Designer: Poul Kjaerholm

Before we carry on into 1957, I would just like to take a side-step to show, for those not aware, the reasoning behind Kjaerholm’s use of numbers to name each of his designs. The truth is, is that there is no real complex system to the formatting; it was just a way of categorising the products by type whilst also revealing, yet again, a continued attempt to pare down his furniture to the bare element and function: chair, table, stool etc. Initially, when working with Kold Christensen, each design was just referred to by numbers but following Kjærholm’s death, once production had been taken over by Fritz Hansen, the numbered designs were prefaced by his initials. The table below should help to explain:

Poul Kjaerholm Numbers

And so, back to 1957 and the birth that year of another future icon from Kjærholm’s stable – the PK 80 Daybed.

Yet again, Mies van Der Rohe provided him with the inspiration but just like before, whilst the Barcelona Daybed was clearly a blueprint in his thoughts when developing his couch, he then went on to simplify and refine that initial idea to produce a piece of furniture that quietly commands attention in any space you choose to use it in.

PK80 PK91

PK 80 Daybed with PK 91 Stool

The PK 80 also revealed another, key structural connector that would go on to signify a Kjærholm design – the rubber ‘O-ring’. But, whereas the Allen bolt provided a visible, fixed connection to show the elemental nature of his designs, the O-ring allowed Kjærholm to firmly connect the three layers of components (steel, plywood, leather seat pad) contained in the PK 80 whilst also providing the opportunity to easily disassemble the component parts without the use of any tools.

PK 80 Detail

This layering of independent components connected by O-rings was also apparent in his PK 33 Stool design which appeared a year later in 1958. Along with the Allen bolt, the O-ring brought Kjærholm nearer and nearer to the brink of his mission in finding and revealing a “pure construction” within his work.

PK 33 Stool

PK 33 Stool

If we momentarily jump forward to 2004, I can share a story involving the PK 80 which shows the enduring nature of Kjærholm’s designs sprinkled with a little mysticism. The Museum of Modern Art in New York approached Fritz Hansen in that year with regards to installing the daybed for visitors to use in their galleries. But, they made a special request and asked for the height of the seat to be extended in order to bring it in line with the height at which the majority of their canvases were hung, thus providing a more comfortable viewing platform for their visitors.

Fritz Hansen were of course delighted that such a prestigious institution wished to house a piece of furniture they produced and duly approached the family of Kjærholm to check the scope in honouring MOMA’s request. Hanne Kjærholm, Poul’s widow, held control of her late husband’s legacy of designs at that time and before accepting Fritz Hansen’s proposal on behalf of MOMA, they were informed that she would “need to discuss this matter with Poul”. Obviously, the powers that be at Fritz Hansen were a little thrown by this response but had no choice but to abide and wait for a decision. When the official response materialised, it was positive and they were given the go-ahead but, according to Hanne, Poul had told her that if they wished to change the seat height of the Daybed, they would also need to adjust the thickness of the seat cushion so it wouldn’t lose its original balance in proportions.

PK 80 MOMA New York

But, fear not, Kjærholm was not actually making design decisions and alterations from the afterlife. A reliable source at Fritz Hansen tells me that after speaking to Thomas Kjærholm (his son), it appears that this piece of whimsy on Hanne’s part was made up and just a light-hearted way of saying that the philosophy behind her husband’s work should be respected. Hanne Kjærholm passed away in 2009 and the rights to the Kjærholm collection were passed on to her children, Thomas and Krestine, who still uphold a firm protection over their father’s collection against any changes or tweaks Fritz Hansen may wish to discuss.

 To be continued…

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Eileen Gray Villa E1027

Marco Orsini’s documentary Gray Matters will receive its world premiere at the Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York on 15th October.

