The Switch Up, Homemade Mustard and How Danish Modern Came to be a Household Name

Vintage Africa travel poster

If you stopped by today to visit the culinary world of Dahomey, you are in for a little switch. Due to the inability to source all of the African country’s recipe ingredients in time for this week’s post, Dahomey will be postponed until next week.

In its place, we will be traveling to Denmark today as Week 13 of the International Vintage Recipe Tour 2020 continues. This little obstacle in the schedule turned out to be nicely fortuitous – as it is Easter weekend and thanks to Denmark, we will be making a homemade condiment that often appears at the Easter dinner table – especially if you are serving ham for the holiday.

In today’s post, we will be making homemade mustard with nothing more than a handful of common pantry staples.  It takes five minutes to make, and after a quick rest in the fridge, it’s ready to enjoy. We will also be discussing the rise in popularity of the design aesthetic that made Denmark famous around the world – Danish Modern – and how one man’s ideology in the 1920’s turned it into a universal trend in the 1950’s.

Teak credenza by Ib Kofod Larsen

Most vintage aficionados will be familiar with the modular, natural wood look of classic mid-century furniture. It’s been a popular choice in kitchen and dining room decor for the past 20 years thanks to stylish modern yet retro television shows like MadMen, who glamorously showcased its minimalist appeal. But you may be surprised to learn that the Danish Modern aesthetic actually began long before the 1950’s.  Thirty years prior to that, it started taking root in the mind of this guy…

Kaare Klint (1888-1954), architect and furniture designer

… Kaare Klint. A Copenhagen born architect, Kaare was in search of something different than the Bauhaus style that dominated the trendy furniture marketplace in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

A Bauhaus desk

Bauhaus furniture, with its nod towards industrialization and the sleek style of steel and metal components, was pretty to look at it but it wasn’t very functional and it wasn’t very comfortable. Similar to avant garde clothing that makes it way down the runway at fashion shows, Bauhaus was eye catching, stylish, stimulating and conversation worthy but when it came to practicality in everyday real-life, it wasn’t very accommodating. Kaare, taking note of these Bauhaus shortcomings, approached furniture design in a different way.

Kaare Klint Safari Chair

Using his architectural mindset, Kaare’s concept was to design pieces that had simple lines that were thoughtfully engineered for comfort first and form second. He threw the words honest and beautiful and democratic around, but ultimately, what he really wanted to do was to make furniture that had palpable integrity. This was a novel idea. Up until Bauhaus and Kaare Klint decided to change things up, furniture had been pretty traditional. Variations of the same style, fabrics, materials, and shapes had stayed relatively the same for centuries. A chair was a chair was a chair in regards to shape, size and comfort. But when Bauhaus and then Danish Modern came along, things changed.

Kaare Klint circle bed

By studying the size, shape and form of the human body, Kaare came up with a series of furniture designs that turned out to be both remarkably beautiful and remarkably comfortable. Utilizing neutral colors, natural materials and warm shades of wood, Kaare designed the antithesis of the cold, metallic style of the Bauhaus movement. He made furniture that fit. Comfortably.

Kaare Klint deckchair

Embracing the skill and tradition of local Danish cabinetmakers, Kaare combined architectural sensibility with artisan craftsmanship. These cabinetmakers were trained in the centuries old techniques of traditional woodworking that had been passed down to them through generations. Highly skilled at their craft, they were true artisans who proudly and carefully produced pieces of furniture by hand, with the intention that their pieces would be built to last a lifetime. Kaare appreciated that level of detail and devotion and aspired to reproduce the same attributes in his furniture designs.

Kaare Klint table

As the collaboration between Kaare and his cabinetmakers took shape, this new style of design began to develop. Kaare, confident in the end result that was produced, taught his philosophies in design classes, inspiring students to think architecturally about functional furniture. Eventually a tribe of  architects, designers and cabinetmakers all worked in the same vein together utilizing Kaare’s concepts.  Before long, the art councils in Denmark began promoting this remarkable style of furniture, describing it as a Danish handicraft, something that celebrated the unique cultural landscape of Denmark.

Danish designer Hans Wegner (1914-2007) started out as a cabinetmaker’s apprentice before eventually becoming a world renowned furniture designer. This is set of his 1950’s era dining chairs, very much in keeping with the Danish Modern aesthetic inspire by Kaare Klint.

With a style defined by simplicity, comfort, quality, warmth, and beauty, it wasn’t long after the Danish art councils started promoting this aesthetic that interior design journals and magazines began taking notice. Coined Danish Modern, industry writers and promoters began exalting the attributes of this natural, symbiotic relationship between form and function.

