Given the title of ‘The First Lady of Danish Furniture Design’, Nanna Ditzel (1923-2005) was one of the few women architects and designers of her time. Professionally trained as a cabinetmaker, she was one the most successful Danish designers in the 20th century—well known for her versatile, bold, experimental yet soft and subtle designs. From furniture to jewellery and textile, she never shied away from any genre or type of work.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Nanna Ditzel always had a passion for design and art, which later transformed into her career choice. After studying cabinetmaking, she graduated with a degree in architecture from London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1946. Her ability to amalgamate high-level craftsmanship with her unique, organic and nature-inspired designs successfully won her many design awards, including the Lunning Prize (design world’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize) in 1956.
Let’s look at some of the iconic products by Nanna Ditzel:
1. The Hanging Egg Chair, 1959
The most iconic design by Nanna Ditzel, this egg-shaped chair has received worldwide praise since its creation in 1959. Such a distinctive sculptural piece is timeless and remains relevant and familiar to today’s generation as well. There is a certain duality in its usage to fulfill more consumer demands—with indoor and outdoor versions available along with an option to hang it in the air using a chain or a stand.
The design was an unconventional take on chairs at the time, with its deep seating and the organic shape making the user feel like they have entered their own private universe. Its craftsmanship is enhanced by the skilled wicker makers, making the product more sustainable. In 2014, it came back into production worldwide by Sika Design and Yawakama in Japan.
2. Trinidad Chair, 1993
The most commercially successful design by Nanna Ditzel, the Trinidad Chair was unique due to its rounded steel legs and framework. The inspiration for such distinct design was the fretwork from the Gingerbread facades of colonial architecture in Trinidad. Unlike the prevalent modernist designs of the time, the chair had ornamentation as its focal point. The fretwork did not only become a mere decorative element but created a play of light and shadows along with breaking the visual density of the chair.
The light design without arms is stackable and provides comfort for long hours of sitting. The fretwork even provides ventilation and helps in maintaining the room temperature. The design was seen as a breakthrough in design technology and an iconic piece that resonated with all contemporary designers throughout the world.
3. Bench for Two, 1999
It was a historic and iconic design that became the first joint venture of Nanna Ditzel and Fredericia Furniture. Again, with an experimental take on a two-seater sofa along with a bench and careful angles, Bench for Two was an intricate, sculptural yet functional design. The art-deco pattern of concentric circles extended from the backrest of the chair to the tabletop that could be attached or removed from the piece.
The choice of materials for the design included maple wood, aeroplane ply, and silk printing for the pattern. With its one-of-a-kind design and careful craftsmanship, the Bench for Two was a sculptural and utilitarian chair yet with no backrest.
4. Lulu Cradle, 1963
Lulu Cradle, named after one of Nanna Ditzel’s daughters, was specially designed by Ditzel for her children. The original piece became a family heirloom, with one cradle passed down in generations when each Ditzel baby was born. Their name and date of birth were affixed at the bottom of the cradle to register the baby’s brief occupancy of the heirloom. Recently, as a part of the 125th anniversary of Brdr. Krüger in 2011, the design was adapted according to modern safety requirements and technology to be reproduced as a limited numbered edition.
The company worked with the first daughter of Nanna Ditzed to produce 200 cradles of lacquered Beechwood (or Oat or Walnut on request) and high-quality mattresses. The design’s main objective was to create comfort and safety for the resting babies.
5. Rocking Chair, 1969
Also known as the Nanny Rocking Chair, it was a part of Nanna Ditzel’s Rattan chair collection, an experimental approach to the materiality of the design. Inspired by the concept of a chair without legs, it is designed based on the human body to provide maximum comfort while sitting. The chair is handmade using the Manau & Tohiti Rattan and still remains an iconic piece.
Rattan, a natural climbing Indonesian plant, is a unique material to work with. Its structure and balance create a strong, lightweight, flexible, and durable material with a beautiful patina. The modern and unique concept with the elegant material created a timeless design.
6. Toad Stool and Chair, 1962
More commonly known as the Trissen Children’s toadstool and table, it is a multipurpose piece of furniture used as a coffee table, table, or children’s furniture. Nanna Ditzel found her inspiration for the toadstool in the restlessness of younger children. According to her, the way children can never sit ideally with their habit of climbing on chairs even when they tip over required a safer and more accommodating design.
The stool can be rolled over and moved wherever and however needed, making it more like a toy for children, not just a piece of furniture. It imitates an empty cotton roll, adding playful elements and warmth to a child’s interior space. Initially thought to be a child’s furniture, it soon found its relevance in modern houses as coffee tables. Available in various sizes, colors, and woods, the original design used Oregon Pine and is still in production in Denmark.
7. Chill Wicker Lounge Chair, 1961
Originally named Kaminstol, the design is a combination of a low-level chair with a footstool. Designed in collaboration with R. Wengler, a pioneer of rattan production in Denmark, Nanna Ditzel was able to join her unique designs, ideas, and forms with extreme craftsmanship and the use of material. The Alu-Rattan, weatherproof powder-coated aluminum, and ArtFibre made the design suitable for outdoor use without any maintenance.
The natural color and the organic, soft, and subtle design help it integrate with any surrounding, indoor or outdoor, seamlessly while providing comfortable sitting.
