Jens Risom was born on May 8 in Copenhagen, Denmark
NEW YORK CITY
Risom traveled to New York to study American design and began designing textiles
Risom partnered with entrepreneur Hans Knoll. A year later, the duo launched the Hans Knoll Furniture Company
Risom was drafted into the United States Army
JENS RISOM DESIGN
Risom launched his own design firm on May 1
Risom commissioned photographer Richard Avedon to help him with a series of ads promoting his designs
Risom sold Jens Risom Design to Dictaphone
Risom retired in New Canaan, Connecticut and passed away in his home on December 9 at 100 years of age
And You Thought IKEA Brought Scandinavian Furniture to the US
When you think of Scandinavian furniture, you think of IKEA, don’t you? After all, they’ve been around since 1943 and in the US since 1984. However, IKEA’s founder, Swedish designer Ingvar Kamprad*, may very well have been inspired by the designs of Jens Risom.
Risom, born in 1916 in Copenhagen Denmark, was one of the first designers to introduce Scandinavian design to the US. His design style, called Mid-Century modern, was honed by his studies with the “father of modern Danish furniture design,” Kaare Klint. The style epitomized clean, pure lines, the use of the best materials available, and topnotch craftsmanship.
Risom studied at the Copenhagen School of Industrial Arts and Design, but it wasn’t until he moved to New York City in 1939 to experiment with American design that he found his niche. Because of his difficulty in finding furniture design work, he initially created textiles as a freelance artist.
Risom and Knoll
In 1941, Risom and business man, Hans Knoll, teamed to launch Hans Knoll Furniture Company; their first offerings consisted of Risom-designed stools, arm chairs, and lounges created from surplus parachute webbing and cedar. Risom was drafted in 1943 and served under General George S. Patton. He continued with Knoll after the war until 1946 when he opened Jens Risom Design (JRD). He and Knoll got their start as travelling salesmen. “Knoll had a car, and I didn’t, and we drove around the country to any architect who had shown any interest in our furniture in New York, and stopped wherever there were people who’d liked our things. I don’t think we had a catalogue or anything—this was very primitive. We had drawings of things we had done.”
Furniture in the 50s and 60s
Risom’s reputation as a designer peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. His furniture was photographed by Richard Avedon and was featured in Playboy magazine. Risom expanded from living furniture to office, hospital, and library furniture. In 1970, he sold JRD to Dictaphone, and continued for a while as CEO, but left to form his own consulting service, Design Control.
Knoll revived Risom’s designs from the 40s and 50s in the late 1990s. Two galleries in London have featured his furniture in exhibits, and the US furniture company, RALPH PUCCI, shows Risom’s work.
*IKEA is made of the initials of its founder, (Ingvar Kamprad) the family farm where he was born (Elmtaryd), and the nearby village (Agunnaryd).
Did You Know?
- During a hospital stay, Risom called his daughter and told her that he must be allowed to rearrange the furniture in his room – the hospital agreed.
- President Lyndon Baines Johnson had a Risom chair in the Oval Office.
Check out Jens Risom’s retirement home
Get a poster with Risom’s famous chair and a Stephen Stills’ quote
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