This 1959 magazine article from House Beautiful extolled the “practical beauty” of Danish Modern design.

As awareness grew, Danish Modern began to attract a certain type of enthusiast from countries beyond Denmark. In particular in the United States, it became very popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s with young, urban intellectuals in the middle to upper class bracket.  These enthusiasts lived in the major market cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. They appreciated a fresh perspective, admired unique artistry, and favored outside of the box thinking. As a culturally savvy group, they believed in the beauty of fine art and looked for ways to incorporate it in their daily lives in thought-provoking ways. They filled their spaces, not with factory mass produced furniture, but with one-off pieces that made a statement about their personal taste and their artistic temperament.

A Chicago city apartment photographed in 1953.

Danish Modern furniture offered more than a comfortable recline – it offered a lifestyle choice that showcased honesty, purity and naturalism, all qualities of the 1950’s culture that Americans aspired to.

During the 1960’s other furniture companies took note of the rise in popularity of Danish Modern and started reproducing their own versions. But these replica pieces were not of the same quality in construction as the originals. These were mass produced pieces designed to sell fast for the trendy buyer market. They were made by unskilled factory workers on assembly lines, not by mastered hands in Danish workshops.

1962 Basset Furniture Danish Modern ad declaring that yes, you can afford it too!

Traditional Danish designers and cabinet makers acknowledged these knockoffs but were uncertain how to evolve past the competition. Even though the knock-offs were inferior products, they ultimately became the downfall of the original Danish Modern marketplace. The Danish cabinet makers knew only their skill. The Danish designers and the Danish architects knew only the style they had created. None could see what the future of Danish Modern looked like past what was already being designed in the same similar vein. There were no new concepts waiting in the wings of the Danish Modern style post 1960’s.

By the 1970’s, the market had become saturated with knock-offs, covering over the original handcrafted beauties that had been built in Denmark. These knockoffs became to too familiar, too commonplace and too accessible in the furniture market which muddied the playing field.  Value was placed in the fast selling of the pieces rather than the appreciation of the fine art form. As with most trends, consumer tastes changed in the modern furniture buyer of the 1970’s.  They were no longer interested in furniture that was meant to last a lifetime. They liked the freedom of being able to redecorate every few years, and of not being tied down to one type of design aesthetic. By then, the Danish Modern style was viewed as outdated. Consumers wanted color and bold shapes. They wanted eclectic designs and chaotic patterns.  They wanted glass and laminate and plastic and mirrors.  They wanted post-modern and pop culture and furniture that spoke of the disco era. Essentially, they wanted everything that Danish Modern was not.

A 1970’s era living room.

It wouldn’t be until the early 2000’s that Danish Modern and the original philosophies behind it would come to be appreciated again. Just like those early fans in the 1950’s, consumers in the 2000’s were searching for the well built, the hand crafted, the artistic. They were searching for the thoughtful story and the artisan eye. They were searching for designers like Kaare Klint and the school of artists that grew up around him. Suddenly Danish Modern bloomed again. And just like in the 1960’s and 1970’s so did the knock-offs.  Now the midcentury market is bubbling over again, saturating so many interiors we barely notice it anymore. These days there is definitely rumbling in the design world that midcentury is on its way out again and that something completely new is starting to take hold. Many say it is the return to the femininity and florals of the 1980’s but with a stronger, bolder, darker, more modern edge.  Consumers today are looking for something beyond the grey, marble, industrial minimalism that has dominated the interior design world for almost twenty years. Burgeoning trends point towards the use of color and eclectic collections once again. It’s the emergence of an aesthetic that has yet to be completely defined, but, if history tells us anything, it’s that somewhere there’s a Kaare Klint type designer just waiting to reveal something new and something remarkable.

While we wait to see what unfolds in the furniture design department in this new decade, we’ll make some mustard, Danish style. Like the furniture, this is a recipe that has integrity and simplicity. It involves seven ingredients and one bowl. It makes one cup and lasts in the fridge for weeks. It has spicy, sweet flavor and tons of possibilities when it comes to pairings. If a mustard recipe could be equated to a well built chair – it would be this one.

Danish Mustard

(Makes 1 Cup)

1/2 cup dry mustard

7 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup boiling water

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

Combine the mustard and sugar in a bowl. Beat in the boiling water to make a paste. Beat in the remaining ingredients. Let cool and refrigerate.