Gray Matters is the story of Eileen Gray, the 20th Century artist whose vision, imagination and sensibility changed the way we live, within both houses and their furniture. The documentary is a historical, scholarly and cinematic investigation of the life of one of the most significant, but otherwise little known, contemporary artists. It includes, amongst others, an interview with Zeev Aram, to whom Eileen Gray granted the worldwide licence to make and distribute her designs in 1973.

The Gray Matters documentary “teaser” trailer from Marco Antonio Orsini on Vimeo.

ARAM STORE

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Designer: Poul Kjaerholm

The PK 22 was clearly a continuation of his PK 25 design but also a refinement on that idea by using less structural material. Two lengths of bent steel form each side of the frame which are then connected underneath the seat by dual, curved, flat steel struts. A canvas cover/sleeve was then pulled on to the frame providing the resulting tension in the cloth needed to support the body. By removing the need for a cross-bar at the edge of the seat and back, Kjærholm had provided a much more comfortable seating experience. A leather covered version was introduced later along with a hand-woven cane seat.

PK22 PK25

The PK 22 Chair (left) and the PK 25 Chair

The PK 61 was designed as a companion to sit with the PK 22 and was surely modelled on Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Table. But, although formed of the same materials (flat steel and glass), Kjærholm re-engineered the idea by lowering the top surface and positioning it inside an asymmetrical frame. The small tabs that are positioned at the top of each leg not only stop the top surface from moving around but also provide a little character, and with the introduction of alternative top finishes such as marble, slate or granite; another dimension could be added to the overall aesthetic.

PK62 Barcelona table

The PK 61 Table (left) and Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Table

There was another, small feature within these latest designs that would go on to become a key motif seen throughout Kjærholm’s work – the Allen bolt.

Steel was fast becoming Kjærholm’s material of choice and using the Allen bolts to connect the frames of his designs allowed him to avoid the, sometimes, imprecise process of welding. It also fulfilled his desire to show how the frames were connected, thus providing a clear legibility to his designs, and led him towards creating his first work desk and compatible chair – the PK 55 and PK 11, which appeared in 1957.

Kjaerholm PK11 PK55

The PK 55 Table with the PK 11 Chair

The simple looking build of the PK 55 Table belies a much more interesting design than is apparent at first glance. The steel base frame is actually composed of four lengths of flat steel, intersecting at each corner, with the short end leg propping up the longer, width-spanning leg. Each leg element is held together yet simultaneously pushed slightly apart with Allen bolts to give the base frame an even lighter profile and also to reveal the four separate planes. The top is offered in ash wood.

PK55

The perpendicular planes of the flat metal legs are held fractionally apart by allen bolts

The frame of the PK 11 Chair is symbiotically formed of four lengths of flat steel: three legs and one cross-bar to support the leather upholstered seat pad. The three vertical lengths are held together with an elegantly curved back/armrest shaped from a wedge of layered, laminated ash wood which, height-wise, sits just under the lip of the table top but meets the fascia of the steel frame under the PK 55 table. This is just a guess but could it be that Kjærholm simply wanted to avoid the possibility of anyone hiding this beautiful piece of minimalist design by pushing it all the way under the table?

To be continued…

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CH24 Wishbone Chair2014 would have been Hans J Wegner’s 100th birthday and to celebrate this centenary, we have a wonderful offer on Wegner’s best known design, the CH24 ‘Wishbone’ chair. Order a set of six chairs (or more) and not only will you receive a 10% discount on the set, but also one chair of the set will be a very special anniversary edition engraved with Wegner’s signature and his birth date – 2nd April. If ordered online, the discount will automatically be applied when six chairs are placed in the shopping basket. This special offer applies only to the natural oiled oak and natural papercord seat version of the chair, and it lasts until 30th September or whilst stocks last.

