Dansk Designs

Despite of the many obvious connections to Denmark, DANSK DESIGNS was actually an American based company. It all started in the summer of 1954, when American businessman Ted Nierenberg traveled through Europe with his wife, looking for good design for the American market. He visits Copenhagen, Denmark where he also visits Kunstindustrimuseet (the Danish Design Museum). Here Nierenberg encounters the finest of Danish Design, and gets a chance to browse through a large index of Danish design. Nierenberg chooses 10 designs from this index, without having any knowledge of who designed the individual pieces – 9 of them were designed by Jens Harald Quistgaard (1919-2008).

Nierenberg was especially fascinated by one design, the flatware, Fjord – a stainless steel set with teak handles. Quistgaard, had conceived it one year earlier for a competition for Danish Silverware producer, Georg Jensen (Quistgaard also trained as a Silversmith at Georg Jensen – until joining the Danish resistance movement durring WW2 ).
The flatware had caused quite the stir, partly because of the teak handle parts and stainless steel being unseen before this – and it had not been admitted into the competition as the use of wood constituted breaking the rules. Instead, the Danish Design Museum had bought Fjord for their exhibition, and after seeing it for the first time, Nierenberg was determined on meeting the designer immediately.

Nierenberg called Quistgaard at his workshop, but Quistgaard, who was busy working and covered in plaster, refused to meet Nierenberg right away. Instead Nierenberg was invited to come by, the following day. Nierenberg could not wait that long, so 10 minutes later, Nierenberg knocked on Quistgaard’s door. Quistgaard told Nierenberg that he was not welcome at his workshop – and the only reason he allowed entrance anyway, was because he had brought his beautiful wife along. Quistgaard later recalled the meeting stating: “Then I placed a couple of newspapers on the bench, so they did not get plaster on their person, and we got a bottle of Heering from the grocer in the same building. Then we sat until 3 o’clock in the morning, talking gibberish, boasting and such!”.

Shortly after their first meeting, Nierenberg and Quistgaard established the American company Dansk Designs, with Quistgaard as the Chief Designer, a unique and very successful Danish-American collaboration stretching over three decades. The products were produced in Denmark, and sold all around the world. At a later state, the production moved to Taiwan and Japan.

The flatware Fjord, that brought them together, was their first product line and was displayed at high-end stores in the US. The following years Quistgaard expanded with new designs for the interior; pots, coffee sets, glass, flatware, candle holders, trays, bowls, jugs and much more.

Quistgaard wanted to improve the everyday life, and created kitchenware, where aesthetics and functionality come together. It was important that pots, flatware, glass, plates, bowls and jugs etc., suited each other and worked together, despite of materials and colors. It was his incredible artisan knowledge and understanding of the materials, as well as his simple yet refined designs that elevated Dansk to its international status.

In 1962, Quistgaard designed the line “Design with light” – a large range of candle holders in glass, electroplated zinc, brass, wood, stoneware and cast iron. The following year he designed cast iron candle holders for tiny tapers and the tiny tapers (special pencil-thin candles with a diameter of 0.3″ / 7 mm). The tiny tapers were designed to avoid dripping, or melting, unevenly.
The cast iron candle holders series had a range of 45 different items, 42 designed by Quistgaard (initials JHQ or IHQ) and 3 designed by a finish designer, Börje Rajalin, initials IBR. The first and most popular of 14 different cast iron candle holders for tiny tapers, were The Tiny Taper Holder, or more commonly referred to as “Spider”.

Digsmed

Digsmed Design or Digsmed Woodcarving, was a small Danish design company, which designed and produced high quality household goods, primarily using teak, glass and cast iron during the 1960s and 1970s. The little information we have been able to find about the company, has revealed the name Flemming Digsmed – as owner (at some point) and designer.

Among other products, Digsmed produced a range of beautiful Lazy Susys and spice racks, all with one common theme – a rotating wooden circle attached to an unseen base, and combined with glass bowls or dishes. They also produced candle holders with a rounded center of teak, with cast iron holders attaches to the side of the teak center. We have also come across a variety of teak trays and teak bowl.

The company collaborated with Holmegaard Glassworks for all the glass parts and Nissen Langå (Nissen Wood factory, Langå), which produced parts of the teak products and the cast iron products – on a side note; Nissen Langå also collaborated with Dansk Designs and Jens H. Quistgaard, and produced some of their products. In 1990, Nissen Langå was bought by Danish producer of kitchenware, Bodum.

Many products are hallmarked Digsmed Nissen or Digsmed Langå – the reason is the collaboration between the two companies, Digsmed and Nissen Langå.

According to our knowledge, the Digsmed Company closed in 1975. The high quality of the materials and the appealing design, combined with their short presumably production period, make Digsmed products highly sought after by Mid Century enthusiasts, today.

