Jens Risom was a master of mid-century modern design, whose peers included Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia and Charles Eames. Over the course of an extraordinarily long career, he helped bring modern Scandinavian style to the USA and created iconic designs that found their way into museums, art galleries, and the White House.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Risom immigrated to the US in the late 1930s, where he met Hans Knoll and helped launch his new furniture company, Knoll. He remained with Knoll until he was drafted to serve in the US Army in 1943. After being discharged, he established his own design house, Jens Risom Design.
Characterized by wood construction, clean lines and superior craftsmanship, Risom’s furniture designs presented a slightly gentler, less rigid style than that of the other Danish modernists of the time. He believed in functionality and comfort, which can be seen in pieces like his low-slung, padded A-Chair and his 2009 Risom Rocker. His iconic Risom Lounge Chair (1943) was constructed from discarded military parachute straps; one of his executive office chairs was later chosen for Lyndon Johnson’s White House.
After selling Jens Risom Design in the 1970s he started a new company, Design Control, where he worked as a consultant and freelance designer. In the early 2000s, although theoretically retired, he returned to the design world when already in his 80s. Risom worked right up until 2015, when at the age of 99 he collaborated with Chris Hardy on the Ven storage collection for Design Within Reach. Ralph Pucci International celebrated the 100th birthday of the last surviving modernist of his generation by mounting a travelling exhibition of his work from the 1950s and 1960s. Jens Risom passed away in December 2016.
Cover image courtesy of Knoll.