On a gray day in December, I went to see the house of the furniture designer and architect Finn Juhl. The house has been preserved intact as a small mecca for design, art and architecture enthusiasts.
Already from a distance, a man dressed in black can be seen standing concentrated and taking photographs through the gable window of the living room.A narrow yellow brick path winds its way to the white-painted and modernist house.
There are straight lines and geometry in the six vertical windows that have white shutters on the house wall. The gravel crunches as I approach the entrance. Meanwhile, I hear a German man say “Sehr precise und proportioniert”, while he stands with his partner wearing a cobalt blue quilted jacket and inspects, assesses and points to the facade and entrance of the house.
The front door is set in a piece of curry yellow wall, flanked by turquoise wooden cladding, so curiosity rises to see what awaits inside the house’s fine proportions and colours.
The little house is located at Kratvænget 15 and was completed in 1942. Finn Juhl designed and built the home for himself and lived there until his death in 1989. Inspired by international abstract art and with the desire to create a fully cast home, he designed everything from porcelain, interior and furniture. From the “Poet” sofa to the “Chief’s Chair” and chest of drawers, all kinds of tables and benches. Together with the furniture, artworks made by some of the best Danish artists, Vilhelm Lundstrøm, Asger Jorn and Richard Mortensen, play a complete role.
Obviously the house is therefore known as a Gesamtkunstwerk – a complete work of art. For the same reason, Finn Juhl’s house was also donated to the Ordrupgaard Museum in 2007 and opened to the public, who have the pleasure of experiencing the house and its rich inventory.
A whiff of confinement and silence meets me when I step in on the coconut mat in the windbreak. The guard welcomes me with his arm and indicates without words that I can simply enter the residence, to the left or to the right.
Long beige natural carpets on whitewashed plank floors in ash wood and installed cords show the way and ensure that no one goes wrong. Well-chosen carpets and a potpourri of designer furniture, colorful ceramic bowls and sculptures, modern paintings and large and small leather-bound books in piles and rows on the shelves, still stand as they did in Fin Juhl’s time. Old yet modern with a softly designed fireplace and a white kitchen with aluminum worktops and elegant simplicity.
However, not everything is available to see. “The basement can not be visited. There are only laundry rooms and victual rooms – the uninteresting but necessary things”, tells the guard from the entrance, as he walks past and hands me a leaflet.
The house is an expression of modernism, where all space is used according to its function. Also in relation to the sizes of the rooms and their mutual location. They are carefully adapted to each other and to the light that flows in through the openings.
The furniture is internationally known as refined hand-crafted joinery furniture and Finn Juhl himself as one of the most important furniture designers who paved the way for “Danish Modern”, from the 1930s to the 1960s, to become an international brand. To mark the 100th anniversary of Finn Juhl’s birth, a copy of the house was even built and inaugurated in 2012 in Japan, where they are extraordinarily happy with Danish design.
In the Finn Juhl’s office, it also exudes an international format and a melting pot of art, design and architecture. On the wall hangs a faded photo of the Finn Juhl Hall, which he decorated in 1952 in the UN building, in New York. There is also an old photo of the national treasure the Sun Chariot, as well as original posters of his furniture exhibitions in the Designmuseum Danmark (Kunstindustrimuseet) 1982 and in Politiken hus 1990.
The international dimension not least applies to the house’s audience, which I meet again on my way out. The German couple from the entrance are now walking around the garden eagerly and talking. I also meet the photographer dressed in blach, who calmly and with his camera in hand mumbles “sorry” as he passes to enter the house once more. Obviously, Danish Modern and the ’Gesamtkunstwerk’ also made a big impression on others than me, on that gray day in December.