Each CH24 chair is strung by hand

Hans Wegner designed the CH24 chair to be beautiful and functional but it is not easy to make. The back legs are steam-bent into a curve that tapers to join a semi-circular steam-bent back rest. The delicate taper of all the legs tested the limits of serial production. The joinery was difficult – even a small mistake would compromise structural integrity – but the 100 separate manual tasks resulted in a strong, lightweight chair. Today, Carl Hansen & Son’s production of this timeless piece embodies a synthesis of technology and craftsmanship, resulting in superb quality that lasts a lifetime.

Watch a video of this beautiful chair being made:

ARAM STORE

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Designer: Poul Kjaerholm

This industrial way of thinking about furniture was not new, of course, and had Kjærholm constantly referring back to the work of Dutch architect, Gerrit Rietveld, famed for his Red Blue Chair design from 1918.  Although, it was Rietveld’s Zig Zag Chair (1934) that would clearly have the biggest influence on Kjærholm’s thinking when it came to working with moulded materials – as evidenced by the range of Concrete Furniture that he designed, in collaboration with his wife, Hanne, in 1954.  These concrete elements were installed, over a ten year period, at various rest-stops along the highways of Vendsyssel in Northern Demark and, in further reference to the source of his inspiration, were painted in the primary colours favoured by the De Stijl movement – red, yellow, blue, black and white.

Rietveld Red Blue Chair Zig Zag Chair

Gerrit Rietveld, the Red Blue Chair and the Zig Zag Chair

Concrete Furniture

Kjaerholm’s Concrete Furniture

In continuing form, though, another of his creative/business relationships quickly disintegrated. In 1955, Sørensen and Kjærholm went their separate ways in, what appears to be, somewhat acrimonious fashion with stories suggesting that Sørensen declared that the Moulded Aluminium Chair was “not distinctively Danish” in design along with a refusal to honour any royalties due to Kjærholm from the first batch of the chairs. So, by 1955, Kjærholm had amassed a hell of a lot drawings and sketches along with a couple of prototypes but apart from the small run of his moulded aluminium chair and his concrete rest-stop furniture, he had actually had very little furniture produced.

But, amidst the disappointment he experienced in the years since graduating, there were certainly positives that could be taken from this period. It was clear that he had gained a huge amount of experience within the process of furniture design and manufacturing (from drawing board to workshop to factory) and that he had also begun to develop a strong sense of his own style and direction in being afforded the time and opportunity to play and experiment with many different materials.

Little did he know that he was about to step into his most creative period yet and finally begin forging a long-standing and successful business relationship.

PK1 PK2

The PK1 and PK2 Chairs

Ejvind Kold Christensen had been made aware of Kjærholm several years earlier by Hans J Wegner and in 1955 he contacted him with a proposal.  Christensen, a furniture merchant/dealer, had marketed the work of Wegner to great success throughout the early 50s and when his attention was drawn to the work of Kjærholm, he saw a chance to repeat the process.  So, in 1956, their venture began in earnest and the first designs to appear were a series of small tables (PK 41/43) and chairs (PK 1/2/3).

PK41 PK43 PK44

The PK41, PK43 and PK44 Tables. PK3 Chair

The small, square or round tables were very simply formed of tubular steel legs and wooden tops whilst the chairs, likewise, were modestly produced using the same frame material but the seat was made from wrapped halyard line (as used on his earlier PK 25 design), leather strands or hand-woven cane.  Then, he appeared to strike a rich vein of creativity as the next two designs to appear out of the workshop would go on to be his most successful – the PK 22 (Lounge Chair) and PK 61 (Low Table).

PK22 PK61

The PK22 and the PK61

To be continued…

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Aluminium Group Dining Chair

The Aluminium Chair is one of the greatest furniture designs of the twentieth century. Charles and Ray Eames originally designed it in 1958 for the private residence of industrialist and art collector J Irwin Miller in Columbus, Indiana (USA), as architect and designer Alexander Girard had mentioned the lack of high-quality weatherproof furniture for use on the terrace. Motivated by this impulse, Charles and Ray Eames began to design a chair suited for both outdoor and indoor environments. This soon led to the development of an entire family of chairs for universal applications – the Aluminium Group. For the construction of this chair, the designer couple abandoned the principle of the seat shell, instead stretching a panel of fabric or leather between two aluminium side members to create a taut but elastic seat. The chair adapts to the body of the sitter and is exceedingly comfortable, even without elaborate upholstery. In addition, by turning the profiles inward, the fastened edges become invisible and the tension is evenly distributed across the entire surface. This perfect interplay of forces exemplifies the inventive spirit of Charles and Ray Eames.

