Kaare Klint was a pioneer of early 20th century Danish design, but his meticulous ergonomic approach has changed how the world views furniture, thanks to his standardised approach that marries the simplicity and elegance of modernist design with a determined, meticulous, and even obsessive approach to providing ultimate practicality and purpose.
Details mattered in everything that Kaare Klint ever produced. Every little nut, bolt, strut, or support had a purpose that was both aesthetically striking, technically perfect, and searingly practical. No space was wasted and every piece bristled with modernist beauty, making Kaare Klint’s designs the perfect marriage of form and function.
That devotion carried into his appointment as a teacher at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1924, where he became known for his radical teaching methods. It was there that Klint developed data based on human measurements, proportions, and dimensions. He believed in a relationship between the proportions of the human body and the object it sits on. He would dedicate himself to this idea, as he strived to create ideal proportions for all objects.
This formed the foundation of Klint’s philosophy of furniture design, while his style from the 1920s and 30s would greatly influence designers like Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl. His carefully crafted pieces of technical perfection were paired with a flawless, elegant, and minimalist aesthetic that made every piece equal parts eye-catching and relentlessly practical. Featured are five designs that perfectly encapsulate this approach.
The Faaborg chair holds a special place not only for modernist furniture fans, but also as one of the first pieces of Danish furniture that expressed a new design language. It stripped away unnecessary ornamentation in favor of simple form. Today, this devotion to form and function looks as contemporary as when it was produced in 1915 for the opening of the Faaborg Museum.
Incredibly, Klint was only 26 years old when he designed the Faaborg, leaving a near lifetime for him to step into the role of the father of Danish modernism. The Faaborg chair was transformative for him personally, but also modernist design as a whole. The attention to form and function in the chair would become a driving force for his future designs, and become the starting point for the modern Danish design tradition.
A test of any piece of furniture’s enduring appeal is its longevity and the Safari Chair passes this test with ease, as it’s still in production today. It might be approaching 100 years of age, but the timeless chair is one of Klint’s best-selling and well known designs, and also considered one of the first examples of build-it-yourself furniture.
Produced in 1933, the iconic design was inspired by a photo of an army officer’s chair in a travel guide for Africa. As a result, its style is equalled by its practicality. It can be easily assembled and taken apart without tools, and even rolled up for easy transport. The design is still in production, but it’s the original Rud Rasmussen produced chairs that catch the eye at auction.
Nowhere is Klint’s dedication to ultimate function better represented than in his sideboard. Klint was meticulous; every inch has a purpose. His students at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts helped him to compile a list of objects a sideboard might contain, and their dimensions. They then began test arrangements, which formed the basis for a simple organizational system by size. And standardization was born.
The result is a sideboard where no space is wasted. It can hold a full dinner service for 12 people, including 60 plates, 78 glasses, coffee service, bottles, and decanters. There are also multiple compartments with accessible sliding trays that can be removed to carry items to the dining table. This efficiency in design is a hallmark of Klint. The design bursts with Danish modernist functionality, and aesthetic refinement.
“One cannot find finer furniture design anywhere.”
Danish newspaper, Politiken
It might not at first be obvious why this curvaceous and visually pleasing bed is referred to as spherical, but what is for certain is that it’s full of Klint’s meticulous attention to detail. The refined bed takes its name from the spatial geometry that determines its shape. The ends and sides of the bed are shaped to follow the surface of an imaginary sphere, so that if two beds were placed on top of each other they would form a sphere that corresponds to the height of an average man. It’s a mathematical work of genius.
Made from Cuban mahogany, the bed was designed for the Cabinetmakers Guild Exhibition of 1938 and was again produced by Klint’s master cabinet maker, Rad Rasmussen. Its wonderfully stylised design was an instant hit, with Danish newspaper Politiken saying of it “One cannot find finer furniture design anywhere.”
Befitting of a sophisticated ocean liner in the 1930s, Klint’s deck chair elevates an everyday object to a dream of ergonomic design. Again, it’s the meticulous attention to detail that makes this piece what it is.
The humanistic design allows it to provide maximum comfort. Exemplifying a laid back (sorry for the pun) modernist style, the head rest was perfectly placed for an average-sized man. The arm is positioned in terms of height and length, so that a person’s hands fall naturally close to the ends when resting the hands. In addition, the ingenious chair’s back is slightly concave, which is mirrored in the strut that forms both front leg and the support of the arm rest. The whole chair even folds up, so that each piece either fits snugly together, or is the right length to work with the hinge points. Even the bolts and fixings have been specially produced and considerately recessed. The chair is a mechanical puzzle and like every Klint piece, every single detail has been considered.