Because this has a honey mustard type taste to it, it would be excellent served with ham, or dolloped on top of a soft mellow cheese like goat or brie, or slathered on sandwiches of chicken and lettuce. Really though you can enjoy it in any type of situation that calls for mustard. Like any homemade condiment, this is a wonderful and delicious and surprising alternative to store-bought mustard and contains only natural ingredients without any added preservatives. Just like a good horseradish, it packs a little punch in the back of your throat and tickles your nose.

Cheers to natural products, whether they be furniture or foods:) Hope this weekend that your feasts are full of flavor and your baskets plentiful. Happy Easter!

Join us next week, as we circle back around to Dahomey for week 14 of the International Vintage Recipe Tour 2020.

 

Discussing Rustic Home Decor, Beer & Movies with Designer Frick and Frack Scraps!

If you have read her blog bio, you will know one of the things that Ms. Jeannie loves most in life is havin’ a laugh.

She loves stumbling upon things that are unexpectedly funny, which is exactly what occurred, when she set out  to interview one of her favorite fellow Etsy shop owners, Frick and Frack Scraps.

Frick and Frack Scraps builds some of the most wonderfully whimsical yet fully functional home decor items.  They are rustic, provincial, aged, weathered, repurposed, re-salvaged and entirely original in all aspects.  Here is a sampling of items from their shop…

Sampling of Items from Frick & Frack Scraps

Naturally she was thrilled to discover the funny designer behind the fun shop…

Ms Jeannie:  I love the rustically provincial/whimsically repurposed theme of your shop! Please explain a little about your design inspirations.
Frick & Frack Scraps: Well, thank you, firstly, for the compliment and the interview. Your blog is so unique. I get inspiration for my projects from leftover scrap laying around. My father was an architect and an armchair engineer. He used things differently and saw potential in lots of things that most people would not see. I think I got a little of that from him. And also from beer.
MJ: Do you think a lot of people are inspired by beer?
FFS: Two words, Ms. Jeannie.  Benjamin Franklin. Enough said.
 MJ: You have sold a lot of one of a kind items in your shop. Currently there are 11 items for sale.  Are you concepting new ideas now?
FFS: Well, don’t you do your homework?! I have been busy, in the non-Etsy world, with other work, so right now I am on sort of a break, but I always look for things to use for when I am back in the saddle on my saw horse.
MJ:  What designers inspire your work?
FFS: Well, I think of things in very straight terms. Not a big fan of curves, so I think that makes Mission and Prairie designers my gut inspiration. O.K. I will admit it. I have posters of Stickley and Wright on my bedroom walls.
An example of Mission style furniture. Photo courtesy of 4interior-design.com
An example of Usonian style furniture. Photo courtesy of inhabitat.com
Prairie Style Table Centerpiece from Frick & Frack Scraps
MJ:  What is your most favorite type of material to work with?
FFS: Wood and steel and beer cans.
MJ: Do you ever worry about running out of scraps to work with?
FFS: Not while I live in the United States. It is funny how some people see things as useless and others see a winerack. There is more than enough.
MJ: Explain a little about your design process. How do you get started on each piece?
FFS: Since it is all scraps to start with there is a bit of a limitation at the beginning. I can not go into something thinking “table” when I only have enough scrap for a box. Once I have stuff in front of me, it is a very simple, no holds barred process. The real upshot is if I make a “mistake” it just goes into a bin until it can be used on something else.
MJ: While you are working on each creation, do you ever think about where  they might end up?  What style of house it will go to? Or what sort of person would buy it?
FFS: Absolutley! There is a lady on Etsy, Jacksonofalltrades, that wanted some Frick & Frack for a birthday party at a dude ranch. I never thought of my pieces that way but I think it will look good. So I have that going for me,  which is nice.
MJ: At what point in life did you realize you were destined to build things?
FFS: I have always built things as far back as I can remember. “Destined” is such a big word. I think it should only be used when referring to superheros.
MJ: Speaking of superheros…who is yours?
FFS: My pal, Thom Zelenka. If he were a real superhero he would be Always OK Man. He never seems to get rattled, always has a nice or kind word and has always been the same guy – from the day I met him to decades later. Pretty damn cool.
 
