The fifties and sixties was a golden age for North European industrial design. During this defining time for Nordic architectural identity, Scandinavian masters such as Georg Jensen, Arne Jacobsen and Tias Eckhoff created icons that that would set the bar for future industrial designers. But as the booming oil industry hit Norway in the ensuing decades, the furniture industry faded into oblivion. In recent years however, forgotten classics have been reintroduced to an applauding international audience.
My introduction to this period was “Det Riflede” porcelain by Tias Eckhoff. The china was bought soon after its launch in 1952 by my late grandmother. Young in the post war period, she had a keen interest in contemporary Norwegian design. This included not only tableware, but also wooden furniture and range of colourful weaved textiles.
Det Riflede tableware in white porcelain was Eckhoff’s debut design for Porsgrunn Porsænsfabrik and is part of the National Gallery´s extensive collection of his work. He would later go on to introduce the more famous flatware named Maya in 1961, an ever modern classic still found in innumerable Norwegian homes.
One of the most celebrated relaunches in recent years has been the the Scandia chair collection by Hans Brattrud. Designed in 1957, The Junior went into production in 1958 and immediately became a reward winning and commercial success. To attest to the widespread popularity, the American White House is said to have ordered twelve of these chairs. Sadly, the elegant lines of the Scandia did not survive the decadent mood the mid 70s, and production was ceased.
Fortunately, Architect Pål Lunder saw the potential and launched furniture company Fjordfiesta in 2001, which first mission was to reintroduce the “Scandia” range of chairs. With the blessing and collaboration of Hans Brattrud (who passed away in 2017), the series now consists of ten chairs including two dining chairs, bar stools, a swivel and the below pictured lounge chair, Scandia Nett.
A later Fjordfiesta “find” is the unassuming and multifunctional Krobo bench by Torbjørn Afdal. Designed in 1960, it became an instant classic that was later forgotten. The 2014 relaunch was the result of a collaboration between Fjordfiesta, Oslo based design gallery Utopia Retro Modern and the renowned duo Anderssen&Voll, who created a selection of complimentary accessories such as trays and cushions.
The recent decade has seen Nordic mid century designs experiencing a second blossoming. One reason might be a general onset of the nostalgia and a new generation of adults searching for individuality through a “simpler” past. But just as relevant, I believe, is the enormous variation of visual inspiration available. The fifties and sixties furniture is in its minimal nature easy to match other styles and époques. The excellent craftmanship and classic status justifies the price tag as these pieces are made for daily use and proven to last generations.
Tip: Worth looking into is the new Norwegian furniture company Eikund. Their mission is to reproduce Norwegian icons from the fifties and sixties. I particularly admire Torbjørn Bekken´s Veng armchair from 1960.
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