Fritz Hansen

The story of Fritz Hansen begins with a visionary Danish family of cabinetmakers, who produced some of the worlds most loved and iconic designs, through collaboration with ambitious designers such as Hans J Wegner, Poul Kjærholm, Arne Jacobsen and Kaare Klint. It all starts in 1872, as cabinetmaker Fritz Hansen (1847-1902) obtains a trade license in Copenhagen. The decisive year is 1885, where Fritz Hansen starts a furniture production company of his own, and two years later he has managed to establish a flourishing workshop in Christianshavn – a central and fashionable part of Copenhagen.

About ten years later, in 1896, the business expands significantly, as Fritz Hansen acquires a building ground in the small town of Allerød, north of Copenhagen. Two years later, he opens his own sawmill on the site and the following year, in 1899 his son, Christian E. (Edvard) Hansen (1874-1954), takes over.

Christian E. Hansen is clearly inspired by the growing functionalism and the German Bauhaus school, and explores the rationality and new aesthetics offered by the industrial production methods. He is one of the first to introduce steam bent wood (beech), in 1915. During the 1920s and into 1930s, he gradually transforms the company from a traditional cabinetmaker business, to an industrialized furniture manufacturer, and starts experiments with steel frames, inspired by Marcel Breuers and Ludwig Mies van der Rohes. In 1928, two of his three sons, Poul Fritz Hansen (1902-1987) and Søren Christian Hansen (1905-1977), enter the company and become co-owners, in 1933 (the third son enters the company at a later state). Poul F. Hansen is a chair-maker, and becomes head of the furniture department, while Søren C. Hansen has a business degree, and takes care of the administration and the showroom.

Fritz Hansen begins a collaboration with Danish architect and professor Kaare Klint and the young talent Arne Jacobsen, in 1934. In 1935, the company produces the Bellevue Chair™, for the Bellevue theatre, designed by Arne Jacobsen. In 1936, Fritz Hansen produces Church Chair™ by Kaare Klint and launches the first line of Danish furniture with steel frames. During this period, the company keeps on refining the technique to steam bending wood, and becomes one of the pioneers in this field – which eventually evolves into their specialty: Furniture created in laminated wood. As an adjusted variant of German functionalism, the purer lines and the lighter, more practical approach became the breakthrough style in Scandinavia.

In the 1940s, Fritz Hansen expands again, and sees potential, as many Danish walnut trees succumb due to some ice winters. They buy a great amount of the trees, and a new furniture series in walnut is introduced shortly after. The collaboration with cutting-edge furniture designers continues and the China Chair™, designed by the progressive architect Hans J. Wegner is introduced in 1944 and the Spokeback Sofa™, designed by Børge Mogensen is introduced in 1945. This strengthens Fritz Hansens profile well into the 1950s.

The 1950s is totally dominated by Arne Jacobsens design – the Ant™ Chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen for the canteen at Novo Nordisk, in 1952. It is the first of its kind, a stacking chair of pressure molded laminated wood, where the steel frame is removable. The Ant™ Chair was succeeded by the Series 7™, in 1955. The fruitful partnership between Arne Jacobsen and Fritz Hansen results in a long line of iconic designs, such as The Egg™ and The Swan™ (designed for SAS Royal Hotel in 1958), The Oxford™ Chair (designed for the professors at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford) and Series 3300™, all receive immense international attention and enjoy widespread fame.
Shortly after, in 1963, the factory in Allerød expands with three factory halls and two years later, the entire production is moved to renovated buildings in Allerød, including a showroom. In 1968, the company introduces the Superellipse™ table, designed by Piet Hein, which becomes one of Fritz Hansens most popular products. The collaboration with contemporary leading designers also included Henning Larsen, Ole Wanscher, Nanna Ditzel and Mogens Lassen.

In 1979, Fritz Hansen is acquired by Skandinavisk Holding (75 % of the shares) as a natural continuation of the company’s desire to expand internationally, and here ends 107 years of family ownership. Through substantial investments and reconstruction work, Skandinavisk Holding, succeeds in strengthening Fritz Hansen, and thus preparing the old company for the future. In 1982, Fritz Hansen purchases the minimalistic Kjærholm Collection, an outstanding line of furniture by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm, designed from 1951 to 1980, and produced by E. Kold Christensen. During the 1980s and the 1990s, Fritz Hansen collaborates with several international designers to boost the extensive collection of furniture, and recapturing the position as the leading furniture company, in Denmark.

In 1998, the company expands again with a new factory hall and in 2000, the company introduces the concept Republic of Fritz Hansen™. This marks a change in strategy, and the message is, Fritz Hansen models stand as representatives of quality and world-class design. In the new millennium, The Republic of Fritz Hansen™ invites a series of new designers to interpret the design philosophy of Fritz Hansen and the legacy from Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjærholm and Piet Hein, is carried on. Several of the many classic Fritz Hansen models are revitalized and relaunched.

