Culture

The Danish enfilade, THE classic of Scandinavian design

Among post-war design furniture, the Scandinavian sideboard remains a timeless classic for any vintage design lover. There is not a single contemporary furniture company that does not have a Scandinavian-style sideboard in its catalogue! This article looks at the reasons why this piece of furniture has become a classic of Scandinavian, and more specifically Danish, design. It is no coincidence that the success of the Danish enfilade was part of the golden age of Scandinavian design furniture (1935-1965) …

In France, well before the 20th century, the enfilade was often equated with a sideboard. During the Directoire period, it was made of walnut or elm burl, then in the 19th century of mahogany. At the beginning of the 20th century, it followed the evolution of styles – we were in the middle of the Art Deco period – and became flirtatious by displaying exotic wood colours, in this case rosewood.

Directoire sideboard in cherry wood and elm burr for the door panels, drawer fronts and pilasters.
antiquités Lecomte
Wild cherry wood and elm burr Directoire sideboard for the door panels, the drawer fronts and the pilasters.
Opening of the 3 drawers. antiquités Lecomte
Art Deco sideboard with glazed space, entirely made of solid mahogany, except for the top, 1920
Art Deco sideboard with glazed space, entirely made of solid mahogany, except for the top, 1920. Opening of the cupboards.
antiquités Lecomte

The pure Scandinavian enfilade appeared in Scandinavian countries after the Second World War. Present in many Scandinavian homes (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland), it became a classic of the Nordic interior, before being exported more widely in Europe.

Let’s start by defining what we mean by “Scandinavian sideboard”. It is a piece of furniture made up of at least three “enfilade” parts, consisting of several modules with alternating hinged or sliding doors, as well as drawer units, and sometimes, if you feel like getting thirsty, bar shelves that open out. This is a low sideboard whose originality is that it seems to “float” in suspension, generally resting on a half-height base. While the depth of this piece of furniture is modest, even small, it is not uncommon to find enfilades that are over 200 cm long!

Exceptional large Scandinavian enfilade, designer: Ib Kofod-Larsen for Faarup Møbelfabrik, 1960s. Furniture in rosewood with a length of 230 cm. design Market
Exceptional large Scandinavian sideboard, designer: Ib Kofod-Larsen for Faarup Møbelfabrik, 1960s. Furniture in rosewood with a length of 230 cm, focus on storage space. design Market

The Scandinavians have popularised this furniture with a style that reflects their lifestyle and the way they see design. It is a wooden piece of furniture that brings a certain warmth to a room, with straight lines and sometimes some curves. The lines are aerial and the volumes rectilinear, a rather pure style in short which leaves no room for ornamentation… Scandinavian furniture hates to do too much! The simplicity of the lines and impeccable finish are complemented by the desire to make the sideboard a practical piece of furniture with sliding doors, storage space, correctly sized and therefore

storage space, correctly sized and therefore comfortable. Finally, the Scandinavian sideboard has compass legs and discreet cut-out handles on the front.

Danish vintage sideboard in rosewood with 4 sliding doors. design Market
Danish vintage sideboard in rosewood with 4 sliding doors. Inside the cabinet: drawers and storage space.
designMarket

Minimalist, simple and functional: three qualities that we attribute to the Scandinavian sideboard and that we find in the genes of Nordic design. To this we should add the warmth of light wood (pine, fir, birch, beech, maple, light oak) in contrast to the very “mechanical and cold” design of Bauhaus. It should be remembered that many of the greatest Scandinavian designers began their furniture apprenticeship with wood, THE primary natural resource in their countries. Among the master cabinetmakers are the Danes Kaare Klint – considered the father of modern Danish design – and Hans J. Wegner, the Finnish Alvar Aalto, who in the 1920s introduced new methods for gluing and bending plywood, and the Swede Bruno Mathsson, heir to a line of master cabinetmakers…

Cuban mahogany sideboard, design Kaare Klint for Rud. Rasmussen Cabinetmakers, early 1930s © 1stdibs
Sideboard, model RY-25, design Hans J. Wegner. Oak wood, rosewood legs and louvered doors. pamono
Sideboard, model RY-25, design Hans J. Wegner. Oak wood, rosewood legs and louvered doors. Sliding door opening. pamono

At this point in the article, you may be wondering why we call it a “Danish enfilade”? It seems that the Danes, not content with having an exceptional generation of designers in the post-war period (Hans WEGNER, Arne JACOBSEN, Borge MOGENSEN, Verner PANTON, …), were able to industrialise their production as efficiently as possible. It should be noted that one of the characteristics of Scandinavian design is to offer cheap furniture accessible to the general public. The furniture industry also developed exceptionally well in Denmark in the 1950s and 1960s, thanks to a network of very active furniture publishers and manufacturers. The most famous and established are of course: Fritz Hansen, Søborg Møbelfabrik, Carl Hansen & Søn, FDB Møbler, Fredericia Stolefabrik, but there are also: Clausen and Søn, Faarup Møbelfabrik, Mogens Kold, Silkeborg Møbelfabrik or Brande Møbelfabrik.

Danish teak sideboard from Clausen and Søn, 1960s. The Danes have used teak extensively, as a trademark. pamono
Danish teak sideboard from the publisher Clausen and Søn in Silkeborg, 1960s. Detail of the manufacturer’s signature.
pamono
Danish vintage teak sideboard, design by Ib Kofod Larsen for Faarup Møbelfabrik, 1960 © Design Market
Danish vintage teak sideboard, design by Ib Kofod Larsen for Faarup Møbelfabrik, 1960. Viewed from the side, the elegant but discreet drawer handles are noticeable. design Market
Beautiful vintage Danish teak sideboard, model Mk 189, design Arne Hovmand-Olsen for Mogens Kold, 1960
© Design Market
Vintage Danish teak sideboard by Kurt Østervig for Brande Møbelfabrik, 1950
© Design Market

Just as there is an active base of manufacturers, some of them more anonymous, so too are the Danish designers of the time. In addition to the great names mentioned above, Finn Juhl, Børge Mogensen, Ole Wanscher and Arne Vodder also had contemporaries who were active in traditional Danish cabinet making. Their names are: Ib Kofold, Johannes Andersen, Niels Otto Moller, Illum Wikkelsø, Preben Juul Fabricius, Jørgen Kastholm, Arne Hovmand-Olsen, Kurt Østervig …

Vintage sideboard Model 20 by Niels O. Moller for JL Mollers Mobelfabrik, Denmark 1960 © Design Market
Vintage Danish teak sideboard by Johannes Andersen for Silkeborg, 1960 © Design Market

While the Danish teak sideboard is a hit, the materials are changing and so is the furniture. From the 1950s to the 1970s, light wood and teak gave way to laminates and other melamine materials. Departing from the minimalist Scandinavian design, the enfilades were gradually adorned with increasingly decorative trimmings… An error of taste for the purists of the Scandinavian sideboard.

François Boutard