This is the second installment in our Designer of the Week series. The first one was Philippe Starck. New designers every Tuesday!
Today we want to cover a very influential and important Scandinavian designer: a relevant representative of hygge, sleekness, and functional prowess. The quintessential sofa designer of Scandinavian modernism, for many people, and a key figure in the ‘Danish Modern’ movement, which also included our pantheon of furniture heroes: Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Kaare Klint, Finn Juhl, and many others.
Mogensen is responsible for helping give Danish design international fame, and more importantly, respect. He worked closely with Klint and was primarily an architect, like many of his colleagues in both Europe and America.
Early years and initial workings
Mogensen was born in Aalborg, currently Denmark’s fourth largest city, located in one of the northernmost parts of the country. He came to this world in 1914, and started working as a cabinetmaker in 1934, when he was 20 years old.
After gaining some job experience, he went on to study furniture design at the prestigious Danish School of Arts and Crafts, and he would also train as an architect at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Throughout the course of his education he became acquainted with many designers, primarily Kaare Klint and Hans Wegner.
Klint is considered by many to be the father of modern Danish furniture design, but Mogensen introduced a way of looking at cabinets and seating that would probably make him just as important as him.
Starting in 1945, Mogensen became a teaching assistant for Klint at the School of Architecture, and at this time he had already founded a furniture design studio, FDB Møbler, which still exists today and has become one of the most important manufacturers in the entire history of Danish furniture design.
Mogensen then designed a specific brand of cabinetry and seating that emphasized function over form in a way that transformed the common houses and apartments of 20th-century Denmark. He left FDB in 1959 to found a more individual firm, but continued to work under this concept until his untimely death in 1972. He left behind two sons and a long legacy of furniture items.
The furniture designs of Børge Mogensen
As a craftsman from one of the (then) smaller cities in Denmark, Mogensen had a very traditional way of looking at furniture. This doesn’t mean that he wasn’t preoccupied with style, beauty, and aesthetics, it simply means that he found an aesthetic that he enjoyed and mainly focused on functionality.
In many ways, however, Mogensen’s work helped develop the notion that function is aesthetic in and on itself, meaning that an item’s inherent beauty can come from its usefulness, from the efficient and smart aspect of its openings, its drawers, its finish, etcetera. Mogensen found fame amongst a much more common crowd, the middle class of mid-century Denmark (and other parts of Scandinavia). In a way, because of this, he’s responsible for many notions of cabinetry that we have today.
His Spanish chair from 1959 became an icon of simplicity and functionality, as well as his earlier 1945 sofa with adjustable arms. He worked mainly with different types of woods and did not concern himself with other materials, looking for a distinctively Danish approach. In many ways, it seems that Mogensen’s history is more a part of the overall history of Denmark than the particular legacy of other designers who accompanied him.
Nowadays, you can still find his designs at many retailers, carefully adapted to the times with new fabrics and sporting much more durable builds, but sometimes you will find a Mogensen design that’s highly expensive, and regarded by many as a luxury, directly contradicting what he was all about in the first place.
In any case, it is no secret that Mogensen’s work was influential and iconic. His furniture is considered ‘modest’ by many, but that modesty embodies a sense of ownership and reliability that every human being should have.