How do the Danes do it? There are only 5.5 million of them in an area not much bigger than Maryland, yet Denmark is a design colossus—a country where you’ll find Arne Jacobsen’s Ant chairs used in primary schools and where the monarch, Queen Margrethe, has created paintings for postage stamps, illustrated an edition of the Lord of the Rings, and devised stage sets and costumes for productions by the Royal Danish Ballet.
As a result of this national penchant for design, Copenhagen is one of Europe’s greatest shopping cities for anyone with an interest in interiors. There’s everything from midcentury modern coffee tables to futuristic contemporary sofas, from old Georg Jensen silver to new Royal Copenhagen porcelain. You can check into a hotel designed by Jacobsen (the Radisson SAS Royal) then scour the city for one of his Egg chairs to call your own. The uncommonly high design standards can be overwhelming, so here we’ve culled ten places that deserve special attention.
This former cinema in the Østerbro district, a 25-minute walk from the city center, reopened in 2005 as a huge, 18,000-square-foot modern-design emporium selling home furnishings and household products—sofas to salad servers—by designers as diverse as Karim Rashid, Viktor & Rolf, Missoni, B&B Italia, and Kartell. The company’s own products, the packaging for which bears a distinctive barking-dog logo, have proved so popular that they’re now at stores throughout Scandinavia. Favorites this season include the Grass vase, codesigned by Tine Broksø and Karen Kjældgård-Larsen, who has been making a splash at Royal Copenhagen (see next page). This is the place for functional furnishings with a bit of wit to them. At 70 Østerbrogade; 45/3555-4459; normann-copenhagen.dk
bald & BANG
No, the name isn’t a gimmick. This lighting company was established by design-savvy entrepreneurs Gitte Bald and Anders Bang. The duo started out by selling just one thing: the IQlight, a disco-era lamp shade made from interlocking pieces of off-white plastic that can be combined in different ways to vary its size and shape. Designed by a Dane, Holger Strøm, in 1972, the shade had faded from popularity until Bald and Bang anticipated a seventies revival and relaunched it in 2000. Now their store, near Nørreport station, sells several styles of lamp shades, including a new design called Fuse, which debuted last year, and its latest relaunch, Turbo. Created by another Dane, Louis Weisdorf, in 1965, it is made from 12 pieces of interlocking aluminum. The store also has smaller items such as multicolored silicone candleholders, which might be a little easier to take home as souvenirs. At 7 Rømersgade; 45/3336-0776; bald-bang.com
This contemporary shop was launched in 2003 at the IMM furnishing show in Cologne and has now found a home in the heart of Copenhagen, with an appointment-only showroom elsewhere in the city. Although its stock mostly comprises chairs and tables by Danes, it’s not a temple to quiet minimalism. On the contrary, Hay’s designers lean toward strong colors with plenty of attitude. The Mormor (Grandmother) sofa, for instance, is a large block of black leather with a seating area scooped out and upholstered in sunflower yellow or another contrasting color. Created for Hay by Johannes Torpe and his stepbrother Rune Reilly Kölsch (both of whom, of course, have day jobs deejaying and record producing), it won the Danish Design Prize in 2007. Store: 29–31 Pilestraede; 45/9942-4400. Showroom: 4 Kronprinsessegade; 45/9942-3870; hay.dk.
This store opened last year with the declared intention of showcasing the best of 20th-century Danish works alongside pieces by exciting new talents. Here shoppers can find both the classic Swan chair (Arne Jacobsen, 1958) and the ultrafuturistic Orchid chair (Christian Flindt, 2000–2003). What’s more, to bolster its standing as a cultural center, the shop hosts short events—such as half-hour interviews with designers and performances by local singers, actors, and musicians—throughout the week. At 11 Nyhavn; 45/3295-0024; the-house.org.