 MJ:  What is it that lures people towards your items?
FFS: I am not sure. I made the four pack out of parts that were left over, after a six pack I had made that sold pretty quickly. I am sooo glad I am able to find similar materials for the four pack ’cause WOW have I had to make alot of them. But I digress, I think people like the price, the FUNctional part, and also I make alot of things that hold or incorporate alcoholic beverages so it could be that these buyers are all fun drunks. 
The Four Pack & The Six Pack from Frick & Frack Scraps
MJ: What is your most favorite item in your shop right now and why?
FFS: By far, the Fire Box Humidor. My pal, Tommy and I, made that and I am so proud of the re-use of that fire box. It is so outside the box. See what I did there?
1950’s Fire Box Humidor from Frick & Frack Scraps
MJ:  Is there one item that you are constantly striving towards building for your own personal collection?
FFS: I use my wife’s style as a guide to things I build for our house,  so  that there is no conflict. I once bought a table at an auction for like 200 bucks and she called it the “UGLIEST TABLE IN THE WORLD” two years later I sold the original Gustav Stickley drum top table for 1500 bucks. I still smile about that.  But I still do not get to pick out what I like. Ah love!
MJ: If you could build props for any tv or movie set, past or present, which would you choose?
FFS: Gangs of New York, There Will be Blood and A Good Year in the movie department for sure. I think there would be no challenge for me to get it right the first time.
Gangs of New York set
There Will Be Blood movie set
A Good Year film set
MJ: Two of the three movies you mentioned, star Daniel Day Lewis. Do you think he would be a fan of Frick & Frack?
FFS: I think so. He is very unique himself and he lives in a castle pretty much so he’s certainly got the money to “drink my milkshake”.
Side note: If this reference confuses you, check out the “milkshake” scene from There Will Be Blood
MJ: Also, two of the three movies you mentioned are period dramas and the third is a contemporary drama set in provincial France. It is easy to picture Frick & Frack in both these worlds. What inspires you about the look of these films?
FFS: There is a utilitarian feel to everything old to me. Not much design just use in mind when they were made in the old days. That has beauty to me. I like that.
MJ:  What one type of item is a consistent seller in your shop? What seems to be the slowest to sell?
FFS: The Four Pack is a runaway success. The Fire Box Humidor and the Coat racks are the slugs but I looked at other Etsy shops that have coat racks and mine should be sold as firewood compared to others! There is such cool stuff on Etsy.
Large Coat Rack & Small Coat Rack from Frick & Frack Scraps

MJ:  What type of environment (besides the fireplace!) would your coat racks look best?

 FFS: I dont know. The ones with the wooden “sleigh” shaped hooks would be great in a rustic cabin in Montana. Like a River Runs Through It house that Ikea just re-decorated.
MJ: What are some of the challenges of being a handmade seller?
FFS: I think people’s expectations. I make things rustic. I am not a finish carpenter. I send items out that might give you splinters. Really. I have not had any problems but that is the part that makes it hard.You just never know how someone will react when they get an item in hand having based their purchase on three or four pictures and a description.
MJ: Do you think if you heard more feedback from buyers that you would build different items?
FFS: I am not sure. I listen to my head when I build. There is not much more room in there for other people.
MJ:  What’s your shop’s greatest success story?
FFS: Well, all of the coverage I have gotten for sure! I think when Urban Outfitters emailed me to be a vendor for their outdoor center in PA, that was pretty cool. Nothing ever came of it, in the end, but just think about how that one email could have really changed things. And the ONLY reason is due to Etsy and all of their hard work.
MJ: If you could spend one day, building Frick & Frack alongside anybody famous, living or dead, who would you choose?
FFS: Frankie Wright. (that’s what his friends call him)
Architect and designer, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), father of organic architecture and leader of the Prairie School Movement.

MJ:  What does your studio space look like? What would your ideal space look like?

FFS: I build most everything thus far at my pal, Tommy’s, old mill building. It is old, dusty, and full of great equipment. My ideal space would be a 1/2 indoor 1/2 outdoor space, maybe an old barn.
MJ:  What’s next on the Frick & Frack horizon?
FFS: I have no clue. Some days I think if I could just do this full time, life would be alot more simple and rewarding. I think I will try to get some wholesale clients that want lots of four packs. Maybe a cool brewery like Dog Fish Head or Victory Brewing Company could find my work and fall madly in love with it.  And then I will be the hero that made their beer sales skyrocket and there would be a movie made about my life and how I changed the corporate culture of beer packaging.  I would become a household name and then retire in Ireland to golf until I die. Who knows? It is amazing what a minute can do.
MJ: What would the title be to that movie be?
FFS: I think it would be: Luck. I have had alot of it in my life.
POST UPDATE (10/10/2012):  Frick and Frack Scraps has just entered the blogging world! If you are in need of a laugh (or 20!) stop by and visit their aptly named blog, Out of Hand.