Accidentally On Purpose: An Unexpected Love Affair

Behind every start up business is usually an entrepreneur with vision, drive, passion, creativity and emotion. PH Furniture is no different….in a series of interviews we spent some time with PH Furniture’s Founder Søren Vincents Svendsen at the head office on Bredgade in Copenhagen to learn more about his personal and professional journey with Poul Henningsen designed PH Pianos and PH Furniture.

PH Magazine: Søren, how did your story with PH Furniture begin?’

SVS: Probably I saw the PH Lamp for many years but the first time I first encountered a spectacular PH product was at an office space very close to where we are sitting now. I saw an old PH Grand Piano and despite the fact that I don’t play on a piano, I can’t read a note (seriously, I cannot) I really just noticed this piano as piece of art …it was stunning, it was out of the box. I was fascinated by this grand piano even though I couldn’t play on it. And the point was the owner of that particular grand piano needed some cash, so I bought it…but I didn’t know what to do with it.

For sure, I didn’t have the space at my own place to have it so basically I needed to re-sell it as fast as possible. I found this piano shop in this fantastic location in Central Copenhagen on Bredgade where there would be an opportunity to sell it and I agreed that the piano shop would be able to sell it on my behalf and of course they would get some kind of commission. And then they brought the piano in here. I still remember the day it was being taken out of that office: they brought a big crane and blocked the traffic for an hour on the busiest street in Copenhagen. It was a nightmare. I didn’t even want to look at it! 

PH Magazine: But what you didn’t realise at the time was this was the beginning of an unexpected  love affair with a rare but beautiful musical instrument that is also regarded as piece of art? Though quickly your perception of the PH Grand Piano changed from regarding it as an impulsive purchase to a business opportunity: you had the vision to realise that the PH Grand Piano design fulfilled a need in the market for a piano that releases the concept of the instrument from it’s traditional wooden casing?

SVS: Yes. The reality is at that time I was working in academia and every day I walked by the piano in the shop and I noticed how much attention that piano was receiving from people standing there admiring it and talking about it. And that’s the whole point about everything Poul Henningsen created – they are pieces of art that talk to you and inspire thoughts of your own. And that’s how it is with art, it talks to you and makes you think. It was surrounded by all the traditional pianos ‘black boxes’ as I call them, with all due respect for the craftsmanship, but the PH Grand Piano could do something more. It can inspire people, make people dream, it inspires a lot of thoughts. So I decided to go to to family of Poul Henningsen and ask if I could have the opportunity of producing more of his spectacular piano. 

Eventually we agreed with the family of the late Poul Henningsen (who had died in 1967) that we should produce his piano in a unique way to previous versions. Concerning the technique we would use, the quality of the sound had to be as good as PH’s visual design. The old PH pianos have a reputation for not being such good instruments because of unreliable sound quality: we wanted to overcome that problem with our production. So we went to Blüthner in Leipzig which is one of the most esteemed family owned German piano manufacturers. Christian Blüthner had the vision and the ambition to go forward, and because of this innovative thinking we agreed to partner with Blüthner to manufacture the piano.

So we started. We introduced the piano on the international market in the Frankfurt Musikmesse in March 2012. And now we have the PH Grand Piano available in two sizes which has a sound quality as outstanding as the design. When you see it, it makes you smile. It is a piece of art, world-class Danish design.

PH Magazine: The chance encounter with the PH Piano was of course only the beginning of the story behind PH Pianos and PH Furniture.…once you had revived the Poul Henningsen designed piano, you then discovered PH’s archives of furniture designs. We look forward to hearing about this in part two of our discussion.