Lesser known than her Danish compatriots Arne Jacobsen and Finn Juhl, the architect and designer Nanna Ditzel (1923-2005) nevertheless occupies a place of choice in the pantheon of the great Scandinavian designers of the 20th century. Some of her creations have remained very popular in the minds of Danes and have acquired an iconic status in the history of post-war furniture. A look back at a career of exceptional longevity (1/2 century) marked by remarkable design pieces
Nanna Ditzel studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and graduated in 1943 with a degree in cabinetmaking. Kaare Klint (1888-1954) (https://www.design-market.fr/), considered the father of Danish design, was one of her teachers. In 1946, she finished her university studies and obtained a degree in architecture. However, it was in the world of furniture design that Nanna Ditzel spent her entire career.
This career spans almost 5 decades and can be divided into 3 main phases. It was at the Academy of Fine Arts that Nanna Ditzel met her first husband and collaborator, Jørgen Ditzel (1921-1961), an upholsterer. The couple established their design studio. During the 50’s and until the premature death of her husband, Nanna Ditzel will make a name for herself in the post-war design world.
In the first part of her career, Nanna Ditzel with her husband designed furniture faithful to the DNA of modern Danish design: simplicity, comfort and quality, such as the “Ring” armchair that the couple created in 1958. The seats they designed are in the spirit of those created by Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007), another legendary Danish designer, armchairs with slightly curved backs.
The Ditzel couple works with very different materials. As true Scandinavians, they work with wood, especially teak, but they also do not hesitate to work with other materials such as wicker or rattan. In 1959, they made an egg-shaped armchair suspended in rattan. Particularly noticed for this piece that has become an icon of vintage design, the couple reached notoriety.
Together, Nanna & Jørgen Ditzel won various international awards – silver and gold medals at the Milan Triennale -. In 1956, they received the Lunning Award, the most prestigious annual award in Scandinavian design. A protean designer, Nanna Ditzel works with glass and rubber, and produces not only furniture, but also textile and jewelry pieces, not to mention tableware. In 1954, she began a collaboration with the Danish silverware company Georg Jensen. This collaboration shows the taste of the designer for an organic design that follows the lines of the body. Her jewelry is elegant, sleek, and made to last. The pieces she designed for Jensen are still in the Swedish silver house’s catalog today!
After the death of her husband in 1961, Nanna Ditzel continued her successful career in the 1960s. In particular, she created the famous “Toadstool” series of stools, which was an immediate success and marked its era
In 1968, she married a second time, to German businessman Kurt Heide. The couple lived in London for almost 20 years. She continued to work for Danish and British companies. Together they set up an international design center and showroom called Interspace. This was a period during which the designer experimented with new materials, such as fiberglass
This second chapter of Nanna Ditzel’s life came to an end in 1985, when her second husband died. Nanna Ditzel returned to Copenhagen, set up her own studio and began a third and very active part of her life. During the 1980’s and into the 2000’s, the designer designed more daring and expressive furniture pieces. Her collaboration with the Danish publisher Fredericia Furniture (in existence since 1911) led to the creation of the Bench for two with its screen-printed finish, and the Trinidad chair, which instantly became a hit for the Danish furniture manufacturer, which at one point was producing a thousand chairs a month to meet demand!
Nanna Ditzel has been creating furniture with a strong personality ever since. How about the extraordinary design of the Buttefly chair, which evokes a butterfly? Ninna Ditzel remained active until the end of her life. In 1999, for example, for the centenary of the Danish manufacturer Getama, she developed a series of furniture designed to redesign the interior of a sofa and an armchair. Internationally recognized, Nanna Ditzel symbolizes an elegant, distinctive and quality design. She remains one of Denmark’s most acclaimed designers
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