Children's culture

High Chair

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By Charlotte Jul, writer, editor and curator, 2006

Ditzel's dogmas 

Nanna Ditzel had three children, so it was pretty obvious for her to focus on designing furniture for children. The High Seat Chair, dating from 1955 along with her Toadstools (Trisser) were nothing short of a revolution, because they were some of the first items of children’s furniture ever in which just as much attention to detail was paid as in furniture intended for adults. The thought of spending money on quality furniture for kids was extreme in those days! The High Seat Chair is formed in a straightforward style, a continuation of the simple design Nanna Ditzel learnt during her training with Kaare Klint and the functionalist tradition - a tradition which Ditzel further developed and departed from. 

Breakaway designers 

Nanna Ditzel covers a wide field: from design concepts, to furniture, jewellery, tableware and textiles - and a long period: from her start at the Craftsmen- Designers’ Carpentry Day School in 1943 until 2005 when she died - still active as a designer. She was one of the “young revolutionaries” along with her husband, Joergen Ditzel, the artist Gunnar Aagaard Andersen and the designer Verner Panton.

Gunnar Aagaard Andersen in particular worked closely with the Ditzel furniture designer couple. The trio broke with conventional norms, they were - like Panton - preoccupied with using space in a new way. A staircase concept in clear colours, which divided the room up into different levels, so people could sprawl about while they spoke to one another. Or suspended swinging basketware seating which swayed in the room just like a hammock. Why does a chair absolutely have to have four legs? 

Ditzel awarded top order 

Nanna Ditzel lived and worked in London for 18 years and her frequent study trips abroad inspired new ideas within her. Her encounter with the turquoise and pink colours of Mexico inspired her to develop the Hallingdal textile line which you can still see used in some Danish State Railways trains. In 1995 Nanna Ditzel was invested with the Order of Dannebrog, and in 1998 the Ministry of Culture granted her a lifelong endowment for her work. 

Children’s furniture universe 

High Seat was one of the first furniture designs for children. Today the market has exploded and many designers are working with furniture and arrangements for children. Here in Denmark the artistic duo Bosch & Fjord are in 2006 putting the finishing touches to a improvement project at Ordrup School, near Copenhagen. Here a variety of different tubular seating arrangements, holes, hollows and rooms within a room combine to create environments which promote diversified education and creative new thinking. All very much in the Ditzel spirit. Fifty years after her first children’s furniture ... 

The daughter Vita Ditzel in the high chair, approx. 1957. Photo: Nanna Ditzel Design A / S.
Children's Culture

Did you know?

Design-loving young parents can hope that a new, improved version of Nanna Ditzel's high chair will come on sale one day. In 2004, Ditzel adjusted the chair so that it did not fall so easily. The chair legs were placed a little too close together and gave, according to the Consumer Agency, no optimal stability.

The Committee's justification

By the Committee for Design og Crafts, 2006

When Danish furniture was at the height of artistic quality, a wide range of children’s furniture was also developed. Arne Jacobsen designed small furniture that looked like adult furniture for the Munkegård school, and Mogens Koch made a small folding chair. But there was a lot more: From 1944, Hans J. Wegner made fine furniture that worked better for children, similar to Kaj Bojesen’s toys from the same period and Kristian Vedel’s flexible children’s furniture from 1956. And the Juno bed by Viggo Einfeldt from 1942 has become a cultural object traded at towering prices.
The furniture of the period was created on the basis of the idea that items for children should have the same high artistic and material quality as that of adult items – as children in the growing welfare society got their own rooms in which they could play freely.

Before World War II, many families had only one or two rooms, where there was absolutely no room specifically for children’s furniture, or which children could furnish themselves. Nanna Ditzel designed furniture that she wanted for her own children. The highchair is a work that stands out today with its simple and functional form. The chair is sculpturally composed of beautifully shaped parts, without any unnecessary details. It is for children big enough to sit up, and the pin in front can be taken off when the baby grows a bit bigger. The Consumer Agency stopped sales of the chair in 2002 because it could be unstable, but that’s another story. Later, in 1961, Ditzel also designed a small table and a stool for the children’s room. The furniture looks like huge trusses, which it is named after, and you can have a lot of fun running with the stool. 

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