Sets and NonSets in MidCentury and Danish Modern Furniture

by George Schwab

Top: A matching dining set. Bottom: An example of a creative mix of chairs used for dining, Source: George Marron to Mid Century Modern. Top: A matching dining set.

In the MidCentury and Danish Modern furniture market today and in the past there is a premium price paid on matching sets of pieces.

The understandable reason for this is that over the preceding 60 years many of the original furniture sets have been broken up and relative to the mid 20th century, few of those sets exist today. Hence, the higher prices paid for them. We’re talking about all kinds of sets: Dining room sets, living room sets, bedroom sets and matching sets of upholstered chairs and many other kinds of sets are hard to find. I’ll admit that sets of things (almost any collectible) give a sense of completeness to the owner. “I have the whole set!” is a declaration that expresses a deep satisfaction to the collector and gives them a warm feeling in their stomach. But what if instead of seeking the warm glow of completeness and uniformity, we seek the excitement of diversity and non symmetrical balance in the way we collect MidCentury and Danish modern furniture for our houses.

When I taught interior design and my student presented preliminary drawings that relied on bi-lateral symmetry as the basic organizing principle, I was always immediately suspicious. If we think of design in general, especially Architecture and Interior Design, we say that the best of it reflects the spirit of the time during which it was created. We can easily say that our times do not express a spirit of resolution, surety, completeness and certainty. Maybe that is why we collect MidCentury and Danish Modern furniture. That was the last time that we, as a culture, could say that resolution was possible and an expression of the spirit of the time. But we live in the early 21st Century and that resolution is not possible now.

If you’ve followed our blogs you know that Barbara and I are not purists when it comes to decorating our house. We love a number of styles of furniture and we mix them up as we decorate and redecorate the place. We struggle to find balance without symmetry and a tension in the design without radical juxtapositions of form.

Top: A gothic cathedral, an example of bi-lateral symmetry. Bottom: Frank Gehry building an example of non symmetrical architecture.

We like to mix things up. We think that diversity in the furniture and appointments brings an excitement to the space and one of the principal methods we use is to avoid the sameness of sets in any situations. Now to avoid the sameness of diversity, we have a set of Hans Wegner kitchen chairs matched with a Wegner kitchen table. It’s kind of like the exception that proves the rule. Our dining table from Raymour and Flannigan has seating from Eames, Wegner, K. Kristiansen, Finn Juhl, and West Elm (soon to be replaced.) Our bedrooms have beds built by our son, various Danish Modern dressers and dressers from Workbench. Our living room has a 19th Century Chinese credenza, a Hans Wegner daybed, a Stickley armchair a Danish Modern desk, a Kai Kristiansen chair and an ib Kofod Larsen armchair.

This litany of furniture and rooms illustrates our desire to furnish our house in an eclectic manner, avoiding sets and opting for diversity rather than uniformity, for plurality instead of sameness and for balance rather than symmetry.



Mixed furniture styles in our living room.