What are the qualities that make designs timeless?

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Image credits @fredericiafurniture

In the middle of the 20th century, the small country of Denmark had its golden period of furniture design. The fact that many of these designs are still popular and considered modern around the world is a testament of their timeless design.

The designers who introduced this wave of modern furniture to Denmark, like Hans J. Wegner and Arne Jacobsens, were not just furniture designers. They had a deep understanding of the technicalities of the furniture making craft and were also architects and designers of many other objects. They wanted the world to be beautiful and functional, in other words, well designed.

Image credits @ppmobler

Furniture used to be an expensive investment, before Ikea and mass production made furniture more disposable. These golden era designers wanted to substitute the heavy furniture of the past with light modern designs. By wanting to create something new and modern, they actually created something timeless. 

The first step for the designers was the raw material. They wanted to display the quality and beauty of wood and leather. Although they also used steel, it is often the wood and leather furniture that feels the most timeless. Using materials humans have used for millennia gives air of permanence to the designs.

What made this period of time in design history special was the collaboration between designer and cabinet maker. 

Previously, cabinet makers would make furniture for their clients in they style they had been trained in. There was very little innovation or design, just good craftsmanship.

Then designers began to work with furniture makers to introduce modern designs and everything changed. Suddenly everyone wanted a chair designed by their favorite of the few prominent designers. The designs became status symbols, but their continued popularity shows their quality of craftsmanship and design.

Image credits @ppmobler

Before most furniture production was outsourced away form expensive Denmark, the designers could collaborate with the cabinet makers. They could work together in the wood work shop and make sure every single detail was aesthetically pleasing and technically flawless. Amazing things happen when passionate and talented people work together with a single goal, to make the best possible.

One of the best furniture workshops in Denmark was run by cabinet maker Ejnar Pedersen. In the book written about him “A life well crafted” he explains the design process. How it is integral for the designer and cabinet maker to work closely together. He never wanted to compromise quality, which is why the most talented designers loved to work with him. His company “PP Møbler” is today run by his grandson who continues to make furniture of the highest quality.

To achieve these most ambitious goals is simple but difficult. With craftsmanship there must be a respect for the beauty of the raw materials, a close connection between craft and design, and an uncompromising dedication to quality.

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