Continuing PH Magazine’s series of interviews with Founder and CEO Søren Vincents Svendsen, we find out about what inspired him to start the PH Furniture brand and what is motivating his success. This article is a continuation from a previous post: ‘PH Values: A Beautiful Vision‘
PH Magazine: You have only been on the market for a few months with your new collection of PH Furniture and it must be very difficult to enter the market with new furniture products when there are already so many ‘heritage’ brands. How have you found the experience so far?
SVS: You’re totally right. Human nature is to be conservative and things have to be well-known and well-considered before it’s being accepted. In regard to the furniture pieces designed by Poul Henningsen we are dealing with a paradox: on the one side, the PH Furniture pieces are to be considered Danish design classics but on the other side they are totally new in the market. Due to our conservative – or one might say sceptical – nature, it’s never easy to go to market with something new and it’s a very long term project. In our case, this perception is being reinforced by the fact that the PH furniture pieces stand out and in many or most cases do not fit the mould of a Danish furniture design tradition. Besides, some may think that if it hasn’t been on the market for all these years, then it’s a clear sign that there is no market for PH’s furniture designs. We have been clearly proven over these very few months since the launch that there’s a future for PH Furniture and we’re extremely happy about that.
We have also been proven right that PH was always ahead of his time and the furniture pieces stand out as art pieces that – like all art – provoke and divide opinions. Honestly, we like it! That’s exactly what confirms us that there’s a way ahead but it’s a very long process to enter the market with such furniture pieces that go beyond traditional thinking and concepts like “taste” that PH hated: “There is no bad taste. There’s good taste and it’s bad”, as PH so cleverly said it!
PH Magazine: What makes Poul Henningsen’s Furniture Designs different from other furniture?
SVS: It is extraordinary that almost one hundred years ago Poul Henningsen (PH) created designs that even by today’s standards still belong very much to the future. Every product has a story to tell, PH’s furniture pieces are just not ‘ordinary’. They are beyond just functional products, because if it was just about functionality then there are plenty of chairs in the world to sit on already and I would not have launched a business selling more of them. The world does not need more chairs. With PH’s furniture, we have something that can move us further than simply fulfilling functional needs: we can also have a meaningful emotional connection with our surroundings. This legacy, these considerations of design deserve to be brought into the future, because I think there is a desire in the market for furniture that is forward-thinking beyond what has already been done before. That is really motivating to me.
This world needs magic and beauty and beautiful things. PH Furniture is a business and I do not want to sound naive. But we are doing this because we feel so strongly about the passion, the magic, mystery, the extraordinary and progressive ‘outside of the box’ way of thinking of PH.
I would find it very hard to consider it a mission in my life as a founder and CEO of PH Furniture to succeed if we were just mass producing furniture that was not in some way innovative and challenged the expectations of what furniture ‘should be’. Yet, I find there is something higher than money in this that is driving me.
It’s so fulfilling to work with products that you don’t need to talk up – you do not need to use marketing for creating a reality that the customer should buy in to. It is only necessary to tell the story and show the art pieces, thereby letting the PH designs speak for themselves. That process of spreading the message and creating awareness of the products is, however, a long term project.
PH Magazine: Tell us more about the the benefits of the furniture, not just from a functional perspective, but from the point of view of design and philosophy…
SVS: By choosing PH Furniture, you are taking a leap of faith in to selecting something that is ‘different’ from the norm. From a design perspective, PH Furniture is not about making a ‘safe’ choice or even an ‘easy’ one. Buying PH Furniture is about having the courage to be ‘different’ because ‘tradition’ and the ‘status-quo’ are not always ‘best’. If society only thought that way then we would not evolve and innovators would never succeed in their goals of taking the world as we know it forward in a positive direction. It is part of this progressive narrative in which I feel Poul Henningsen’s furniture creations belong.
The more we examine PH’s designs, the more we discover the absolute logic behind every aspect of them – that was aimed one hundred percent at progressing both the function and the beauty of the object – even if the finished designs are far different from our expectations of what a piece of furniture ‘should’ look like. Take the PH Grand Piano for example. When PH decided to re-design the concept of the piano he completely threw away the traditional perception of how a piano was expected to be. By ‘starting over’ PH arrived at a design for a piano that was like nothing ever seen before, yet his creation was both visually extremely beautiful and absolutely first-class in terms of function PH’s Grand Piano design is mesmerising in both appearance and sound. For this reason, the PH Grand Piano is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful piano designs and an object of desire by many of the people who have encountered it.
When our customers buy a piece of Poul Henningsen designed furniture, they are buying in to the history of furniture design from the beginning of the century and up till the mid-century and the ethos of the Bauhaus movement. Equally, a PH Furniture customer is also getting a piece of design history and an item for the home that solves a functional problem. They will also receive something that looks incredibly attractive that has been carefully designed and crafted with care from the finest materials. But most importantly, our customers are also gaining something PH Furniture can deliver that is very special: they are acquiring the freedom to live everyday with design that is – in the most beneficial of ways – part of ’a world less ordinary’.
PH Furniture is like art: it provokes and creates thoughts like any good art pieces. Isn’t it amazing that a piece of furniture fulfilling functional needs can also do so much more in your own home or workspace? It makes me confident that there’s a market for PH Furniture!