Kai Kristiansen an Industrious Designer
A personal har copy book about Kai Kristiansen and his work by Sisse Bro
From early start until today.
174 Pages of design history.
Preface from the book
Kai Kristiansen and I met for the first time during the Milan Furniture
Fair in 2017 when visiting the showroom of Japanese furni-
ture manufacturer, Miyazaki Chair Factory, and I was equally
surprised and fascinated to discover that Kristiansen, then
aged 87, was still actively working. Thanks to the contact we
made that day, only a few months later, we started working
together with the idea of a publication about his work.
Going through the vast majority of Danish design history books
and media archives, I soon realised that very little had been
said about him and his work. Despite having collaborated
with a considerable number of Danish furniture manufacturers
throughout his career as well as having designed commer-
cially successful furniture, Kristiansen had not received
much attention from the media or design critics. What struck
me was the vast presence of Kristiansen's furniture on social
media platforms, online, in auction house sales and, more
historically, in magazine advertisements. Despite the lack
of editorial interest, there is and has been a sincere general
interest in his designs.
Listening to Kristiansen's anecdotes, flicking through his personal
image archive and getting to know not only a kind and generous
person but also a dedicated and visionary designer, it quickly
became clear that his story and design portfolio should be
shared. As Kristiansen is with us today, here to offer both
memories and opinions, his own words will tell the story. This
insight into his life, ideas and achievements, is therefore
mainly personal and subjective; his stories are based on his
own experiences and views. Utterances about accomplishments
and beliefs as well as disappointments and doubts are all
shared to give as honest and nuanced an image as possible
As this is the first attempt to create an overview of Kristiansen's work
we have started from scratch gathering as much information
possible to create as broad and compelling a representation
as we can. Kristiansen has been highly productive throughout
this career, and we have chosen to focus on this productivity
with selected examples that reveal the width of his work as
well as highlight the characteristics of his design approach.
When Kristiansen thought he was going to retire in 2006, he decided to
clean out in his personal archive, which meant some information
has been forever lost. Some of the manufacturers Kristiansen
worked with do not exist anymore, while others have decided
not to preserve historical material. This publication is based
on the material available, from Kristiansen himself and from
the manufacturers and partners who have kindlv contributed
information. Should other documents appear, useful and rel-
evant for this collection of work, please contact us.
Besides purely documenting the work of Kai Kristiansen, this pub-
lication is also intended to honour his work by revealing
the popularity of his designs and to highlight the relevance
of his ways of working and thinking, ways that could per-
haps inspire and benefit others, designers, manufacturers or
entrepreneurs, for example. Kristiansen has lived and worked
out of the spotlight yet succeeded in building a steady design, career and family life.
This publication also aims to call
attention to the tremendous number of furniture makers all
over Denmark, whose great efforts to survive during the
20th century reinvented and modernised production. With
Kristiansen's story, we wish to add yet another chapter to
Danish design history.