Masters of Mid-Century Design: Baxter & Liebchen

Mar 25, 2014

Baxter & Liebchen is one of the premier Danish mid-century furniture dealers in the United States. The company was founded in 2003 by Andrew Kevelson, a former Wall Street software salesman with a penchant for vintage Scandinavian craftsmanship and a passion for restoring rare antique pieces. He started the company with a friend named Justin Weinstein, who’s now an accomplished documentary film director. What initially started off as a small side project has expanded into a sprawling business with two locations in Manhattan (New York Design Center, ABC Home), and a huge warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn. We sat down with Andrew to discuss his continuing love affair with Danish modern design and artistry.

Why did you focus on Danish modern furniture as your area of expertise?
I had been a longtime fan of the genre and longed for the beautiful designs I saw in the shops of downtown Manhattan.  I was intrigued by the melding of well-thought out organic and architectural forms and centuries-old woodworking craftsmanship that the Scandinavians excelled in.  Being an engineer by training, I found it an unavoidable challenge to figure out how to source the objects I loved, restore them properly and then present them to the world.  It’s been one of the most supremely rewarding experiences of my life.

The Danish were extremely skilled craftsmen. How did they bring their special set of skills to bear on the furniture they created?
In the beginning half of the 20th Century, designs were becoming visually lighter, and required greater dependence on experienced joinery methods.  In addition, the new designs were becoming increasingly organic which relied on their wood shaping and carving abilities. The Danes used woods with higher oil and resin content, such as Teak and Rosewood, requiring them to develop cutting techniques that compensated for the tendency of saw blades to distort when heating up during use.

What are the main characteristics of Danish Modern furniture?

Danish Modern design is a distinct blend of visual lightness created by architectural design and the warmth driven by the predominance of wood materials used.  Furthermore, the Danish architects pushed their designs to include shapes found in nature, organic shapes, as well as shapes found on animals and anthropomorphic forms.  As a result, there are many design elements with soft and irregular natural edges, features and symmetries that invoke animal appearances. These organic influences can be seen in designers like Wegner, Finn Juhl and Johannes Andersen.

You also take pride in rescuing and restoring vintage pieces. How do you make the call on the ones you can save versus pieces that are just too damaged?
There are certain degrees of damage that I usually avoid attempting to restore. That being said, if a piece is extra rare or beautiful, I may attempt to rescue it despite the greater potential for failure.

Who are some of the most influential Danish designers? Is it difficult finding pieces from these standout designers?

Designers like Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and Arne Vodder had large productions at the time and their pieces can certainly be found.  In contrast, a designer such as Peder Moos was revered in Denmark for his exacting craftsmanship but had a very small production that was primarily made to order and cannot be easily found.
The success of some designers was often a mixture of beautiful designs, partnership with the right cabinetmakers and marketing skill. Hans Wegner early on had his designs manufactured by Johannes Hansen.  At the time, Mr. Hansen happened to be very influential in the Danish Cabinetmaking Guild. A particular coup for Wegner occurred when his Round Chair was featured on the cover of Look  magazine in the US and years later chosen as the debate chairs for the US 1960 presidential debate. Also Finn Juhl drew some luck when the Danish King sat in one of chairs.  Consequently, the design became known as the chieftain chair.

Lastly, what do you envision as the future of Baxter & Liebchen?

It is a labor of love to source, restore, present and sell the great pieces in our collection.  If we were to do nothing else but to continue maintaining our standards for quality and customer satisfaction, our future will continue to brighten as a premier and well respected dealer.

Company Website: www.baxterliebchen.com


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