Scandinavian Design | the Designmuseum Denmark in Copenhagen

I am very happy to share a new article from our contributing author Janneke with you today.  Janneke, who is also an art historian, moved to Sweden a couple of weeks ago and visited the Danish Designmuseum in Copenhagen for us.


The so called Scandinavian ‘concept of living’ is regarded as desirable all over the world. But what actually is Scandinavian design?

It is popular for its characteristic simplicity and functionality all around the world, thanks to brands like Ikea, Bo Concept, iittala and others. If you want to find out more about Scandinavian design you should pay a visit to Copenhagen, known as the European capital of design.

You can find lots of design stores, fashion and interior designers – and the Designmuseum Denmark. It’s a museum for decorative and applied arts & crafts as well as industrial design from the Middle Age to the present time.

Designmuseum Copenhagen
Designmuseum Copenhagen | Photo: Pernille Klemp

The museum is located in a formerly royal hospital next to the Kastellet, Copenhagen’s star fortresses, the seaside and of course (the replice of) the little mermaid by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen that refers to Christian Andersen’s famous tale. The museum building is quite fascinating itself as it is from a plain grey façade, but designed in a noble Rococo style.

The museum collection includes works by well known designers such as architect and designer Arne Jacobsen, and designer Poul Henningsen, of course. Remember the popular ‘Egg’ chairs and ‘Serie 7’, a series of stackable wooden chairs? They were designed by Jacobsen, while Henningsen, on the other hand, is known for his Artichoke lamps and PHs-lamps you have surely seen (or owned) before.

Of course the museum focuses on Danish design, but it also houses a broad collection of pieces from other European countries and from Asia. As the term ‘design’ is quite broad and covers all kind of objects and things from fine pottery to X, so there should be something for everybody to enjoy. And as it comes to design it might be important to know about the roots, but I especially enjoyed the new permanent and contentiously updated exhibition ‘Danish Design Now’.

To get there you pass by inflatable furniture you might recognize from someone’s bachelor flat back in the nineties, ancient (more or less) ‘mobile’ phones that might weight some pounds, wooden bikes and other curiosities.

The exhibition represents contemporary Danish every day design, from product design to furniture, fashion and graphic design. Some of the shown ceramics, glass, jewelry and other objects were specifically created for the exhibition, but you might see some pieces you have at home yourself.

bamboo comfort by Flavio Deslandes | Photo: Franz Henriksen
bamboo comfort by Flavio Deslandes | Photo: Franz Henriksen
DLM table by HAY
DLM table by HAY

The exhibition makes it quite easy to identify what Danish design stands for: Most objects are from a clear design, they are functional, yet witty and innovative somehow like the Hay DLM side table by Thomas Bentzen that you can easily carry away. In some cases it might take two looks to identify the object you’re looking at. Thanks to the theatrical presentation of the pieces you really feel like you are in an own universe.

You find a lot of bright, striking colors, surprisingly forms and sustainable materials, for example the geometrical bamboo bike Flavio Deslandes made, a Brazilian industrial designer based in Denmark.

I think, using sustainable material that can be reused and recycled is the most important thing you can ask from design today! There simply is no need to use materials which are not regenerative anymore. Michelle has already roofed that there is a lot of sustainable design and fashion available, and that it does not have to be very expensive. The same is valid for interior design, you will surely get some inspiration from your visit.

Face dress by Henrik Vibskov. Designmuseum Danmark | Photo: Pernille Klemp
Face dress by Henrik Vibskov. Designmuseum Danmark | Photo: Pernille Klemp

Beside interior and product design the exhibition also gives you a glimpse at Danish fashion design. Above all Henrik Vibskov’s face dress caught my eye. It looks like some kind of cozy and crazy cocoon. I could totally picture myself wearing it, unfortunately it’s out of stock online, so I guess I will have to stay with my casual dresses instead of wearing such avant-garde clothes.

Photo: Pernille Klemp
Photo: Pernille Klemp

But all fashion lovers will not only be stunned by extravagant, yet modest dresses like this – as I would describe it. The fashion and textile collection of the museum is one of the largest in Denmark, so there is a lot more to look at. It includes textile art from the Renaissance until today with a main emphasis on Danish women’s fashion from the 20th century, even underwear and accessories. You will see that beauty comes in all shapes and colors, and patterns and fabrics and…

Overall the museum is quite charming, with wonderful bright rooms and a garden to sit and relax in after your inspiring tour.


Cover image: Designmuseum Copenhagen | Photo: Christian Hoyer

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