Poul Kjærholm’s design is characterized by an understated elegance, clean lines and a remarkable attention to detail. Supple and flexible, his designs occupy a room with a natural dignity. Kjærholm was a master at making a lengthy and difficult design process appear effortless fresh and direct in the finished piece of furniture; as if he had just pulled it out of his sleeve. The dining table PK 54 is one of Kjærholm’s finest and most powerful works, designed for his own home in 1963. The table is simply composed of a cubic steel base and a round marble top. The base is constructed of four welded, matt, chromed-plated steel frames, joined with machine screws and the top is placed directly onto a pair of these frames. The thinness of the bearing frames and the space between the cubic base and the top create a sense of visual lightness even though the tabletop is in fact quite heavy. With its combination of an open steel frame and an opaque stone plate and with its combination of cube and circle, the table is a beautiful study in contrasting materials and forms. In his own home Kjærholm used the table together with a set of chairs PK 9.
At first sight the elegant steel furniture of Poul Kjærholm appears to exist outside of the Danish cabinetmaking tradition. The use of steel points to the influence of Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer and there is no doubt that Kjærholm was highly inspired by the pioneers of the twenties. Nevertheless, the simple structures and carefully designed details are recognizably part of the Danish “furniture art” tradition. Kjærholm’s furniture has a modest character; an understated elegance defined by subtle textures and genuine materials. Kjærholm considered steel to be a natural material with the same artistic merit as wood and leather and he found that steel takes on patina just as beautifully as organic materials if it is polished correctly and given the correct surface treatment. He was able to combine the rational simplicity and cool expression of the ideal industrial product with the warm texture and the perfect treatment of materials that characterize the handicraft tradition. The PK 9 dining chair is one of Kjærholm’s most important works and was designed in 1960. The chair was designed to be comfortable – without taking up too much space – not only during a short meal, but also when the meal lasted far into the evening. The seat and back are cast of fibreglass, covered with brown leather. The frame is made of three lengths of chrome-plated spring steel joined with allen screws in two hexagonal spacers. The three “legs” follow a moment curve where they spread out towards the floor.