Danish furniture designer Finn Juhl was born in Frederiksberg, Denmark, in 1912. Like many of the renowned Danish designers of his time, he studied at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, Denmark. He majored in architecture. After his graduation, Juhl worked for architect Vilhelm Lauritzen. In 1945, Juhl parted ways with the architectural firm and founded his own design studio in Copenhagen. Though he delved wholeheartedly into furniture design, Juhl never abandoned his architectural background. Ind
eed, it was the combination of both talents which made him such a famous name in Danish design.
Once Juhl was free to design furniture as he saw fit, he became known for breaking with tradition and bringing his unique ideas to fruition. His concepts were renowned even before he went solo; in 1942, Juhl won a design award for his own home. The house has been described as “comfortable”, “organic”, and “practical”. Furnished with wooden pieces with simple, flowing lines, the house was decorated in calm tones with vivid accents of color in unexpected places. One wheeled storage cart in particular looked simple on the outside, but opened to reveal sliding drawers in a rainbow of hues. Like his famous contemporaries, Juhl wanted his furniture to be comfortable as well as useful.
From 1945-50, Juhl lectured at the Frederiksberg Technical School in Copenhagen. Though he was an excellent instructor, he was most at home in the design studio.
Finn Juhl was a decorated designer. In 1951, he designed a celebrated interior for Chicago’s Good Design exhibition. The Milan Triennials in 1957 netted him five gold medals and international recognition. He went on to design the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations New York headquarters. This endeavor brought even greater recognition and praise. He has been credited as one of the founders of the Danish design concept.
Juhl’s furniture is characterized by its combination of form and function. The pieces look simple at first glance, but most are foldable or adjustable in some way. His chairs in particular were designed with the user in mind. Most are rather short and wide, with deep seats and ergonomically curved back supports. The armchairs in Juhl’s own house have been praised for their character. Each one seems to invite the guest to sink down into it and make themselves at home.
Juhl was a talented designer who was ahead of his time. His chairs and sofas rival and often supersede the ones we have today. Additionally, the desks in the Finn Juhl Diplomat series combine warm woods and smooth structures with maximum storage space. He also designed a free-standing sideboard unit for the same series. Its unique appearance and versatility made it a much sought-after piece.
Finn Juhl died in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1989. Thankfully, much of Juhl’s original work has been preserved and can be viewed in public displays at Copenhagen’s Ordrupgaard Museum and Danish Museum of Decorative Art, as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Also, Esbjørn Hiort and Henrik Wivel have written biographies about Finn Juhl which explore his philosophies in architecture and furniture design.