Belle - - Design News Right Now -

ITS NOT EV­ERY DAY YOU MEET A LIV­ING LEG­END of mid-cen­tury de­sign. Kai Kris­tiansen, aged 87, re­cently vis­ited Mel­bourne and Syd­ney for the first time to launch the reis­sue of his En­tré range of stor­age cab­i­nets from the late 50s. An­ton As­saad, founder of Great Dane, has been com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Kris­tiansen for more than 12 years and over the last four years the pair have been work­ing to­wards the rein­tro­duc­tion of Kris­tiansen’s unique stor­age pieces. Due to the mod­u­lar na­ture of the En­tré sys­tem, the cur­rent of­fer­ing of three prod­ucts will be ex­panded into a much larger range in the com­ing months and years. “En­tré started life in 1954 when I first opened my stu­dio and was man­u­fac­tured through to 1964,” says Kris­tiansen. “We have in­tro­duced just a few of the clas­sic pieces but the pos­si­ble vari­a­tions for this sys­tem run into the hun­dreds.”

A con­tem­po­rary of renowned Dan­ish de­sign­ers Børge Mogensen, Hans Weg­ner and Finn Juhl, Kris­tiansen stud­ied fur­ni­ture de­sign at the Royal Dan­ish Academy of Fine Arts, un­der Kaare Klint, the great Dan­ish ar­chi­tect. “Klint brought ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­rior and fur­ni­ture de­sign to­gether for the first time. He saw de­sign as one united el­e­ment and his in­flu­ence led to what we now know as the golden age of Dan­ish de­sign,” says Kris­tiansen. “I was his last pupil. A great deal of my think­ing has come from him.”

These days Kris­tiansen is best known for his ‘Model 42’ din­ing chair (pro­duced by the high-end Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer Miyazaki Chair Fac­tory) but ‘Model 31’ was his most suc­cess­ful chair as a young de­signer and sold more than 10,000 per year in the 60s – many bought by Ikea, then a young com­pany. “Ikea loved the chair and were buy­ing large quan­ti­ties from the Dan­ish man­u­fac­turer, Preben Schou Andersen. I was in­vited to Swe­den to meet with Ikea founder Ing­var Kam­prad to dis­cuss be­com­ing one of their in-house de­sign­ers. He sug­gested I look out the win­dow and said, ‘That could be yours if you come to work for us’.” Kris­tiansen still isn’t quite sure whether he was be­ing of­fered the sleek white Porsche in the drive­way but he turned down the of­fer and con­tin­ued to work from his small stu­dio in Jut­land. “But we re­mained good friends for many years,” he adds.

Kris­tiansen is still mo­ti­vated by per­fec­tion. As pres­sure from would-be li­censees intensifies around the rights to his ac­claimed ‘FM’, mod­u­lar wall unit de­signed in 1960 for Feld­balles Mo­belfab­rik, he is cir­cum­spect about its fu­ture. “I don’t think it will come again. I have been ap­proached by many com­pa­nies want­ing to do this par­tic­u­lar de­sign but I’m not sat­is­fied with it. I need to make a few changes be­fore I can give per­mis­sion for any­one to make it again,” he says.

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