Christian Grosen Rasmussen is head of Design at fritzhansen.com, the Danish furniture house known for its design classics by Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjærholm and Hans J. Wegner. Though he works with contemporary designers like Kasper Salto and Cecilie Manz to develop the company’s vision for the future, success for Rasmussen means striking a balance between the company’s rich history and its mission of innovation. Here he explains the foundation on which Contemporary Danish is built and chooses the 21 designs he finds most illustrative of the Danish sensibility.
“Danish design is often admired for its aesthetics, craftsmanship and beauty, but few know that its origin is underpinned by Denmark’s complex history. In the 19th century, Denmark lost its regional superpower and lapsed into bankruptcy, eventually becoming a small nation with little influence.
“Being a small nation has affected the self-awareness of Danes and laid the cornerstone for a democratic society, based on a humanistic philosophy of life. This philosophy is grounded in financial equality, equal opportunities for all, and social security for those unable to take care of themselves.
“The greater social changes of that time period—the labour movement, cooperative movement and university college system—reflected these principles and contributed to the Danish version of the welfare state.
“Originating from this shift, Danish design is founded on a fundamental desire to elevate the living standards of people through better housing, cleaner environments and more air and light. This aspirational vision has become evident beyond aesthetics and its convictions lie in resolving social issues through intelligent solutions and improving the society that everyone is part of.
“Historically, Denmark was an agricultural nation with few resources. As a result, our approach to creation was driven by need, and it continues to define our design thinking to this very day. We focus on the users and aim to create lasting solutions by treating materials responsibly and ensuring sound arguments for the choices we make as designers.
“This thoroughness and contemplation explains the understated Danish minimalist taste: everything should serve a purpose. Design is most successful when form and function go hand in hand one hundred percent, and nothing can be added or removed without weakening the final product.”