The A-Z of Interior Design - J is for...

Jacobsen, Arne - The Great Dane of Furniture History

The three-legged, Ant chair, model 3100, catapulted Danish-born Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) into the design history books in the 1950s.

Original Ant chairs

The Ant chair decorated by fashion designer, Paul Smith for the Jamie Oliver Better Food Foundation
Photography: David Loftus

Manufacturers Fritz Hansen originally were not too impressed with Jacobsen's original Ant chair, which he designed for a canteen. The iconic lightweight Ant chair (photographed above), with the seat and back made from one piece of moulded wood, was followed by the 3107, often referred to as the Series 7 chair - the most successful item in Danish furniture history. Over five million have been manufactured and sold worldwide.

Series 7 

Nature-loving Jacobsen originally wanted to be a painter, and this is evident in his masterful design drawings. He produced exquisite nature studies, watercolours and hand-drawn Christmas cards for close friends. As well as the famous Egg chair - architect, furniture, interior, ceramic and textile designer, Jacobsen, who set up his own design studio in 1930 - was also responsible for many iconic buildings in Denmark, Britain and Germany.

The Egg (above) with a star-shaped aluminium and satin polished steel pedestal is available in fabric or leather upholstery with a curvaceous matching footstool.

Towards the end of the 1950s, Jacobsen designed the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen and it was for this project that he designed the Egg, the Swan, the Swan sofa and Series 3300.

Jacobsen was greatly inspired by the bent plywood designs of Charles and Ray Eames and the Italian design historian, Ernesto Rogers, who believed that all design, however large or small the scale, was important “from the spoon to the city.” Jacobsen was also in awe of ancient Greek designs saying: "The primary factor is proportions. Proportions are what makes the old Greek temples classic in their beauty. They are like huge blocks, from which the air has been literally hewn out between the columns.”

Arne Jacobsen
In the 1960s, Jacobsen concentrated on classic forms like the circle, cylinder, triangle and cube. All of Jacobsen’s designs went on to become international design classics gracing interiors across the world.
2012 saw Jacobsen’s Ant chair in the limelight as historic furniture company, Republic of Fritz Hansen, donated twenty Ant chairs to be customised by famous artists and then auctioned to raise money for the Jamie Oliver Better Food Foundation and the Fifteen project, helping young people train for careers in the catering industry. Fashion houses, designers and artists including Liberty, Cath Kidston, Paul Smith, Quentin Blake and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen stamped the Ant chairs with their own style.

In 2014, Jacobsen's designs remain vibrant and exciting as another classic, The Drop™ chair is reintroduced.  See more about Arne Jacobsen at Artsy.

The Drop Chair
Images courtesy of Fritz Hansen

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