Knud Christensen Electrics

Knud Christensen Electrics started as a small wholesale of furniture, carpets and lighting equipment. The company was founded by Knud Lassen Christensen, in 1971.

Ten years later, in 1982, the company changed name to Knud Christensens Agentur and in 1984, Knud Christensen took on a partner, and together they slowly expanded the company. The company was eventually sold to Station-Denmark Aps, who specializes in sourcing and importing kitchenware, hardware and gifts.

Regarding the lighting production, there is very little information to find here. All we know for sure is, that in 1974, the iF product Design Award was given to Knud Christensen Electrics for Model 8370 and the credited designer is Jørgen Buchwald.

LYFA

LYFA (LYFA A/S) began as “Københavns Lampe- og Lysekronefabrik” (Copenhagen Lights- and Chandelier Factory), in 1903. In 1930, the company changed name to LYFA.

LYFA won the gold medal at the World Exhibition in Barcelona, in 1930 and again in 1935, at the World Exhibition in Brussels – this time for the Ra-light by Piet Hein. The Ra-light went in to production in 1939, and was produced for some years.

The factory was right from the start known to produce table lamps, almost to be confused with Poul Henningsen‘s PH lamp from 1924, for Louis Poulsen, as LYFA’s table lamp had the same type of foot and multi-screen principle. In 1928, this led to the first trial on plagiarism of the PH lamp, which in December 1930, ended with the verdict: Only one in five problematic lamps were doomed to be a plagiarism.

In the early 1950s, LYFA embarked on a new direction, producing new product lines, based on the company’s own ideas. The company began commissioning contemporary Danish architects and designers, who created many amazing sculptural lights, and LYFA began harvesting numerous design awards – at home and abroad. In the 1960s, LYFA produced the famous Divian 2 (1962), designed by Simon P Henningsen for a restaurant at Tivoli Gardens, in Copenhagen and the Konkylie (1967), the Facet (1966) and the Turbo (1967), designed by Louis Weisdorf.

During this time, LYFA also engaged collaboration with Swedish Orrefors Glassworks and their designer Carl Fagerlund in producing a range of crystal glass lighting. Bent Karlby designed several pieces for LYFA, many of them are highly sought after today – Pan (1971), Påfugl (1974) and Kvadrille (1970).

In 1978, LYFA took over Fog & Mørup, but the lights were still labeled under separate brands. In 1988, LYFA expanded again, and took over ABO Randers (mainly known for its ball wall lamps from the 70’s). The following year, LYFA was bought by lighting producer Lyskær. The Lyskær-LYFA continued to produce lights with the LYFA label. In 1991, Lyskær-LYFA was taken over by mass-market lighting producer, Horn Lighting. The former brands were disbanded.

ASK Belysning

ASK Belysning (ASK Lighting) was a sub-department to the company A. Schrøder-Kemi A/S (chemestry and plastics fatory), founded in 1963 by Anton Schrøder (1926-2014) in Juelsminde, in Jutland. Schrøder was tired of his job as an electrician, and bought a polyester machine to start off his own plastic adventure, when the plastic was a brand new material. He never made the machine function right, and exchanged it for an injection molding machine. The main business became injection molded, plastic components.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the company began producing lights, labeled ASK Belysning. They collaborated with Danish designer Bent Karlby in 1971, who designed a series of light made in Plexiglas – many of them are famous pieces to day; Ergo and Pan.
The lighting production ended in 1978.

Anton Schrøder handed over the management to his daughter Ulla Schrøder, at some point. In 2005, A. Schrøder Kemi A/S (who later became Schrøder-Plast A/S) merged with three other Danish plastic companies, and is now SP Moulding A/S (the address is still in Juelsminde, where it all started in 1963).

Cebo Industri

The founder of Cebo Industry was flight engineer Claus Bolby (1944-2011). His creative hobbies with different materials lead him to lighting design. The first project was to produce lighting for the very modern Strandbygaard Church in Jutland. The lights were designed to symbolize a Danish priest’s collar with acrylic / Plexiglas staves (lamellaes), radiating from a metal tube, called Præstekraver. A smaller version soon followed, which today is the design icon.

Cebo Industry started in 1966, and all the lighting was manufactured in the basement of Claus Bolby’s home, in Silkeborg. Bolby used a specially developed technique with the Plexiglas to create the unique finish, and all lights were hand-made. In 1969, the lighting design of Cebo was so popular, that Lyskær and Nordisk Solar Compani bought the lights from Cebo, and sold them under their brand. By 1974, Cebo moved to larger premises in Silkeborg, and was exporting to many countries: United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Lebanon, Iran, Hong Kong, Sweden and Singapore.

In the 1980s, the interest of the lights disappeared, and Bolby began producing technical lamps and spotlights. Claus Bolby continued with lighting design for visually impaired, right up until his death in 2011. His wife, Jytte, helped all the way through his business venture. The sculpted acrylic light gained renewed, international interest in the new millennium, and is today highly sought after, internationally.