TEXT: LOUISE OLDER STEFFENSEN | PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MORTEN STENBÆK
MAIN PHOTO: Morten with some of his most popular pieces: the American-inspired Low Rocker, the Low Back Lounge Chair and the Triplex Dining Chair, accompanied by the Sunflower light and his Columnae table.
Ten years ago, Morten Stenbæk decided to try to make his own chair, picking up the necessary skills from the internet as he went along. Then, as one does, he thought that he should make every single piece of furniture in his house himself. Seven years later, the demand for his work had reached the point where he decided it was time to dedicate his professional life to his furniture. In just three years, Morten Stenbæk’s beautiful, sculptural creations have found their way to living rooms and furniture galleries as far afield as the US.
Passion and creativity radiate off of Stenbæk. He is a classic artisan, turning the ancient craft of furniture-making into art. He spends most of his day in his workshop, where he builds and shapes each chair, table and lamp entirely by himself, and when he can’t be there, his mind flutters between different curves, lines and shades of wood. “I’m deeply inspired by organic sculptural forms,” he says. “My highest wish is to marry form and function into one piece, so that people don’t have to choose between comfort and aesthetics in their home. Furniture should both serve a useful purpose and be eye-pleasing objects.”
While a large part of Stenbæk’s time is taken up by making custom versions of his established range, his speech brims with ideas for future pieces and experiments he wants to carry out – when he gets a moment to do so – and thoughts on how to adapt his existing pieces to newly conquered materials, shapes and techniques. “As Wendell Castle, father of the art furniture movement, famously said, ‘if you hit the bullseye each time, the target is too near’,” Stenbæk smiles. “Ingenuity comes from daring to try things out, and accepting those times when you go ‘what on earth was I thinking?’.”
Stenbæk, who trained as a multimedia designer, spent ten years as a professional musician before turning to interior design. His musicality is evident in each creation. There’s a flow and a swagger to each piece, a joyful playfulness to every line – and yet, his creations demand to be taken seriously. His three-legged lounge Whale Chair or sculptural Columnae table would not look out of place in Copenhagen’s design museum, but there’s a quiet flamboyance about them that isn’t quite Scandinavian.
“Nordic design tends to be very light and precise and regimented, but for me, the greatest strength lies in the place where contrasts meet: the lightness of a curve in a strong type of wood, for example. Some people have said my furniture reminds them of Gaudi a bit. I must admit I never studied his furniture closely, but I find it very flattering.”