence designers today.
And so to the house itself. 'Understated' is an understatement - it is a simple, single-storey urban cottage, composed of two blocks standing at right-angles to each other. The plain exterior gives way to a visual treat of an interior, with its early example of open-plan design. It was his furniture that drew me to the house, and it is the seating that provides the focus for each room. Beautifully modelled, the aged teak complements the leather and monochrome upholstery. Similarly to his contemporaries Hans Wegner and Kaare Klint, his solid, defined shapes set him apart from the more utilitarian European designs of the time.
With a deliberate colour palate of mustard, soft blues and creams, only the startling Yves Klein blue ceiling in the entrance lobby defies the theme. I spot some clues to his influences in a minimalist Japanese tea set and volumes on classical painting. His abstract ceramics and sculptures are on display and the master bedroom contains two fantastic examples of Juhl's colour experimentation from the early 1960s: a low-level bed inlaid with long turquoise panels and a small multi-coloured filing cabinet, the superbly named 'Skuffemobel'.
On view in the small lobby are his plans for a council chamber at the UN headquarters in 1950s New York, a reminder that Juhl was also an accomplished architect. There is a temptation to pigeonhole him as just a designer of sublime domestic furniture given his prevalence in the Danish capital: the previous day I had sat on his 1941 Poeten sofa in Cos, the Danish clothing store, and later browsed re-issues in the revered department store Illums Bolighus.
Feeling suitably inspired, I take the ten-minute bus journey to 'Bellavista', Arne Jacobson's coastal housing and theatre complex, which dates back to 1934 and is located next to his Bellevue Beach development. The icy North Sea wind soon forces me to take refuge in the restaurant he created. I install myself in one of his Swan Chairs next to the fire and order a Jacobsen beer - a homage to the founding Carlsberg brewer rather than the iconic designer - and contemplate the day. All is well in Copenhagen.
Words by Dan Thomas
For more information on the museum, visit www.ordrupgaard.dk. And while you're there, check out Furniture for the Senses - Finn Juhl 100 at Design Museum Denmark, Copenhagen, which is on until the end of the year. For more details go to www.designmuseum.dk/en
Ever seen such a stylish fireplace? This is the work of Algerian born designer and sculptor George Ciancimino, who settled in the UK in the 1960s and designed for Mobilier International and Jens Risom. This piece, called the Wedge, was made by the now defunct Wade Lewis Limited of Weybridge, and was bought by a couple at the Ideal Home Show in 1976.
A solid-fuel fire is no longer practical for the pair and in a bid to save it from going to scrap, their daughter is giving our readers first dibs! She told us: "It's just the most stylish thing and still in excellent condition. It's different from any other fireplace and it's never dated. People walk into the room and look in wonder. It's so functional as well, and it heats the room brilliantly."
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