EA 101 and EA 103

The Aluminium Group includes several different models for use in homes, offices and public areas. Vitra has produced the Aluminium Group chairs over a period of decades in the same superior quality. This experience allows them to offer a 30-year guarantee on all of the chair models in the Aluminium Group.

Aluminium Group

Vitra has now launched the new models EA 101, 103 and 104, three versions of this classic that belonged to the original product family and were first marketed as the Aluminium Dining Chairs. They expand the choice of products in the Aluminium Group with a selection of smaller, lighter chairs which are the perfect accompaniment to a dining table. In addition, Vitra has updated Alexander Girard’s classic Hopsak upholstery fabric with 28 vibrant new colour combinations, providing a new lease of life to this archetype of modernism.

New Hopsak Colours

View the new Aluminium Group Dining Chairs in Store now.

ARAM STORE

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The Spanish ChairBørge Mogensen, who would have turned 100 years old this year, is rightly remembered as one of the titans behind the mid-century ‘Danish Modern’ furniture design movement, alongside figures such as Jacobsen, Wegner and Kjærholm.

Mogensen studied under the architect, Kaare Klint (the Father of Danish design), at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen and drew on Klint’s approach to furniture design which was to see it from an almost scientific angle using clean, strong and simple lines coupled with an aspect of functionality. This philosophy is in plain sight when looking at Mogensen’s Spoke Back Sofa design from 1945, with its classic, spindle structure and reclining side. This concept has been copied the world over since but at the time, it certainly turned heads and launched him into the minds of the design cognoscenti.

The Spoke back sofa

The Spoke Back Sofa

His Hunting Chair design from 1950 indicated a more robust and masculine direction but was quite clearly a blueprint for his future-classic, Spanish Chair, which he began work on in 1958 after a family holiday to Andalucia. Whilst in this region of southern Spain, Mogensen took great interest in these very ornate chairs, rooted in ancient Islamic culture, which could be found all the way from Spain across to Northern India. He modernised his interpretation by removing the florid carvings in the frame but retained the broad, flat armrests which not only gave his chair an imposing and stately appearance but also served as a convenient surface on which to rest a glass or ashtray: Mogensen liked a cigar.

The Hunting Chair

The Hunting Chair

The Spanish Chair is formed of a solid oak frame and strong, butt leather seat and back slings. Butt leather is most commonly used for saddle making and the leather slings are wrapped around the oak frame then cleverly belted on the underside which allows you to tighten the slings as the hides soften and move over time, moulding to the users body shape. A truly generational piece of furniture which like all the classics gets better with age.

The Spanish Chair

The Spanish Chair

We will have an example of The Spanish Chair on display here at the Store in early September, so please drop by then and try out this mid-century gem.

Myles Brown

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Designer: Poul Kjaerholm

Whilst working at the Fritz Hansen factory, Kjærholm was given a chance to experiment with industrial materials and also to begin developing an idea that was first conceived back in 1950 – a black painted plywood chair that would go on to become the PK 0 Chair.  The chair was formed of two pieces of laminated plywood that were then joined under the seat by rubber shock absorbers and although the appearance and seating position of the PK 0 must clearly have been influenced by the classic LCW Chair, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1945, it almost feels as if Kjærholm has simplified his interpretation by using only two elements as opposed to the five used to construct the LCW.

