France & Søn – British Pioneer of Danish furniture
To most people it is an unknown paradox that the man who kick-started the export of Danish furniture in the 1950’s, as well as being the first to brand Danish design internationally, was an Englishman called C.W.F. France.
It was as a coincidence that France came to Denmark to help his friend Eric Daverkosen to manage the mattress manufacturer LAMA at Ørholm. After a short time Daverkosen sadly died and France was left to take over the company. However, as a British citizen he was interned by the Germans during the Second World War. In captivity he developed his ideas about creating light wooden chairs which could be manufactured on an industrial scale and economically transported in a ‘flat-pack’ form.
At the same time the idea was to utilize the mattress production plant to produce mini-mattresses for use as seats and backs of chairs and sofas. After five years of captivity he was finally able to realize his plan. In co-operation with the leading Danish designers at the time, such as Finn Juhl, Grethe Jalk, Ole Wanscher, and Hvidt & Mølgaard, he created a remarkable industrial enterprise at the factory in Hillerød. With 350 employees at its peak, at one point it was responsible for a large part of the total Danish furniture export.
This is the story of the furniture manufacturer France & Søn, which in a decisive way left its mark on an important period in Danish design history in which Danish furniture was in the limelight and, particularly in the United States, became known as ‘Danish Modern’. Not least, this is the story of the brilliant but at the same time fiery entrepreneur ‘Mister’, as he was known, and here told by his son, James France.