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An interview with Hans Henrik Sørensen, co-founder of House of Finn Juhl

'Feelings are an important part of Finn Juhl's work, sensing the materials and the furniture'

The Danish design company House of Finn Juhl is the custodian of the iconic designs by the renowned architect and designer Finn Juhl. Founded 34 years ago by partners Hans Henrik Sørensen and Ivan Hansen, the brand's journey began with a shared passion for design and a vision to collaborate with like-minded architects and designers. Through meticulous craftsmanship and a commitment to preserving Finn Juhl's artistic legacy, they have brought over 50 of his timeless pieces to life. We interview Hans Henrik Sørensen to know more about the brand's journey, their recent showcase in Milan and an upcoming exhibition in a Danish museum about their work.

Founders Ivan Hansen (left) and Hans Henrik Sørensen (right).

How it all started
The history of the brand goes back 34 years. 'My partner, Ivan Hansen, and I founded a company in 1990. Our mission was to produce and sell design furniture and work with architects and designers that we liked.' Ivan and Henrik already knew each other working in the furniture branche. 'We became friends and shared a passion in design. We talked a lot about design and drank a lot of red wine, and found designers for our company who also liked to drink a lot of red wine,' Henrik says laughing.

At the end of the 90s the businessmen were contacted by the widow of the famous designer and architect Finn Juhl, Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, to work with them on recreating the 57 sofa for an exhibition 10 years after his death. Later on they acquired the exclusive rights to produce Finn Juhl's iconic furniture pieces from the 1940s and 50s. 'We launched the collection in 2001 in Cologne at the fair. There was a trend developing back then, a retro wave that started there, and we hit the nail on the head.'

Since then, the two have relaunched a comprehensive range of Finn Juhl's designs. 'We have worked on his designs for 25 years and it has been a fantastic journey. We have launched more than 50 models, maybe even 60 now,' Henrik says.

Organic and sculptural
When relaunching Finn Juhl's design pieces it was important to recreate the feeling he wanted to achieve with his furniture. 'It's very important to find the right craftspeople. Finn Juhl's design is not easy, it's very organic, very sculptural. Back in the 40s and 50s there were excellent craftspeople. Everything was done by hand. Nowadays, we are also using machinery, but still a lot of it is handmade. Upholstery is hand sewn and all the finishes are done by hand,' Henrik says.

Finn Juhl wasn't actually a cabinetmaker himself, which was custom at the time. Finn Juhl was educated as an architect, and in terms of furniture design he was self-taught. He was inspired and influenced by Bauhaus, functionalism and modern art, but instead of using steel, which was popular at the time, he used wood, which Denmark is famous for. 'He was an artist in a way,' Henrik explains. 'He had a very sculptural way of functionalism in his furniture pieces. They were functional for the body and comfortable in many positions. I think this is the reason that there is still so much interest from the younger generations right now, because he's so free. No rules dictate his designs. He's not typical to a specific time, he relates to nature.'

Experiencing Finn Juhl
Today, April 26, a small museum on the west coast of Denmark (Ringkøbing Museum) opens an exhibition which centres around Henrik and Ivan's work with Finn Juhl's legacy. 'They wanted to make an exhibition about both our business story and Finn Juhl's work. Feelings are an important part of Finn Juhl's work, sensing the materials and the furniture, so we created a room where you can do this.'

'Finn Juhl said that a piece of furniture is only finished and successful when a nice girl sits in his furniture, and gets even nicer,' Henrik says laughing. 'He worked with a holistic approach to the home. When he made interior designs he saw them as a whole, as a gesamtkunstwerk. If a person sits in his furniture, it should create the whole picture. That's why it's possible to sit in all the furniture that's showcased in the museum. So you can experience what he felt.'

Some of the pieces on show are his iconic Chieftain Chair and a limited edition of the Pelican Chair upholstered with curly Swedish lambswool.

Milan Design Week
House of Finn Juhl also recently showcased their pieces at Milan Design Week. 'This year we were not at the fair, where we have been for many years, but we were in the city centre. We don't need the big crowds so much anymore, and we wanted to spend time on nice meetings with our customers. We also celebrated the Chieftain Chair's 75th anniversary with a special edition in smoked oak.' Another important development at the company is that all the pieces in Milan were made in Denmark. 'We have a really good production company making solid wood chairs in Japan. But two and a half years ago we insourced our own production even further. We make as much as we can ourselves in Denmark and we kept the company in Japan for the far east market. This decision goes hand in hand with our strategy of becoming more sustainable. We make furniture that lasts for generations, and now reduce the transportation even further.'

More information:
House of Finn Juhl
[email protected]