PK0 chair and LCW chair

The PK0 (left) and the LCW (right)

But, sadly, the PK 0 Chair never reached production stage and his stay at Fritz Hansen lasted barely a year.  Unfortunately, in the very same year he was given a chance to realise his design for the PK 0, Fritz Hansen were immersed in developing Arne Jacobsen’s Ant Chair; the first stackable chair formed from a single piece of laminated plywood.  Jacobsen had been commissioned to design the chair for use in the canteen of the pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, and they signed an order for 300 units.  Kjærholm, with complete confidence in his design and a deep yearning to see his chair on the production line, then, rather bullishly, suggested to Søren Hansen that he make a choice between producing the PK 0 or the Ant.  Understandably, from a business point of view, Hansen went with the Ant and Kjærholm walked away from Fritz Hansen with his prototype under his arm.

The PK0 Chair

Luckily, this wasn’t the end of the PK 0.  Ironically, but also with a nod towards the importance of this design, in 1997, Fritz Hansen produced a limited run of 600 editions of the PK 0 Chair in celebration of the company’s 125th Anniversary.

The Moulded Aluminium Chair

The Moulded Aluminium Chair

Throughout 1953/54, after his departure from Fritz Hansen, Kjærholm began making connections with some of Denmark’s leading design and architectural practices which afforded him the time and opportunity to continue exploring the idea of producing furniture as an industrial product.  In 1953, he was contacted by a furniture manufacturer called Chris Sørensen because he had seen the PK 0 and approached Kjærholm with the intention of setting up a relationship.  He took Sørensen up on his proposal and began working on a design for a new, lightweight metal chair along with a graphic identity for their new joint venture.   His initial sketches for this metal chair appear to show a bowl-like seat that stood upon three legs and these rough outlines would go on to produce a prototype of the Moulded Aluminium Chair.   The seat was formed of injection moulded aluminium and the three legs were cleverly connected to the underside of the seat via the bursas that were left from where the aluminium was injected and a couple of compulsory vent holes that allowed air to escape from the mould.  They only produced a modest run of just 20 chairs but this design clearly showed Kjærholm’s way of thinking at that time, with the intent to produce a new design that could be mass-produced and easily shipped: seat shells stacked, legs inserted upon arrival with the end user.

To be continued…

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Eero Saarinen Conference Chair

In collaboration with Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen won the Museum of Modern Art’s ‘Organic Design’ competition in 1941 with their ridiculously comfortable and graceful looking Organic Chair – the perfect blend of form and function. Following this success, Saarinen plunged himself into further studies on how to produce a comfortable chair through the shape of its shell rather than the depth of its upholstery.

Organic Chair

The Organic Chair

His initial research was spent working with fibreglass and using this material to create a new, comfortable task chair design. But, after an approach by Florence Knoll, suggesting he make her “a big chair I can curl up in… like a basket of pillows”, he went big, really big, and produced his (Model 70) Womb Chair design in 1946. It was an instant success and has gone on to become one of the most iconic chair designs from that period and certainly planted Saarinen as an essential figure in mid-century design. But Saarinen was still keen on producing a range of smaller, task seating and by making a reduction in form of his Womb Chair design; his Executive Models 71 (arm chair) and 72 (side chair) were first realised in 1950.

Womb Chair

The Womb Chair and Footstool

64 years later, the design has stood its ground and is still an immediate go-to chair for anyone looking for stylish and supremely comfortable dining or breakout seating. It is still referred to as the Executive Chair in the US but a few years ago, the name was changed to the Conference Chair by Knoll Studio (the European arm of Knoll International) here in the UK and across mainland Europe.

Conference Chair

It has always been available to order upholstered in a wide range of fabrics and leathers and the 4-leg base is finished in either solid oak wood or chromed steel. But, Knoll have recently introduced a couple of new wooden leg finishes, in the form of walnut or grey stained oak, and also a ‘Special Edition’ upholstery leather called Venezia – a beautifully soft, full grain leather with a beeswax finish available in 5 colours.

