Denmark 50

Poul Kjaerholm
1929 - 1980


Nanna Ditzel
Fritz Henningsen  
Poul Henningsen  
Peter Hvidt  
Arne Jacobsen  
Grete Jalk  
Finn Juhl  
Jacob Kjaer  
Poul Kjaerholm  
Kaare Klint  
Borge Mogensen  
Verner Panton  
Arne Vodder  
Ole Wanscher  
Hans Wegner  

The legacy of Poul Kjaerholm is distinctive within the Danish tradition for being both minimalist and elegant. He apprenticed as a cabinetmaker at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen. Though his training was in carpentry and woodworking he came to prefer industrial production methods and he made extensive use of steel frames in the designs of his chairs. It was the combination of steel frames with natural materials like leather, rattan, and canvases that is Kjaerholm’s defining feature setting him apart from his Danish contemporaries. The modernist works of le Corbusier and Breuer have been credited as influencing him in these choices.

One of Kjaerholm’s most well known chairs is the “PK 22” which is a sleek and minimalist easy chair constructed of leather covering a spring steel frame. This chair is still extensively used in the Copenhagen international airport Kastrup and, is the design for which he was awarded the prestigious Lunning Award in 1958. Another example of Kjaerholm’s work is the “PK 24” lounge chair or “Hammock Chaise.” This work exhibits an upholstered headrest and woven cane seat over a steel frame that tilts the legs up on a gentle slope. This chair is still produced by Fritz Hansen and recently made an appearance in the 2002 science fiction film “Minority Report.” Kjaerholm also designed tables. The “PK 61” table, for example, is a large, clear plate glass top effortlessly supported on thin, chrome legs. His close friend E. Kold Christensen originally produced Kjaerholm’s work. Since 1982, however, Fritz Hansen has continued production.

In addition to his work as an independent designer, Poul Kjaerholm was a teacher at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen from 1952-1956. In 1958 he joined the faculty at the Royal Academy of Art as an assistant. In 1959 he would become a lecturer and in 1976 he was finally awarded full professorship in the department of furniture and interior design where he served until his untimely death in 1980. During his career he received several awards for his work including two Grand Prix at the Milan Trienalle in 1957 and 1960. Since these award winning works have been given places in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and other museums like it around the world and are still in production today, we can agree with other commentators that Kjaerholm’s significance is not confined to one era in design history but is in some sense beyond eras.