Expert Ease: Design Icon Bodil Kjaer

It might be, as 86-year-old Danish architect/furnishings designer Bodil Kjaer says, the “umpteenth” time she and her midcentury modern work have been “rediscovered,” but she couldn’t be happier.

Debuting at Milan’s Salone del Mobile and New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair this past spring, Elements of Architecture is a small group of Kjaer’s best known designs that have lain dormant for decades. Now, these pieces are available to the public at design resource SUITE NY, with more styles coming soon. Prices are accessible, too, much less than that of her famous desk, which has been listed for $44,000, perhaps due to its appearance in three James Bond movies and the “Kingsman” film series.

The upholstered bench, dating from 1959, exudes classic, midcentury elegance; its “floating” legs add stability.

Created by Kjaer as “solutions to problems of a functional or aesthetic nature in the interior work I did between 1955 and 1963,” the collection is handcrafted, following her original dimensions and proportions and being “updated with contemporary materials and methods,” she says. One of her favorites is the desk whose chrome metal legs are now an on trend oxblood red. And while the newest machinery can do what before necessitated handwork, Kjaer is involved in every aspect of production to ensure that quality is not compromised.

The Crosses Vase of handblown glass was introduced in 1961 and features an inner wall to support flowers for a more natural look. Available in clear, smoke and green and in three sizes.

Kjaer trained and worked as an architect, but was also a city planner, university professor and furniture designer in the U.S. and abroad. Her scores of well-known projects include the furniture she made for such prestigious institutions as the Yale School of Architecture, Wellesley College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology; with her most celebrated work being the flexible series of office furniture she created in the 1960s, in response to what was available at the time, which she found “clumsy and confining.”

MODEL 71 ARMCHAIR Originally designed in 1959, the upholstered chair with detachable seat and back cushions sports polished metal legs.

Typical of her attention to detail are Kjaer’s upholstered pieces. Disliking the one-piece cushions found on most museum benches because they shifted whenever someone got up or sat down, for example, she made her version with separate, inlaid cushions. Problem solved.

“I’ve had a life, not a career,” says Kjaer with a smile. Even today, while often at home in Denmark, she continues the research that will affect future design, participates in seminars and of course, oversees Elements of Architecture.

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