Mid Century Makers: Kai Kristiansen

We’ve been delaying writing this article for some time.

We’ve been delaying writing it because we feel like the work of Kai Kristiansen is a relatively well-kept secret that we have an interest in maintaining.

When people think Danish Modern designers, they think Wegner, Mogensen, Jalk et al.

The name Kristiansen is very rarely at the forefront of people’s minds. 

We have several theories as to why, but the one that we find most plausible is scarcity.  

See, Kai Kristiansen was in his pomp in an era when mass production was in full swing.

Pretty much all the designs of the guys we just listed would have at one point or another been made in relatively large numbers.

More pieces = more visibility = greater renown.

Kristiansen bucks that trend some.

Now it would be easy to conclude that his designs were made in smaller numbers and less frequently because they were somehow less desirable.

But that just isn’t true.

The reality is that manufacturers struggled to make them in such large quantities because the attention to detail proved too difficult to recreate en masse.  

If you take the time to study his pieces, you’ll see immaculate joints, a complete absence of any extraneous elements and some design details that will make you swoon.

All of which is why we’ve been sitting on this article.

We feel a strange and irrational sense of ownership over his designs and a part of us doesn’t want to share them. 

But share we will. To the questions…

Where to Buy Kai Kristiansen Furniture?

If you want original, mid century Kai Kristiansen furniture, then head to the usual suspect like 1st Dibs, Pamono and eBay.

Remember, shopping for vintage furniture through eBay can be a bit of a lottery so bear that in mind when making your choice.

We always try to stock original Kai Kristiansen pieces so we’d like to think we are a good option as well.

Do get in touch if you have specific requirements.

You can also buy some new Kai Kristiansen furniture through the likes of Kozai Modern and Great Dane.

We’ve never actually seen any in the flesh, though, so we can’t attest to the quality.

That’s not to say we have doubts. Just talking in the interests of full disclosure.

Where is Kai Kristiansen From?

Kai Kristiansen was born in Denmark in 1929.

Notice the question above is in the present tense.

Mr Kristiansen is alive and active. This makes us very happy.

What does Kai Kristiansen do?

Make some really great furniture for one.

His oeuvre is diverse and extensive, but it is defined by all the hallmarks of the best Danish Modern furniture.

As we said, he is still working despite being in his 80’s. We’ve read some heartening articles about turning up in Japanese workshops to ensure quality control.

When he’s not gallivanting, he lives and works in Copenhagen.

Where is Kai Kristiansen Furniture Made?

Mainly in his homeland, though as we have mentioned some of his classic designs are now made under license in Japan.

What is Kai Kristiansen Furniture Made From?

Expect to see a lot of teak. Like, loads. 

There was also rosewood and oak in the mix, too.

But teak was really where he seemed most comfortable.

How to Identify Kai Kristiansen Furniture

Almost every item we have acquired has been stamped, labelled or marked.

Some of that was only the maker’s mark, however.

If you're looking at something by Feldballes Mobelfabrik (see above), Schou Andersen Møbelfabrik, Magnus Olesen, Axel Kjærsgaard or Heltborg you may be in luck.

(View our article on ambiguous Danish Modern maker's marks for more.)

Don’t, however, dismiss something because it isn’t stamped.

A little bit of online research should give you a clear idea of what his pieces looked like.

The finish and the attention to detail should make it clear to you whether an item is legitimate.

What is Kai Kristiansen Most Famous For?

Aside from being a legend, you mean?

We’ll be honest on this one and say we haven’t seen much about his personal life or any other projects outside of organising the Scandinavian Furniture Fair in the late 1960’s.

Really, it was all about his work and his craft so we’re not going to waste any time speculating on what else he may have done.

What’s Kai Kristiansen Most Famous Design?

That one is easier to answer.

It’s got to be one of two: the #42 Chair, which is sometimes referred to as the Z-chair, or the Reolsystem wall unit.

Both of these designs were successful around the world.

Both of these designs could also take their place in the very upper echelons of the best mid century furniture design.

Is Kai Kristiansen Furniture Valuable?

Yes and no.

As we said at the top of this article, Kristiansen is not as well-known as some of his contemporaries.

This means that it only a more educated audience would understand the true value of the piece.

A smaller pool means that the items are harder to sell than they would be if they were, for example, made by Hans Wegner.

This is probably good news for buyers.

That is not to say they aren’t valuable, because the build quality alone would suggest otherwise. 

It’s just an insight into the market.

However, all of this is subject to change.

It’s difficult for us to find the words to say this but the value of an artist’s work always rises precipitously after they have passed.

We’re going to leave it there because this is a very morbid subject and we’d rather celebrate his craft.

How to Care for Your Kai Kristiansen Furniture

A coat of Danish oil or our very own beeswax every six months will go a long way to ensuring that the wood retains its natural lustre.

Upholstery work should always be carried out by a professional.

Don’t sand veneer furniture. If there is a blemish that is driving you to distraction, seek the help of a professional.

If all this has got you pining after some Kai Kristiansen furniture of your own, why not check our collection.

If Danish Modern or mid century furniture is all you need, then take yourself to one of those collections instead.

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