Born in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 8th 1916, to Sven Risom an award-winning architect, Jens Risom studied at The Copenhagen School of Industrial Arts and Design (Kunsthandvaerkerskolen). Here he was mentored by Ole Wanscher and the legendary Kaare Klint (1888 - 1954), whose influence on furniture design is immeasurable. He then completed two years in Copenhagen at the Business College of Niels Brock. Thereafter Risom worked for a brief period at the architectural office of
Ernst Kuhn as an interior designer and furniture developer.
Later Risom also worked out of Stockholm for a small design studio that specialized in residential furniture. While in Stockholm, Risom acquired additional expertise in design department at Nordiska Kompaniet (NK), where he was presented to Alvar Aalto, a renowned Finnish architect and Bruno Mathsson.
Having learnt his basics in Denmark, Risom immigrated to the United States in 1939 eager to improve his knowledge in the field of modern furniture design. Risom was one of the pioneering designers responsible for establishing America’s role as a leader in modern furniture design and manufacturing after World War II. He is credited as being one of the first designers to bring traditional Scandinavian values of function and craftsmanship to the United States.
Risom drew up a few textile designs when he arrived in New York, which secured him a place in Dan Cooper Inc. as a free-lancer and then as the Director of Interior Design. More work followed, courtesy of his creative and ingenious ideas, including furniture for the Collier's House of Ideas, designed by Edward D. Stone.
Later in 1939, Risom and German emigrant Hans Knoll, an entrepreneur, worked together on an exhibit for the New York World's Fair. As a result Risom was invited to do up the interiors for the “House of Ideas” which was constructed by Collier’s magazine at the Rockefeller Center, New York City.
In 1941, Risom and Knoll together toured the country to better understand the need of the modern architects and to get an outlook on the niche markets within the country. The duo set up the Hans Knoll Furniture Company in 1942 where Risom would design and Knoll would sell. This, partnership of theirs thrived under the prevailing circumstances.
The 1942 catalogue of Knoll Design featured stools, armchairs and lounges, made from cedar and surplus webbing, which have since become classics. These gave Knoll a sound commercial beginning. In Germany, his home country, Knoll’s father’s company sold the creations under the name of the "Vostra" series. Risom designed the interiors for Knoll, and the duo’s showroom in New York.
Risom served under General George Patton in the US Army after which returned to New York and continued a brief spell of working with Knoll. This short time with Knoll convinced him that he should start his own concern. Finally on May 1, 1946 he launched Jens Risom Design, Inc. (JRD) for which he is striving till today making the best designs which reward him critical acclaim and global renown.