Being the grandson of world famous furniture architect Børge Mogensen, Rasmus Mogensen was recently interviewed in connection with the 60th anniversary of the Spanish chair. With permission from Fredericia Furniture we here bring their Q&A with Rasmus - who is also co-founder and the photographer behind the beautiful campaigns of Pierrot la Lune. Without him the Pierrot la Lune Universe wouldn't be the same.
1. Give us a few highlights about yourself – what do you do, where do you live etc.?
I’ve lived in Paris since I was 21 years old so a total of 23 years so far.
I dreamt of becoming a photographer ever since I was eight years old and did photography at school. I don’t believe that I have a special talent, but I’ve just been able to work my way up to a certain level. Because of my Danish cultural heritage, I’ve had a certain style that I’ve carried with me. Whether that’s good or bad is for others to say. A cultural heritage like that can also be a millstone around your neck when you think you know what’s beautiful and what’s ugly.
This is something that I’m struggling with a great deal at the moment. To avoid being a perfectionist in a world which is so obviously not perfect and make room for some heart, for chaos.
I grew up in a fairly chaotic family and as a boy I enjoyed having a framework into which I could put the world; putting things in order, straight lines, clean compositions etc.
One morning about eight years ago, one of my assistants told me that he’d reviewed hundreds of my photos and there was not a single horizontal or vertical line that was not dead straight to the millimetre and completely parallel to the edge of the image, not one. This observation came back to me when I saw a film about Børge Mogensen in which his obsessive approach to what I’ve always believed to be a very simple chair – the J 39 – became clear. His perfectionist obsession with a simplistic overall look, the fine details, the perfectly conceived angles etc. both drove and exhausted him.
Just then I felt a special bond with Børge, even a kind of curse. This deep-felt need for absolute simplicity and an idea of creating something perfect. I'm pretty sure that this persistent quest for something which basically doesn’t exist here on Earth has been a contributing factor to my grandfather’s frustration and ferocity.
2. What impact has Børge Mogensen had on your life – both personally and professionally?
I feel that Børge and everything he achieved affects many generations in a family for good and bad. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that with his genius came some darkness and this darkness also affected my life in many ways. But Børge also added much that was beautiful, a great deal of culture and a great deal of quality.
3. Børge Mogensen’s designs are characterised by functionality, clean lines and natural materials – and always take their starting point in the whole person. How do you relate to it in your job?
My job, or rather my passion, is to create illusions, to create a reality on paper which doesn’t necessarily exist. To give my views on what’s in front of my camera, be it a beautiful woman, a child, a chair, anything.
Børge’s job, or passion, was to create something very specific on the basis of something that originated in his mind.
The difference between his and my work is that in what I do, you have to ‘just’ look while Børge’s products need to be looked at and actually used, sat on, eaten at, moved around. Two very different things and still the same in many ways.
4. What role does design play in your everyday life?
Design plays an important role in my daily life.
I love going home and using my home, sitting in my furniture, letting my hand glide over the wooden top of my dining table and enjoying the thought that it stood there long before I was born and will still be here long after I’ve gone if I treat it well.
Quality has to go hand in hand with design for everything to make sense.
This is the case in the works of most of the great Danish masters. That is something you can only be proud of.
5. How have you designed your home?
We live in a house south of Paris which we have designed in an eclectic style with inspiration from Scandinavia, France and the United States. The floors are partly covered in oak herringbone parquet and partly in tiles à la Versailles in the hallway and tiles à la Miami Beach in the conservatory.
The walls in the house are painted in matt colours from Farrow and Ball in different shades of blue and white which create a bright and welcoming atmosphere and extend from the hallway to the bedrooms and on to the kitchen and all the way out into the conservatory. The white walls in the house will probably end up being hidden behind various wallpapers, but we’re going to live with it for a while and let things develop slowly and organically.
Otherwise, our home is decorated with Børge’s No1 sofa in blue, a set of Spanish Chairs in natural leather and other Danish classics. All in an eclectic mixture with a few Ikea cabinets and a bed or two.
6. The Spanish Chair celebrates his 60th anniversary this year – what would you like to say about it on this occasion?
The Spanish Chair arouses a great many fond memories from my own home, but also from numerous visits to my grandmother’s house. The Spanish Chair has always stood here and every time I sat in it, I thought about Børge, his elevated ideals and how important using his work to make others happy was to him. In addition to being beautiful and different to many other chairs, it is also incredibly comfortable and practical – there was always space on the armrest for a glass of apple juice and a small plate of something tasty.
I was very surprised at the anniversary chair when I saw it and I think it’s really beautiful. The light wood and the green leather are really harmonious and modern.
The Spanish Chair is what it is. I love the way in which the leather is stretched on like a saddle and I love to hate its squeaking when I meditate in it in the morning. But what I love most about it is that it lasts forever, and that my children’s children and their children will one day be able to enjoy it.
7. What memories do you have of the Spanish Chair and other Børge Mogensen furniture designs?
Børge Mogensen’s Spoke-back sofa was used for much more than just sitting in! We would turn it to the wall and it immediately became a prison in the game we were playing. Or we would put the side panel right down to the floor to make it into a kind of ramp – I remember cycling up it on my bike (but my mother did draw the line there). The sofa is still there and is yet another testament to the very high quality of my grandfather’s furniture as it has survived both my sister and me and several generations of my grandmother’s dogs who were all – bizarrely enough – called Sniff.
Long live Sniff!