Conference Chair

We currently have examples of the Conference Chair, with the new grey stained oak legs, on display here at the Store along with a sample book of the new Venezia Leather range.

ARAM STORE

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Designer: Poul Kjaerholm

Aram Store has recently become part of a select trio of ‘preferred partners’ to whom Fritz Hansen has granted the sole right to supply the entire range of Poul Kjærholm designed furniture, still produced by the Danish manufacturers, throughout the UK.

For our customers who may not be that familiar with Kjærholm’s life and work, the following post is the first in a series of articles which should hopefully provide a detailed insight into his life, philosophy and method of working that came to produce these timeless designs that we display and sell at Aram Store today but that you also may have seen, and unknowingly used, in public spaces throughout the world.

Poul Kjærholm was born on January 8th 1929 in a small village called Øster Vrå in Northern Denmark but his family relocated several years later to the neighbouring market town of Hjørring. When he turned just 15 years of age in 1944, he undertook an apprenticeship with the local cabinetmaker, Th. Gronbech and paired this with further education at Hjørring Technical School before going on to gain a degree in furniture design from the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen in 1949. So, fundamentally, Kjærholm was a craftsman and grounded with a solid appreciation of materials and how to shape them but this is clearly evident from the simply formed yet exquisitely detailed and unique body of work he went on to produce throughout his 32 year career span.

Kjaerholm at his desk

Kjærholm also appeared to be blessed with a great sense of timing because just after he began studying at the School of Arts and Crafts, his tutelage was taken over by one Hans J. Wegner, the Danish doyen of wooden furniture design. Wegner had also trained as a cabinetmaker and studied at the School of Arts and Crafts himself but by 1949 he had firmly established himself as a revered figure in Danish furniture design, especially after the release of his Round Chair or ‘The Chair’ as it came to be known, which brought him global attention for the first time. Unavoidably, Wegner became an inspiring figure to Kjærholm but it seems that Wegner also took a keen interest in the young Kjærholm by providing him with part-time employment at his design studio alongside his studies.

Hans Wegner Round Chair

Hans Wegner with his Round Chair

Kjærholm spent three years studying at the School of Arts and Crafts and his coursework included classes in drafting, lettering, perspective drawing and geometry. He excelled in all these disciplines but the study of geometry appears to have had the biggest impact on his work which is so evident in the way he related lines and angles throughout his later work.

PK25 Chair

In 1951, at the age of just 22, the final design he presented for his graduation went on to become his first major piece of work – the PK 25 Chair (as it was later named). Simply formed from a single piece of steel plate and a length of halyard line, the prototype was constructed at a local blacksmith’s in Hjørring over the summer of ’51. Even at this age, that innate craftsman within Kjærholm is glaringly apparent in his use and understanding of the material and the precision tooling required to create that precise, linear profile. He negated the need for any joints by drilling into the steel plate to provide access for a saw to make cuts in opposite directions. Once the cuts had been applied, the semi-segregated steel plate was then bent into shape in a press.

PK25 Detail

Hans Wegner Flag Halyard Chair

Hans Wegner’s Flag Halyard Chair

This unison of steel and rope materials was clearly inspired by Wegner’s Flag Halyard Chair from 1950 but there were also ideas present here that would become defining features of Kjærholm’s work and unique aesthetic. He graduated from the School of Arts and Crafts in 1952 (he, rather precociously, returned to teach at the School in 1953 at the tender age of 24) and his PK 25 Chair design instantly launched him into the consciousness of his native country as the chair was exhibited at the Danish Museum of Art and Design the same year. One visitor whose head was turned by this design was none other than Søren Hansen, Director of the Fritz Hansen furniture factory.  Hansen, after receiving a tip from Wegner, hired Kjærholm to work at his factory and the PK 25 was put into a limited production run.

To be continued…

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