Finding Finn Juhl’s genius in his home outside Copenhagen

A Singular House

By Clara Le Fort

From the outside, Finn Juhl’s house in the outskirts of Copenhagen looks very simple—ordinary almost—with two clear-cut, boxy wings of plain white-stuccoed brick and a low, pitched roof covered in light gray shingles. But once inside, the gentle Nordic light pours in through generous terrace doors and windows and reflects off the soft cream and pastel walls, creating a convivial environment for paintings, sculptures, furniture, ceramics, and of course, people. It’s a prime example of the most romantic ideals of modernism in action, where architecture, design, and art harmoniously commingle to bring about a comfortable, functional, personalized, and soul-nourishing space for living.

Considered one of the most influential and prolific Danish furniture designers of the 20th century (alongside luminaries like Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner), Juhl trained as an architect, yet built very few buildings. His residence in Ordrup, begun in 1941, is all the more exceptional because, over the forty years he lived there, it was the laboratory where he experimented with perfecting interiors, integrating carefully chosen elements across all art forms and often trying out new ideas before taking them to market. He cultivated coherence in each detail, designing everything himself, right down to everyday items such as cutlery and crockery.

Juhl once wrote that an architect should strive for unity but not uniformity, aiming to articulate “a complete thought process behind everything that you do.” In walking from room to room at Ordrup, Juhl’s preoccupation with modern art proves a satisfying and lyrical counterbalance to his discipline. He was an avid collector of Danish art especially, including paintings by Asger Gorn and totem-like sculptures by Erik Thommensen and Sonja Ferlov Mancoba. The spontaneous, organic forms that dominate these avant-garde art pieces from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s are echoed in Juhl's furniture designs, which often feature heart, kidney, and fin-shaped silhouettes. He approached his work with a sculptor’s eye, explaining in 1952, “A chair is not just an industrial product in space. It becomes form and space itself.”

Sometimes accused of an elitism contrary to the democratic aims of modernist design, he did not shy away from luxe materials and hand craftsmanship. For Juhl, the modernist project had more to do with an intellectual, aesthetic sensibility—rational and all encompassing but never cold—than with finding efficient solutions to the design problems of mass culture. Many of his most famous pieces—often conceived with the help of master cabinetmaker Niels Vodder —like the Chieftain ChairPelican ChairModel 45Egyptian ChairPoet Sofa, and his multicolored Chest of Drawers (1961) are installed throughout the house to showcase their well-considered proportions from multiple angles, like functional works of art.

And while Juhl's home is undeniably a historical document of midcentury Danish taste, it still inhabits an astoundingly contemporary sensibility, reflecting the goals we set when we want to be our best selves. The environment tells the story of a life impassioned by high culture but grounded in simple pleasures; engaged in pursuits of the mind as well as the heart. We are at ease here, because everything is in its perfect place. In this house, we feel at one with the world.


  • Text by

    • Clara Le Fort

      Clara Le Fort

      Clara tracks trends and new ventures wherever she goes. A regular contributor to Numéro, Wallpaper, and Departures, and author of a handful of Louis Vuitton City Guides, she’s also a consultant for a variety of Parisian Maisons.

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