Danish-Modern Master Thomas Juul-Hansen Talks About Timeless Design

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By Julia Brenner / Published by Dwell
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Danish architect and designer Thomas Juul-Hansen is renowned for his ability to design luxury properties that are rooted in a straightforward ethos that celebrates timelessness over trends.

He does this by "finding the DNA of the place we are working," and then using contextual elements to guide each project. Specifically, Mr. Juul-Hansen's designs are driven by an exploration of site-specific solutions that consider light, space, materiality, and the external environment of each project. Recently, we talked to Mr. Juul-Hansen about his Danish roots and his first Miami-based commission, Three Hundred Collins, a recent residential project designed as a minimalist sanctuary with nods to the city's natural beauty and modern architecture.

Shown here is the garden view of Three Hundred Collins, which Hansen designed to be a culturally-inspired sanctuary for residents of Miami's South Beach. 

Shown here is the garden view of Three Hundred Collins, which Hansen designed to be a culturally-inspired sanctuary for residents of Miami's South Beach. 

Q. What was your vision when approaching your first Miami-based project, Three Hundred Collins? 

A. We always try to find the DNA of the place we work in, and let this become the leader for how to design buildings. Obviously, working in Miami allowed us to enjoy the light and weather in ways that may be harder in other locations. The building has, for instance, full-height glass and 10-foot-deep balconies that really let you use the outdoor spaces. It’s a clean structure, but with many references to Miami modern architecture. Thankfully, both the Miami beach building department as well as the historic preservation board felt the same way, as we got full approval by both on the first shot—which is a rare occurrence from my understanding.

An example of Hansen's kitchen design for Three Hundred Collins. Hansen uses white oak flooring throughout the units for its density, strength, and neutral organic beauty.  

An example of Hansen's kitchen design for Three Hundred Collins. Hansen uses white oak flooring throughout the units for its density, strength, and neutral organic beauty.  

Q. What are some signature design elements that you consider fundamental in your current projects? 

A. We are, in general, including details in our work that are almost like jewelry pieces. Craftsmanship is critical and simple, and elegant details like metal or wood trims often can take a simple surface and bring in into a new realm. The work we are executing now is more classic (not classical) than anything we have ever done, and I think it is a sign of us maturing—not getting old. 

Hansen seamlessly blends sophistication and warmth using organic materials, such as Kenya black-honed marble and white oak. 

Hansen seamlessly blends sophistication and warmth using organic materials, such as Kenya black-honed marble and white oak. 

Q. How do your Scandinavian roots influence your work? 

A. Being brought up in Denmark has allowed me to integrate an appreciation for simple and clean spaces into our work. Natural materials, such as stone and wood, help express warmth in Scandinavian design and we rely on the same for all our projects.   

An example of Hansen's clean-lined, natural aesthetic at work in the residence he designed for restauranteur, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. 

An example of Hansen's clean-lined, natural aesthetic at work in the residence he designed for restauranteur, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. 

Q. What inspires your personal aesthetic? 

A. For me, clean lines and natural materials outlast fashion. The goal for me is always to design in such a way that our work doesn’t get dated. The ultimate goal is to execute timeless work. 

Hansen employed danish masonry brick work and solid mahogany framed windows for his residential project Two Ten West 77.

Hansen employed danish masonry brick work and solid mahogany framed windows for his residential project Two Ten West 77.

Q. You’ve stated that maintaining a family/personal life outside of the professional sphere is of paramount importance to you. Given the incredible professional success you’ve achieved with this ethos, do you have any words of wisdom to pass along? 

A. I think it’s important to live life as much as possible. Live now. I am not one of the designers that always wears all black and only talks about design. In fact, I rarely hang out with architects, and this helps me keep a fresh outlook on my work and life so that I never get tired of working hard.