10 Things You Didn't Know About Poul Kjærholm

10 Things You Didn't Know About Poul Kjærholm

By Matthew Keeshin and Dwell
Fritz Hansen celebrates two of the steel-wielding master's most famous works.

In Denmark, design is in the country's DNA. During the 20th century, modern giants like Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and Finn Juhl brought industry and Nordic craft together. While these architects and designers mainly focused on wood frames, molded veneers, and paper cord seating, there was one designer from this era who deliberately went against the grain. If you aren't familiar with designer Poul Kjærholm, the engineering prowess exemplified by his classic steel furniture will certainly leave an impression.  This year marks the 60th anniversary of the PK22 lounge chair and the PK61 coffee table, arguably his most popular pieces, with manufacturer Fritz Hansen. To celebrate, here are some aspects of Kjærholm's life you might not have known about. 

1. The Heavy Metal Carpenter 

Originally trained as a carpenter, the young designer studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and even worked in Hans Wegner's studio.   

2. The PK25 Lounge Chair 

In 1951, the 23-year-old Kjærholm completed his first chair that would go into production: the PK25. The chair's frame is constructed using only one piece of steel and the seat is made from flag rope. This was the start of the designer's obsession with focusing on just the essentials to engineer his concepts into reality. 

3. The Early Days 

When Kjærholm was hired by Fritz Hansen as a young designer, he was tasked to experiment with the company's signature materials, which at the time was known for its developments in steam-bent wood and laminated veneers. 

4. Nature Works

Although steel is prevalent in many of Kjærholm's design, he was inspired by nature throughout his life. Natural materials such as wicker and leather were chosen for their ability to age over time. Featured in Fritz Hansen's headquarters in Copenhagen, a section dedicated to the designer includes other pieces from the collection. 

5. The PK22 Lounge Chair

As an evolution from the PK25, the PK22 is less sculptural and more refined. The chair made its first appearance in 1956. Instead of being made from one piece of steel, the construction allows the chair to be broken down, which makes it easier to ship. In considering that every aspect of the design counted, even the screws have aesthetic appeal. For the anniversary, the steel frame is darkened and finished in a nubuck leather. 

6. The PK61 Coffee Table 

Designed to accompany the PK22, the PK61 was also released in 1956. The limited-edition version is topped with Petra marble and the surface is treated in electroplated anthracite.  

7. Bring on the Bauhaus 

Kjærholm was influenced by the Barcelona Pavilion and the complementary furniture by Mies van der Rohe. Again, the matte-steel frame with its exposed joints is on full display at the company's flagship showroom in Copenhagen. As a continuation of his material vocabulary, the base is connected by rubber fasteners and screws.  

8. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat 

Always the perfectionist, Kjærholm honed his craft . The three-legged PK31 stool is constructed from only a few components. The leather seat is placed on top of a wood base which is all held together by rubber bands on the frame. 

9. Kaare Klint

Exhibited between the PK24 and the PK25, the PK91 is Kjærholm's homage to the Danish furniture designer Kaare Klint. As an influential professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Klint produced a number of important designs, most notably the Safari Chair in 1933. A stool by the professor made from the same material, canvas and wood, is said to have inspired Kjærholm to make his own folding stool in his preferred industrial materials.

10. Design Like Kjærholm

Want to work like the master? The designer's set up included the PK11 armchair paired with the PK55 table. 


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