Talking about furniture and interior design, especially from the modernist period, leads some people to make pronunciation mistakes.
That doesn’t mean you should refrain from talking about your favorite designers, but saying their names in the right way can totally help your conversational skills (and might impress your friends).
Most designer’s names have become Americanized, meaning that it’s common for us to hear people pronounce Wegner the way it sounds in American English. However, an approximate Scandinavian pronunciation would sound more like veeg-ner.
Both pronunciations are correct in the formal sense, but if you’re curious about the way the original names sound (and you want to appear a little more furniture-savvy) this article is for you.
Famous mid-century designers
We begin by clarifying that all the pronunciation tips we’re giving here are approximations: if you want to really pronounce Hans Wegner the way a Danish person would, you’ll need to start studying the Danish language.
We encourage you to do so, as that way you can do a lot of things like watch interviews and documentaries in the original language.
Let’s begin this article not with a designer, but with an item: The Barcelona chair. Most people think they get its name right, what about you?
Most people pronounce it bar-se-loan-uh, but that particular word comes from Spanish, so a more correct pronunciation would be bar-fell-own-a, as that particular “c” sound in Spanish is much more noticeable, like a long “s.”
That brings us to the designer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Quite a mouthful, right? Some people say ‘me-ehs’ and some people say “mice” (that one is incorrect). You should say “mees” when talking about this designer, and follow with van-de-roe.
The pronunciation is similar to the way you would talk about Le Corbusier, which is actually French (van der Rohe is German). For Le Corbusier, try speaking the two words quickly and say: luh-core-boo-see-yay.
Some people refer to him by using his birthname, Charles Edouard Jeanneret. That last name is pronounced like shawn-erette.
Some more complicated names
When talking about Isamu Noguchi, which is Japanese, try to make the final “u” of his given name more noticeable when you say it. I-sah-moo. He is one of the easy ones.
The hard ones are actually the more Scandinavian types like Eero Saarinen, Eero Aarnio, Poul Kjærholm, Klint Kaare, and Finn Juhl. First one: Eero, a common given name in Finland. It is the Finnish version of Eric, and is pronounced eh-roe.
Lots of people are tempted to say ear-oh, but that would be a completely American way of saying it. Next two, the last names. Arr-neo, and Sahar-in-en. See how easy it is?
The difference between us and them is that Finnish vowels have individual sounds, they not grouped in the way ours are. Be careful with Kaare Klint, though, he’s Danish so other rules apply. His name is actually pronounced “core,” but his last name can be the regular Klint.
For the other designers, Poul is pronounced more like “pole” and not “Paul.” His last name is pronounced care-holm, which a slight emphasis on the “care” part. Finn is still Finn in English, but his last name sounds more like “yool” and not “jule.”
We’ve chosen the most popular ones here, and the ones we believe are hardest to pronounce. However, there are a lot more designers that should be featured here.
Let’s take a look at Achille Castiglioni (the Arco Lamp’s creator), Marcel Breuer (Wassily chair, which precedes our Strap chair replica), and the Bauhaus.
Castiglioni is Italian, so you might find his name easier to say. Try to pronounce cass-tee-leo-nee, and ditch the “g” sound, his given name sounds like ah-key-lee.
For Marcel Breuer (who’s German), try to pronounce “broyer,” and for the also German Bauhaus, try to practice saying “bow-house.”