Faux Danish Modern

Someone once said to me, “Everyone should build a chair.”  They had two reasons.  Firstly, the chair is one of the oldest and most essential domestic items.  Secondly, building a good chair is not as easy as it looks.  A good chair is a small engineering feat.  It must be designed to take the falling weight and backward thrust of the human body as it sits down – and also the push to rise out of it.

I think a good chair also invites the sitter to sit in it.

I still have some of my family’s furniture.  It’s Danish Modern, bought in the 60’s.   I have a stylish little two- seater, which looks good but hardly anyone has sat on it in over 40 years.  Although stylish, the arms are narrow, the cushions thin and it doesn’t give the impression of being able to bear much weight.

The bookshelf rises from a broad base and its teak shelves are inserts which can be moved to make the space between them larger or smaller.  While it can hold a lot of books, the bookshelf is not fully stable and can be rocked.

The four teak dining chairs are good – with solid broad cane-woven seats, sturdy rounded legs and  rounded backs that offer support.  I have to get the cane rewoven on them.

The most successful is an imposter – a faux Danish Modern chair my father built.  I used to wonder where he got the design and suspected it might be Popular Woodworking.  Now I see that he simply modelled the chair on other Danish Modern ones, and made his own improvements.  My father was always looking for ways to modify. I can tell he thought Danish Modern wasn’t solid enough.  His chair has a strong square base and back.  The dowels in the back frame are larger and stronger.  The cushions are square and thick.  He has put broad carved armrests to strengthen the arms.  The chair is low enough for a small person like me, but larger people can sit in it and stretch out their legs.  I have spent many cosy evenings in it, reading and listening to music.

That’s another good reason to build a chair – to leave behind you a solid piece of work that provides comfort and repose.


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