The Lost Sofa of Finn Juhl

Danish homes often contain many design classics, but once in a while a truly rare piece of furniture appears which has sometimes even been considered completely lost. This is the case at Bruun Rasmussen with an upholstered one-of-a-kind sofa from Finn Juhl’s younger days as a designer.

When I saw this sofa made by Juhl, I could hardly believe my own eyes. I have worked with Danish design throughout my entire career, but this is the most interesting piece of furniture I have ever had in my care. The sofa is known only from photographs in literature, and everyone in the design world thought it had been lost for good. With this find, I now consider one of the great mysteries in Danish design history as having been solved.

Peter Kjelgaard

Head of the Department for Design and Decorative Art at Bruun Rasmussen

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The Making of a Sofa and Two Chairs

The year is 1939, and Finn Juhl has dropped out of his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Architecture. Instead, he is working for the Danish architect Vilhelm Lauritzen on the construction of Radiohuset (The Radio House) on Frederiksberg. In his spare time, Juhl designs furniture for private customers, but this year he is also given the task of designing the interior for cabinetmaker Niels Vodder's stand at the Cabinetmakers' Guild Exhibition. The result is the unique sofa and two accompanying chairs, which we will soon present at auction.

Too Much for the Contemporary Taste

At the time, there were many who considered even Kaare Klint a bit too modern, so it should come as no surprise that this set of furniture by Finn Juhl was seen as controversial and provocative in its day. The shapes are sculptural and organic with references to modern art such as the playful style of Jean Arp.

In a review of the exhibition, the Danish newspaper Berlingske Aftenavis had the following comment: “The architect Finn Juhl has designed a very eccentric Living Room (…) The sofa is made in a strangely carved style. The peculiar furniture pieces are manufactured by Niels Vodder (…).”

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A Return to the Original Look

When we recently received the furniture pieces for auction from a Danish family, we decided to bring the sofa and the two chairs back to their original look. Over time, the furniture had been upholstered with new fabrics, and the wooden legs had been painted black. Since the old black and white photographs from the literature could only give us an impression of the original fabrics and colours to a limited extent, we were guessing at first.

However, a pleasant discovery by our regular upholsterer made us wiser, because when he removed the upholstery of the furniture, remnants of the original fabric from 1939 appeared. So now we know exactly what kind of look Finn Juhl intended for the furniture – charcoal grey wool and blue and white striped fabric on the seat cushions. We have now recreated this look.

The Auction and the Rest of the Story

Finn Juhl's sofa and the two chairs can without doubt be described as Danish cultural heritage. We are offering the furniture pieces as separate lots at the upcoming Live Auction in Copenhagen this December, and with the sofa's estimated value of DKK 1.5-2.5 million, it is the highest price we have placed on a 20th-century furniture piece in the history of the auction house. Stay tuned for the rest of the story about this unique sofa.

Watch Peter Kjelgaard describe the whole process behind the restoration of the furniture.

For further information, please contact:

Peter Kjelgaard: +45 8818 1191 / pkj@bruun-rasmussen.dk