Everyone has a right to have a cool kitchen!
That is what a commercial advertisement read a couple years ago. 60 years ago “a cool kitchen” was an ideal few could afford. The modern welfare state was founded in a decade where moderation and cramped conditions were the norm rather than the exception. But it was also an age packed with innovation and creativity. Both the stylish architectonical pure lines and Madam Blue of the worker home are haunting us to this very day with new, nostalgic retro features.
The Golden Age of Danish design
Desigmuseum Danmark holds one of the most extensive collections of Danish furniture classics from the post-war time. The museum resides in the building, which once was the Royal Highness Frederik’s Hospital. In the old rococo-hospital’s long corridors one can admire familar chairs and other renowned design objects by the likes of Finn Juhl, Børge Mogensen, Poul Henningsen and Arne Jacobsen. The museum is the perfect place to delve in the history of design, as it was here the influential Cabinetmakers Guildannual furniture exhibition was held from 1927 – 1966, where many of the classics were brought out for the very first time. The purpose of the exhibitions was, among other things, to create furniture for the two-room apartment. Above the furniture exponents form-moulded chairs hang several original posters from the 50’s and advertises housing fairs with slogans such as “My own house” and shows the optimism and the progressive economy of the period.
The worker’s daily life
It did last a while, though, before the Ant chair and PH-lamp became a common sight in the average home. A visit to The Worker’s Museum gives you an insight in the 1950’s home as it was for the majority of the Danes. In the old facilitates of the trade union you can experience the décor of a two-room apartment which has the air of nostalgia. Visitors born before 1950 quite frequently exclaim, “We had something like that in my childhood home!” when they walk in the cosy rooms. Furniture made in solid teak, bright colours, mottled curtains, gramophones in travel-size, curlers, copper cauldrons and bunk beds. But beneath the nostalgia you can sense the earnestness as the non-existent minimalism is not merely a cover up for bad taste but tells of poor circumstances too. When you compare the blue painted Copenhagener-kitchen with the modern sociable kitchen, you can almost see the revolutionary home evolution happen in front of your eyes. Above the small cooker hangs a gas meter, which had to be fed with change if one wanted to use the cooker – whether for preparing food or making tea - the freezer and the refrigerator were not equipment taken for granted either. In the kitchen at the Workers Museum the family could afford an icebox, so they did not have to place the cold cuts near the windowsills to delay the rotting.
Instruments that changed the world
The technical practicalities of the home are an entire history in itself, and it is being told at The Danish Museum of Science and Technology. In the exhibition Home, dear home” you can experience the home technologies which the average 1950’s home possessed, and compare those to the century old technical history. The electrical housekeeping evolved rapidly in the wake of the technological inventions of the World War II, and the increasing consumerism. The electrical cooker, the washing machine and not to forget the food processor were but a few of the instruments which changed the daily life of the Danes. The family got together in front of the TV, the Nilfisk vacuum cleaner declared war against dust and the travel-sized gramophone and the transistor radio let in rock and roll into the cosy living rooms.
Norms and taboos have also changed inside the domestic home since the 1950’s. At The Danish Police Museum you can see the old taboos and norms close up; the museum holds confiscated material from diverse sexual crimes, which tell of a whole different time and age. The exhibited crimes from the 1950’s include several actions, which are considered legal today. Among other things there are transsexual and homosexual objects on display as well as a quack doctor’s bag – with the content intact. The only acceptable factor in the case of the latter is that after the operation the quack doctor gave the woman an admonition of not wanting to see her again. You can also visit Revymuseet next to Frederiksberg Have and get a good laugh at the 1950’s revue classics.