Great Dane

De­sign con­nois­seurs can’t get enough of Dan­ish Mod­ern fur­ni­ture

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Donna Nebenzahl

ASLENDER teak cof­fee ta­ble he spot­ted 10 years ago was the start of Martin Lafrance’s love af­fair with Dan­ish fur­ni­ture.

It was my first piece of ’70s fur­ni­ture, and he paid $200 for it, which was quite a deal, he said.

Once he had placed the ta­ble in his apart­ment, Lafrance re­al­ized this was the only type of fur­ni­ture he wanted to buy. He said he loves the sim­plic­ity and the qual­ity of the fur­ni­ture.

Known as Dan­ish Mid-Cen­tury or Dan­ish Mod­ern, these ta­bles and chairs, desks, dressers and side­boards from the post­war pe­riod — many of them made of teak — are rec­og­niz­able for their sim­ple and el­e­gant lines. They were not only de­signed to look clean and min­i­mal­ist, but the fur­ni­ture was so well made, many pieces have sur­vived in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion.

Now Lafrance’s per­sonal col­lec­tion in­cludes pieces made fa­mous by fur­ni­ture de­sign­ers of the pe­riod, which to­day fetch many thou­sands of dol­lars. I’ve got a cre­denza from Hans Weg­ner (a Dan­ish de­signer whose ma­jor work in­cludes the sculp­tural Shell chair), also a lamp from Amer­i­can de­signer Ge­orge Nel­son, and a col­lec­tion of pieces from Arne Ja­cob­sen.

One of the most in­flu­en­tial Dan­ish Mod­ern de­sign­ers, in 1952, Ja­cob­sen cre­ated the stack­able, space­sav­ing Ant chair, which had three metal legs and was made out of a sin­gle piece of moulded ply­wood. His Num­ber Seven chair, made in beech­wood, has been called the biggest suc­cess in Dan­ish fur­ni­ture his­tory.

The pull of Dan­ish Mod­ern was so great that four years ago, Lafrance opened a shop ded­i­cated to these clev­erly styled pieces, both for­eign and do­mes­tic.

In the 1970s, com­pa­nies that would im­port the fur­ni­ture would also have their own line, so about 35 to 40 per cent of what Lafrance sells is made here, he said, like Royal Sys­tem fur­ni­ture from Mon­treal. Only a con­nois­seur can tell they’re not from Den­mark.

Now in his shop, Mon­treal Moderne, Lafrance sells teak cre­den­zas, ta­bles and chairs and a col­lec­tion of rose­wood fur­ni­ture. He likes the grain of the wood, the colour and the lines.

Teak is more for apart­ments; you fur­nish your house in rose­wood.

De­sign­ing apart­ment fur­ni­ture was the driver be­hind the Scan­di­na­vian in­va­sion, and apart­ment dwellers con­tinue to seek out these pieces, says Pierre-An­dre Bruneau of An­tiq­ui­tés Cu­riosités, an­other of a nest of 1970s decor shops sit­u­ated on Mon­treal’s Amherst Street.

Montrealers live in apart­ments and buy con­do­mini­ums and the win­dows are square and the lines are straight, not like an­tiques, Bruneau said. They’re younger, in their 30s, and they love this style of fur­ni­ture.

Older shop­pers, he says, are fa­mil­iar with the de­signs and of­ten will buy as an in­vest­ment. This makes good sense with a piece that’s signed, such as the Charles Eames chairs in the shop, with is­land legs and curved seats in wood.

They also have two chairs ($900 each) by French de­signer Olivier Mour­gue, best known for his Djinn fur­ni­ture se­ries, the first fur­nish­ings to have been made of polyurethane foam on tubu­lar steel frames. These pieces fur­nished the in­te­rior of the space­ship in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Mour­gue also de­signed the fur­nish­ings for the French Pavil­ion at Expo 67 in Mon­treal.

Prices are low, Bruneau says, rel­a­tive to other cities. Some­times, col­lec­tors will come here for a ta­ble and chair that we would sell for $2,000 that in New York would fetch $7,000.

There is a grow­ing in­ter­est in this fur­ni­ture, Bruneau says. They know they can do many things with the fur­ni­ture. Peo­ple used to buy cre­den­zas with a top hutch to dis­play glass. Now they put a flatscreen TV in it, or use it as a book­case.

Clients ap­proach vin­tage fur­ni­ture dif­fer­ently, he says. When they buy an an­tique piece, they want to see the life on it, the marks. With this fur­ni­ture, they want some­thing look­ing like new, with no scratches.

Fur­ni­ture, pot­tery, rugs and lamps, all that is Scan­di­na­vian, is in Jack’s on Amherst Street, open since 1998. Owner Jean-Guy Orr has been col­lect­ing for 30 years.

The fur­ni­ture Cyr loves ranges from teak to chrome and white. It’s the plas­tic moulded fur­ni­ture, from 1969, af­ter man walked on the moon.

Cyr has Eames lounge chairs by Her­man Miller ($3,000 to $4,000 with the la­bel). He said he loves the Arne Ja­cob­sen Egg chair and Swan chair, he says.

Be­cause of its qual­ity and per­son­al­ity, Cyr be­lieves this fur­ni­ture will never lose value. And it merges eas­ily with con­tem­po­rary pieces. Peo­ple who col­lect con­tem­po­rary art re­ally love Scan­di­na­vian fur­ni­ture, he said.

We’re like the Scan­di­na­vians, he points out, all peo­ple from the North. Al­though this fur­ni­ture looks good in sum­mer, too.

— Canwest News Ser­vice

Dan­ish Mod­ern 1970s teak high­boy, left, is from Den­mark. Some Dan­ish Mod­ern pieces have be­come very sought-af­ter.

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