Poul Henningsen Design Values: A Beautiful Vision

Continuing PH Magazine’s series of interviews with the Founder and CEO of PH Furniture Søren Vincents Svendsen, we find out what happened following the impulse purchase of the piano that would change the direction of his career. This article is a continuation from the previous post ‘Accidently on Purpose: An Unexpected Love Affair

PH Magazine: Søren, tell us what happened next, after you had revived PH’s Piano design and started to produce the PH Grand Piano, which quickly began to sell really well? 

SVS: Maybe I should emphasise here that the beginning of all this is really based on a accident, that I happened to buy an old PH Grand Piano which I definitely loved and I felt something for and I saw the beauty – but there was no reason why I should buy a piano. Anyway, this brought us to the point we are at today, where this chance encounter with an old PH Grand Piano lead the company to acquire the rights to produce the PH Grand Piano once more. Once we had the piano business and beautiful big destination shop on Bredgade in Copenhagen, the next logical step was to look at other Poul Henningsen archival designs which could complement the PH Grand Piano, which we eventually did in 2014. We wanted to create an ‘experience’ that extended from Poul Henningsen’s piano to a wider PH ‘lifestyle’ that reflected PH’s design values, which we feel are extremely relevant to contemporary living in the 21st Century. 

We started to focus on the furniture designs which we were aware existed, but we had no idea about how many furniture designs would be in the PH’s archive. The only thing we knew at that time that there would be a lot of steel tube furniture that PH designed based on the German Bauhaus tradition. It is the steel tube furniture pieces that have received the most attention in the history books  – if anything at all – as nothing much has been said about Poul Henningsen’s furniture designs.

PH Magazine: What did you discover in Poul Henningsen’s archive of designs?

SVS: We agreed with the family again that we should take the lead on the furniture. PH designed so many pieces – more than sixty in total. It came as a surprise that he actually designed more wooden furniture pieces than we had anticipated. The first piece he designed in 1919, when he was only 25 years old: the PH Dressing Table. It is definitely at that time that he also started to focus his interest on lighting as a discipline. PH designed this totally incredible beautiful delicate dressing table – we believe – with his Mother in mind. We also have to stress that he developed his interest for the lighting because he wanted to make his Mother look better. His Mother complained about bad lighting which made her feel less attractive and he wanted to solve her problems of self-perception with his designs. So in this respect the PH Dressing Table and much of PH’s interest in lighting and mirrors was inspired by this need: ultimately he designed a lot of things for women or with the mindset that they should appeal to women. 

PH Magazine: What were the challenges of reviving PH’s archived designs?

SVS: For a lot of the pieces we do not have a lot of designs already manufactured or prototyped from the past, but more often just an old black and white picture in low resolution. As a result, we have taken three years to develop the PH Collection of seventeen pieces, with five more in the pipeline.

PH Magazine: Tell us about the current PH Furniture Collection that officially launched at the beginning of 2018? 

SVS: Poul Henningsen wanted to be provocative in so many ways and for that reason we now have Collection of furniture pieces that are unique, impressive and definitely not mainstream. They provoke, they stimulate thinking, they talk to you like any other art pieces and of course they are deeply functional. PH represents functionalism: they can be used by a household on a daily basis but they are something special: there is an extra dimension. They reflect the fact that the designer behind it all had this courage, desire, willingness to go up against the establishment and only by doing that he could do something extraordinary. It’s definitely inspiring and motivating to work with products which are so extraordinary, uniquely impressive and very, very different from the rest. It’s a privilege to work with such products. 

PH Magazine: Thank you. In the third part of our discussion we look forward to discovering more about the furniture pieces and your plans for the evolution of the PH Furniture Collection.