Jens Quistgaard

Sculpting the utilitarian

jens quistgaard dansk denmark danish usa kobenstyle congo
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Above: Pepper mills designed by Jens Quistgaard for Dansk, USA, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Photo: Ross Floyd for Wright Auctions

Perhaps no other Danish designer was as prolific as Jens Quistgaard – furniture, silverware, jewelry, household items, and cookware he left a legacy of over 4000 design items. Born into an artistic home in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1919 Jens Harald Quistgaard demonstrated creative abilities from a young age and while still a child he built a small workshop in his mother’s kitchen, complete with a vice and anvil. Quite serious about his pursuit, Quistgaard produced jewelry, knives, and even ceramics from this humble station. He could also be found at the local smiths and carpenters gaining as much knowledge as he could about the various disciplines. During this period he was also trained as a sculptor by his father, Harald Quistgaard (1887-1979), and later would receive a formal education at the Technical school in Copenhagen. His studies were interrupted during the Nazi occupation of Denmark when Quistgaard became active in the Resistance movement.

jens quistgaard dansk denmark danish usa kobenstyle congo

Quistgaard’s breakthrough desind with this ‘Fjord’ flatware set. Designed in 1953 it was the first set of cutlery to put wooden handles – in this case teak – on steel. Photo: Ross Floyd for Wright Auctions

Quistgaard’s breakthrough as an industrial designer came in 1953 when he designed the Fjord cutlery set, the first to combine stainless steel with teak handles. In 1954, after several exhibits and awards, Quistgaard was discovered by American businessman Ted Nierenberg, who was scouting Europe for designs he could launch in the USA. After seeing the Fjord cutlery set at the Danish Museum of Art and Design in Copenhagen, Nierenberg met with Quistgaard which led to the founding of the Dansk company. The following year Quistgaard’s Kobenstyle cookware was introduced and remains today one of the designer’s – and Dansk’s – most successful products. Following the success of Kobenstyle, Quistgaard focused primarily on smaller household goods created from a philosophy that even the most utilitarian of objects should be well made and function together harmoniously.

Quistgaard’s enormously successful Kobenstyle cook and tableware introduced by Dansk in 1955. Click on image for full view.

While few of Quistgaard’s furniture designs remain in production many of his designs for household items and cookware are still being made today. Perhaps the best aspect these designs is that while many designers of the era wanted to make good design that was affordable to almost everyone, few were truly successful. Today many of the classic ‘designer’ items are often priced well above the average person’s reach. Quistgaard’s designs, however, are still relatively affordable (the exception being some of the rarer furniture pieces) and fit within the most modest of budgets.

Some of Jens Quistgaard’s designs. Click on image for full view.


jens quistgaard dansk denmark danish usa kobenstyle congo

Silversmith, sculptor, and designer Jens Harald Quistgaard (1919 – 2008)


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Great post. According to the Dux side table was not designed by Quistgaard.


DC, you hit me in the heart here…
I believe so strongly in the idea that great design in utilitarian objects is a worthy and admirable ambition for a designer. Everyone deserves grace and beauty in their life, and if the most you can afford, or live with daily, are some cooking untensils, then they should also be pleasing. I adore everything you feature, but I especially appreciate your inclusion of truly beautiful, but humble, work like this. You’re pretty cool, you.