Poul Henningsen (‘PH’) was inspired to create furniture that improved upon all that had gone before him. Using his knowledge as an architect and designer – and later inspired by the Bauhaus movement in Germany – PH was able to create furniture that is as refreshing to the senses in contemporary times as it was during his lifetime. PH was unapologetically non-conformist and in order to truly innovate, he abandoned many of the traditional concepts of what furniture ‘should’ look like: this most evident in the construct of the legs of his furniture which are anything but conventional.
Curved legs feature on the Pope chair, a styling that provides both stability and that also allows the chair to occupy less floor space beneath the seat than chairs with four legs that meet the floor at the corners. PH applied a similar philosophy to the Lounge Chair, noting that the shaped of the tubular chromed steel legs not only looked aesthetically pleasing, but also allowed the occupant of the chair to sit with minimum intervention from the structure at floor level.
The PH Snake Chair and Snake Stool utilises one single piece of steel tubing to form both the base and the back of the chair, creating seating that is both flexible, ergonomic and streamlined. The PH Snake furniture achieves superior function with just one leg, rather than the three or four commonly seen in designs for chairs and stools.
PH’s unique structural aesthetics can also be seen in the collection of tables he created. Whether to make a statement of strength or of minimalism, PH saw the opportunity to be progressive with the design of the legs on all his tables.
Henningsen’s Dining Table gives the illusion that it is almost floating on air, due to it’s minimal chromed legs and the spherical detail at the bottom of each legs that appears almost to visually separate it from contact with the floor.
When realising the Axe Table and Board Tables, Poul Henningsen made a feature of the table legs, which are shaped like a traditional axe handle, symbolising strength, utility and also a simple, honest beauty. The original Axe Table was made using eight axe handles PH had brought back from a trip to Canada: upon his return to Denmark, he simply added a table top to create the first prototype.
The PH Circle Table has refined, simple wooden legs, purposely placed so they would be least obstructive when guests are seated. Henningsen did not believe that a table should simply have four legs, instead he felt that the location of the legs was more important to the provision of overall strength, function and the enjoyment of the piece of furniture.
All of PH’s Tables feature legs that are carefully placed so that they are unobtrusive and therefore do not directly influence where those sitting at the table should be seated – chairs can be placed at any point around the tables and there is purposefully not a defined head of the table.
The PH Grand Chest of Drawers, Small Chest of Drawers and PH Stool also feature a tiny but significant detail, which is the delineation between the four legs and the main ‘body’ of the furniture, to demonstrate the difference between what is carrying and what is being carried.
The PH Dressing Table features the most elegant of thin, streamlined legs, that appear almost too delicate to hold it in place, yet the construction of the furniture means quite the opposite is true: it is extremely strong and stable. The PH Grand Chest of Drawers, PH Small Chest of Drawers and PH Stool feature Cabriole legs paired with a straight, rectangular body – suggesting a convergence of modernity with traditional design, creating unique furniture with two very distinct features.
Poul Henningsen’s PH Grand Piano design features curved legs cast in aluminium: these are far more subtle than the large, straight legs that are found beneath most standard grand piano designs from any period in the history of the instrument. The result is that the eye is drawn to the other features of the PH Grand Piano and also it’s player, rather than the structure which is supporting it. The musician Leo Mathieson suggested to PH that curved legs would mean it would also be possible to store his large drum under the piano post-performance. PH liked the idea that listeners would gather at the PH Grand Piano as it was being played and his curved leg design also makes it easy for people to stand around the instrument at any point.
Poul Henningsen stands apart from many contemporary furniture designers due to his fearlessness in challenging the concepts of furniture construction at a every level. PH designed his furniture for maximum utility but also for visual enjoyment. By setting himself free from time-honoured furniture design concepts, PH was able to create furniture that is of superior functionality and a pleasure to experience: PH’s furniture creations can be considered masterpieces of innovation from the ground up!