Ole Høstbo’s Copenhagen Home Mixes Scandinavian Design Masters with Unexpected Contemporary Art
In the Dansk Møbelkunst gallerist’s tightly curated abode, Hans Wegner and Poul Henningsen meet Olafur Eliasson and Joel Shapiro
- By Stephanie Sporn
- Living With Art
As the founder and director of Copenhagen’s Dansk Møbelkunst gallery, which has offered historic Danish, Finnish, and Swedish furnishings for 30 years, Ole Høstbo is one of the world’s foremost experts on 20th-century design. Naturally, the gallerist has amassed an impressive private collection of Nordic design, but much like his gallery, his personal tastes have evolved and expanded, introducing contemporary talents beyond Scandinavia.
“Because I’ve been in this field such a long time, Nordic design is what’s close to my heart, and it has a huge influence on my home,” says Høstbo, who began collecting pieces by Danish architects and designers Finn Juhl and Poul Henningsen during his early twenties. “However, I often see other works I would like to live with, so if I can afford it, I buy it. Whereas in the gallery, pieces need to primarily be from a certain period and country, in my home, I enjoy keeping things more diverse.”
Høstbo’s late-19th-century Copenhagen home is an exercise in curation with a bold twist on pure Scandinavian minimalism. Restraint has always been a part of his practice: “I don’t want to put things in a room just to fill up the space—I’m looking for the right objects. Generally if something goes in, something else has to go out.”
For Høstbo, who enjoys “showing modern and contemporary things in older buildings,” the home’s original ceilings, wood floors, and door panels comprise an ideal canvas for his pared-down collection. Huge windows—a particularly rare feature in Copenhagen—and a terrace provide sweeping city views, though, for the first time, Høstbo added interest indoors by painting many of the rooms’ walls in soothing tones rather than the stark white to which he is accustomed. “I have found colors really help create a home,” he says. “Every room has its own color: the dining room is blue, the living room is a beige gray, and the guest room and library are different shades of green.”
When it comes to his furniture, Høstbo stays true to his gallery’s name—Møbelkunst, the Danish term for “Furniture Art” reveres the handicraft tradition and celebrates a synthesis of aesthetics, utility, and craftsmanship. “I keep coming back to Hans [J.] Wegner’s pieces because they’re extremely functional, elegant, and the quality of the materials is very high. They’re discreet without taking attention away from everything else,” says Høstbo of his dining set and desk and chair from the 1950s, both by Wegner. “He’s one of the best Danish designers and his pieces are the most comfortable. You never get bored of them.”
Helping anchor the rooms are hand-woven rugs by Swedish artist Märta Måås-Fjetterström, a pioneer of 20th- century textile design, whose workshop still exists today. “They’re beautiful and durable and come in a huge variation of colors and patterns,” says Høstbo. Underneath the Wegner dining table lies the indigo ikat rug Light Blueberry that Swedish textile artist Barbro Nilsson designed for the workshop, while a golden geometric style by her sits beneath a Bruno Mathsson Paris Daybed and Book Crib in the guest room.
Above the dining table is a vibrant fluorescent pendant light by Henningsen, which he created for The House of Tomorrow, a 1959 Copenhagen exhibition that was conceived as an ultramodern home. “Very traditional lighting doesn’t speak to me. It has to be a sculpture in the room,” says Høstbo. In the living room, a translucent yellow pendant light by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson finds itself among contemporary pieces, including a Halo color projector floor lamp by design studio Mandalaki. Høstbo’s home also features lighting by contemporary Cypriot-born, London-based designer, Michael Anastassiades, whose striking Tube Chandelier is suspended above the staircase. “He’s made some of the best contemporary design pieces I’ve seen,” says the gallerist, who tapped Anastassiades to create a collection of wooden furniture for Dansk Møbelkunst in 2018.
Although Høstbo’s latest fine art acquisition was a painting by Italian artist Alberto Magnelli, a leading figure of the Concrete art movement, he finds himself increasingly drawn to contemporary art. Holding a “special place in [his] heart” are works by two artists Høstbo has known for decades: Scottish abstract painter Callum Innes created a small orange-and-white split canvas on the second story, as well as the green, black, and white painting in the guestroom, which additionally features New York sculptor Joel Shapiro’s Walking Man.
“In terms of design, some of the pieces I enjoy most are those I enjoyed 25 years ago,” says Høstbo. “But over the years, the palette is always getting bigger. You see more collections. You go to more fairs. That’s why TEFAF is a fantastic place for a new collector to come and visit, because you see the breadth of everything you could collect.”
Høstbo is currently on the hunt for paintings by Danish artist Per Kirkeby and Swedish artists Mamma Andersson and Sara-Vide Ericson. Topping his wish list, however, is ironically the first item he collected—a pair of Finn Juhl’s 45 Chairs—which he deeply regrets selling more than 30 years ago. “From my point of view, it’s the best chair that has been made,” he says of the iconic mid-century design, which revolutionized chair design with its upholstered seat floating inside a wooden frame. “One day I will have another pair of these famous armchairs. They will fit in, but something else will have to go.”
Copyright on works of visual artists affiliated to a CISAC organization has been arranged with Pictoright in Amsterdam. © c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2023.
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