How times change! When Klassik debuted in 1991, rosewood and teak Scandinavian furniture was just starting to emerge from a wilderness period during which it had been condemned as old-fashioned. Now, of course, it’s back and can be found spread across the pages of the world’s most fashionable decorating magazines. Fans of midcentury modern design should make this store at the head of Bredgade—Copenhagen’s best street for 20th-century furniture—their first stop. All the biggest Danish names are here (Hans Wegner, Piet Hein, Arne Jacobsen, N.O. Møller, Henning Koppel), and many pieces are of museum quality. Klassik also sells furnishings by other Scandinavian and international designers. At 3 Bredgade; 45/3333-9060; klassik.dk.
Georg Jensen Damask
Not to be confused with the silversmith of the same name, Damask traces its roots back to the 1400s and was officially established in 1756. Today the firm’s high-quality, well-designed table linens and towels can be found in many Danish households. The scarlet-and-green Christmas collection, which was launched in 1975 (and is faintly reminiscent of something Frank Lloyd Wright might have spread on his Yuletide table), is the best seller. For a more modern look, there’s a stunning geometrically patterned cloth by Arne Jacobsen in anthracite and white. At the very least, take home some of the cheerful striped kitchen towels. At 19 Ny Østergade; 45/3312-2600; damask.dk.
Jørgen L. Dalgaard
Another one of the treasure troves on Bredgade, this eponymous store opened in 1974 with an emphasis on glass and ceramics, including pieces by the Swedish companies Orrefors and Kosta Boda and the Finnish designers Tapio Wirkkala and Timo Sarpaneva. There’s also lots of excellent Danish furniture. It’s a relatively small place, but if you don’t see what you want you may be able to persuade Dalgaard to let you have a look around the stockroom upstairs. Piled high with pieces waiting for room to open up in the shop below, it’s one of the city’s best-kept design secrets. At 28 Bredgade; 45/3314-0905; jdalgaard.dk.
Since 1948 Denmark’s leading auction house has occupied a huge, rambling showroom right in the middle of Bredgade. The building is crammed with antique and modern lots for upcoming sales: art, furniture, jewelry, carpets, and much more. If you can’t make it to the showroom, the Web site is an amazing resource. It’s in English, with full listings of all objects, and leaving absentee bids is easy. In addition to its live sales, Bruun Rasmussen hosts online auctions most days; to see these virtual lots in person, visit the firm’s other Copenhagen premises at 30 Sundkrogsgade, a stunning Egyptian-inspired building designed by Kim Utzon, whose father, Jørn, designed the Sydney Opera House. At 33 Bredgade; 45/8818-1111; bruun-rasmussen.dk.
Georg Jensen moved from Raadvad in the Danish countryside to Copenhagen in 1880 and founded Denmark’s most famous silver company in 1904. American Gregory Pepin moved from Vermont to Copenhagen in 1992 and launched the city’s finest store for vintage Jensen pieces in 2000. These days he sells everything from a five-armed candelabra created by Jensen himself to a bracelet designed by Jensen’s son Søren Georg to a pyramid-pattern pepper pot by Harald Nielsen, the brother of Jensen’s third wife. In February the shop moved along Bredgade to a glittering new spot closer to Nyhavn, the harborside street popular with visitors for its many bars. The new store features a VIP room for those who prefer a little privacy when shopping for their silver. At 12 Bredgade; 45/3311-5252; danishsilver.dk
This flagship store of Denmark’s esteemed porcelain company stands in the heart of town, next to Georg Jensen, another landmark shopping destination. The company is best known for Blue Fluted, its classic blue-and-white pattern, but in a stroke of marketing genius it recently allowed a young ceramist, Karen Kjældgård-Larsen, to deconstruct the design. The result, Blue Fluted Mega, was launched in 2000 and expands and explodes the traditional pattern to form something boldly new. It was followed in 2006 by Royal Copenhagen’s first monochrome pattern, Black Fluted Mega. Just as Louis Vuitton revitalized itself by inviting contemporary artists and designers to play with its logo, Royal Copenhagen has used these reimagined patterns to win over a new generation of customers. At 6 Amagertorv; 45/3814-9605; royalcopenhagen.com.