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Exploring the craft in John Pawson and Dinesen's new furniture collection
Experience the fusion of Danish craftsmanship and British design in the Pawson Furniture Collection
Image: Claus Troelsgaard

Exploring the craft in John Pawson and Dinesen's new furniture collection

Understanding the Pawson Furniture Collection, where three decades of innovation and a passion for wood have resulted in pieces that redefine modern furniture design.

by Aarthi Mohan
Published on : Jun 10, 2024

In the Danish lexicon, Umage represents a philosophy of going beyond what is expected or considered possible. This ethos is aptly captured in the new made-to-order furniture collection by Dinesen, a Denmark-based manufacturer of handcrafted wooden flooring and products and John Pawson, a revered British designer. Their collaboration, which has flourished over three decades has now culminated into the Pawson Furniture Collection. Having previously collaborated on projects varying in scale and type such as private homes, exhibitions, museums and chapels, the new collection distils the essence of Umage into a series of beautifully handcrafted pieces.

Dinesen and Pawson's partnership began in 1992, the year when the architect designed his private home in Notting Hill, London. Inspired by Dinesen’s Douglas fir planks, he envisioned and developed an innovative design solution; laying the planks uncut from the front to the back of the house. This groundbreaking approach extended to designing bespoke furniture pieces like a table and stool design, fabricated from the same width boards as the flooring. This project was a turning point for Dinesen, propelling their wood from a material reserved for castles, manors and churches to a key element in modern design. Pawson's vision saw the floor become a crucial architectural element, giving the space a sense of direction. The bespoke furniture designs for Pawson House showcase Dinesen's joinery in new and unexpected ways. The Pawson Furniture Collection is based on the span of a Dinesen floorboard, whose pared-back forms consequently appear to be lifted directly out of the floor.

Pawson's latest collection includes both a Dining series and the new complementary Lounge series. The dining series is a reimagined version of the designer’s original 1992 design which consists of a dining table, bench and stool. This iteration introduces a shadow gap detail, where the fir planks are paired with slender inserts of Dinesen Oak, subtly highlighting the spaces between the boards. The stools and benches maintain a minimalist design, crafted from single Douglas fir boards with solid central spines.

Complementing the dining series is the lounge series, which offers new pieces such as a lounge chair, a lounge table, a sofa, and a daybed. These are made from solid Douglas wood and upholstered with textiles from the Danish company Kvadrat. The sofa and armchair design features side elevations that showcase the beauty of the boards, while the cushions add to the layered aesthetic. The daybed and coffee table echo the dining table design but in a lower form which is perfect for relaxed, casual settings.

Pawson’s design philosophy centred on simplicity and the inherent beauty of materials, has had a significant influence on contemporary design and architecture. His work encourages a mindful approach to space and form, promoting a sense of calm and clarity. Thus, by stripping away the non-essential, each piece becomes a testament to the power of minimalism where the design reveals the essence of the wood, creating pieces that are both functional and poetic. This approach has inspired a new generation of designers to prioritise material integrity and simplicity in their work.

Reflecting on the collection, the British architect shared, “When I look at this new collection for Dinesen, I see the essence of the thinking that has shaped my work since the beginning. Everything about these pieces is pared back to the logic and poetry of the wood. The dimensions of timber determine the proportions of the forms and then it’s all about the inherent sensory character of the material.”

The roots of the furniture designer’s minimalistic approach can be traced back to his formative years. Born in Halifax, Yorkshire in 1949, he initially worked in the family textile business before moving to Japan. There, he taught English at Nagoya University of Commerce and Business and later in Tokyo, where he was influenced by the minimalist aesthetics of Japanese culture, particularly through his encounters with designer Shiro Kuramata. After returning to England, Pawson enrolled at the Architectural Association in London and later established his practice in 1981. His work consistently explores fundamental aspects of space, proportion, light, and materials, avoiding stylistic mannerisms in favour of simplicity and clarity.

Over the years, the architect has designed a wide array of projects, from private homes to public spaces, including the Calvin Klein collection’s flagship store in Manhattan, airport lounges for Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong and the interior of a 50-metre yacht. Noteworthy is his work in historically and ecologically significant environments, such as the Sackler Crossing at London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the remodelling of the Commonwealth Institute in London, now home to the Design Museum.

Thomas Dinesen, the fourth generation in his family business, reflects on how meeting Pawson changed things. “When we met John Pawson in 1992, we provided planks only for castles, manors and churches and at that time, they were conical Douglas fir planks only. He was the first to request our wood for a private home and wanted planks of the same width (450 mm). Pawson has in many ways changed our relationship with the 'plank' from a restoration material for historic buildings to a design element in modern architecture," he says.

Sustainability is a core tenet of Dinesen’s philosophy. The company sources its timber from responsibly managed forests, ensuring that each piece of wood is harvested with respect for the environment. This commitment extends to the crafting process, where skilled artisans maximise the use of each plank, minimising waste. The longevity and durability of the furniture also contribute to its sustainability, as these pieces are designed to be cherished and used for generations.

Since Thomas Dinesen stepped down in 2021, his son Hans Peter has continued to nurture the collaboration with Pawson. Reflecting on their enduring relationship, Peter shares, "More than 30 years after Dinesen and John Pawson first met, we reflect on how far we have come but also to shape our future course. John has had a great impact on the way we view architecture and wood. When John ordered our wood for the first time, it was a renaissance for our flooring and the plank itself that became a collection. Together with Pawson, we have refined our heritage furniture collection and added new pieces to pay tribute to our shared joy in the simple and classic."

The Pawson Furniture Collection represents more than just furniture; it embodies a long-standing partnership rooted in a shared passion for craftsmanship, simplicity and the unique potential of wood. This collaboration not only celebrates the past achievements of Dinesen and Pawson but also paves the way for future innovations in the world of handcrafted wooden furniture. The collection will be officially launched during 3daysofdesign in Copenhagen, Denmark from June 12 - 14, 2024.

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