8. Ring / Sausage Chair, 1958
Similar to many of Nanna Ditzel’s earlier works, Ring Chair was designed by her in collaboration with her husband Jørgen. The chair was very relevant to the modern style of the time, the sleek and sleek design was anything but subtle. It used the best of available molding technology for the wood (stained teak) and foam (off-white suede) and created a contrast that elevated the design. Such a chair could easily blend with a modern subtle interior of its time.
9. ND 175 Desk
With a simple and modest design, Nanna Ditzel’s ND 175 Desk highlighted the prime Danish craftsmanship while focusing more on the functionality and storage aspect of a desk. The slim yet uniquely shaped legs give the design a modernist look and make it an aesthetic piece suitable for any office space. Initially available only in lacquered oak and walnut, the desk also comes in various lengths with two, three, or four drawers depending on space requirements.
10. Other Miscellaneous Designs
Nanna Ditzel never bounded her passion for art and creativity to only designing furniture. She created many jewelry pieces throughout her career; the first necklace she ever produced in gilded silver won her the 1950’s Goldsmith’s Association award. Her unique ideas extended to her clever watch design in 1997, where a wristwatch with the help of its bands could be balanced as a bedside clock.
Another miscellaneous item Nanna Ditzel designed with her husband Jørgen was silver corkscrews for Georg Jensen in 1957.
“Three steps forward and two back still means I’ve taken a step in the right direction!”
The inspiring words by the designer, Nanna Ditzel, show how optimistic a person and experimental designer she was, irrespective of the genre or type of the design. She described herself as a visual observer, who enjoyed a play of shapes, colors, and volumes. Her interest and curiosity to play with different elements prompted her to initially start, and later continue designing. She always wanted to create something new, something never seen before, and something that could satisfy her appetite for change.
- Bradford, N. (2020). Design Hero: Nanna Ditzel. Ella Decoration, June 2020 issue.
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- Rebecca Veit (2015). Nanna Ditzel, First Lady of Danish Furniture Design. [online]. Available at: https://www.core77.com/posts/39937/Nanna-Ditzel-First-Lady-of-Danish-Furniture-Design [Accessed 17 June 2021].
- Rebecca Thandi Norman, Scandinavia Standard (2018). Six Classic Works of Danish Designer Nanna Ditzel. [online]. Available at: https://www.scandinaviastandard.com/six-classic-works-of-danish-designer-nanna-ditzel/ [Accessed 17 June 2021].
- Scandinavia Design. Hanging Egg Chair. [online]. Available at: https://www.scandinavia-design.fr/hanging-egg-chair-sika-design_en.html [Accessed 17 June 2021].
- Fredericia. Triinidad. [online]. Available at: https://www.fredericia.com/products/by-designer-nanna-ditzel/trinidad-1.aspx?PID=63&catid=6233 [Accessed 15 June 2021].
- H Gallery. Nanna Ditzel “Bench for Two” with Table for Fredericia Stolefabrik, Denmark late 20th Century. [online]. Available at: https://hgallery.com/collection/nanna-ditzel-bench-for-two-with-table-for-fredericia-stolefabrik-denmark-late-20th-century [Accessed 17 June 2021].
- Architonic. Lulu by Brdr. Krüger. [online]. Available at: https://www.architonic.com/en/product/brdr-kruger-lulu/1216362 [Accessed 17 June 2021].
- Brdr. Krüger. Lulu Cradle. [online]. Available at: https://www.brdr-kruger.com/product-content/lulu-cradle/ [Accessed 15 June 2021].
- Att Pynta. THE NANNY ROCKING CHAIR DESIGNED BY NANNY DITZEL. [online]. Available at: https://www.attpynta.com/products/the-nanny-rocking-chair [Accessed 15 June 2021].
- Sika Design (2021). Nanna Ditzel Nanny Rocking Chair Exterior. [online]. Available at: https://www.sikadesignusa.com/nanna-ditzel-nanny-rocking-chair-exterior/ [Accessed 15 June 2021].
- Sika Design (2020). Chill Lounge Chair. [online]. Available at: https://sika-design.com/products/chill-exterior-lounge-chair [Accessed 16 June 2021].
- Nanna Ditzel Design. Chill Wicker Lounge Chair With Stool, 1961/2004. [online]. Available at: https://www.nanna-ditzel-design.dk/33.sikachill.html [Accessed 16 June 2021].
- 1stDIBS (2021). Early Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel ‘Ring’ Chair in Suede and Teak. [online]. Available at: https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/seating/lounge-chairs/early-nanna-jrgen-ditzel-ring-chair-suede-teak/ [Accessed 16 June 2021].
- Outlet (2017). Trissen children’s toadstool & table. [online]. Available at: http://www.outletdesignstore.com/product/trissen-childrens-toadstool-table/ [Accessed 16 June 2021].
- Great Dane (2020). ND 175 Desk. [online]. Available at: https://greatdanefurniture.com/danish-furniture/desks/nanna-ditzel-175-desk [Accessed 16 June 2021].
- Nanna Ditzel Design. Furniture. [online]. Available at: https://www.nanna-ditzel-design.dk/furniture.html [Accessed 17 June 2021].
- Henrik Sten Møller. A conversation with Nanna Ditzel Ideas become objects. [online]. Available at: https://www.fredericia.com/stories/q-a-nanna-ditzel.aspx [Accessed 17 June 2021].
- Carl Hansen & Son (2019). Nanna Ditzel. [online]. Available at: https://www.carlhansen.com/en/designers/nanna-ditzel [Accessed 17 June 2021].