Less than a mile from the Hudson River, an imposing industrial complex in Jersey City, NJ, hides a mine of vintage Danish furniture. Inside, I am greeted by a panel, pinned to a flared column par excellence industrial. It reads “Lanoba Design,” the words flanked by a black outline of a mid-century modern-looking chair and an arrow pointing left.
Lanoba Design is the brainchild of Danish entrepreneur Lars Noah Balderskilde and her husband and business partner, David Singh. Every year since 2016, Balderskilde has returned home to Denmark to hunt down mid-century Danish furniture, search flea markets, knock on people’s doors and search the streets for discarded furniture. He then packs them into large containers and ships them to the United States, where he and Singh refurbish them and resell them to passionate American customers.
In five years, Balderskilde has collected more than 10,000 pieces. If one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, then Lanoba Design (an amalgamation of Balderskilde’s initials) is a master in the art of treasure hunting. But in a world where Americans throw away over 12 million tons of furniture a year, he also championed the circular design by breathing new life into Danish bailouts, carving himself a cozy place (dare I say hygge) niche in an oversaturated furniture market.
Balderskilde has loved vintage furniture since he was little. “We would never go to an amusement park but to the flea market,” he says, and his brother taught him everything he knows about renovating Danish furniture. But it wasn’t until decades later, when Balderskilde and Singh moved to Chicago and noticed how Danish furniture was sold at flea markets, that they realized it could be a business opportunity.
The New Jersey Warehouse is a cornucopia of rosewood desks at $ 1,095, teak cabinets at $ 995, nightstands at $ 595, tables, chairs, dressers and a myriad of other mid-century Danish modern gems. Some are refurbished and displayed as in a showroom, supplemented by Danish suspensions. Others are crammed into a corner of the warehouse, waiting to be brought back to life.
When I visited in December, dusty desks and various furniture were stacked up to three desks high. The warehouse is open to visitors on weekends, when people line up to call the first dibs on parts. (During the 2020 closings, offices were flying off the shelves – “We sold 150 offices in three weeks,” Singh explains.)
You can buy a part as is or pay around 20% more for a completely remodeled part that looks like new. The parts are thoroughly cleaned, sanded and repaired; the joints are tightened and the chairs re-upholstered. Balderskilde says it can take anywhere from three hours to two days to refurbish an item. For him, it is as much about restoring a piece of furniture as it is about preserving part of the history of Danish design.
Indeed, each item in this warehouse has a story. “There are a few rooms where I can say: this is from Matilda’s house, and she had it as a wedding present, and she had it for 60 years, and it was sitting in her living room,” says Singh. Most of the objects, however, Balderskilde found in people’s basements, attics or garages. He says Danish homes are now more stylish and contemporary, and many Danes see these vintage pieces as “old grandma’s furniture” that no longer matches their aesthetic preferences.
Danes may not like their family heirlooms anymore, but they know their value. “Fifteen or twenty years ago, these pieces meant nothing to the Danes,” says Balderskilde. “If you had furniture to get rid of, thrift stores would reject it. For better or for worse, things are changing and demand has continued to grow, mainly from the United States but also from South East Asia, where Balderskilde says Danish furniture is shipped to. mass. As a result, stocks are dwindling rapidly and prices are skyrocketing. “In four to five years we will be at the end of the spring,” says Balderskilde, after which they will have to decide whether they want to focus on another era or change course completely.
Unlike most other Danish furniture in the United States, which dates back to the 1970s, Lanoba Design specializes in rosewood and teak pieces that were made between the late 1940s and the 1960s. “J ‘like older stuff a bit more, ”says Balderskilde. With the export boom of the 1970s, he says, Danish furniture was designed to be shipped overseas, so it became more mass-produced and some attention to detail and quality was lost in the process. course.
But the American obsession with Danish furniture has grown steadily since. According to Balderskilde, this is because you get something unique, but also because Danish furniture is compact and multifunctional. It was designed to accommodate smaller homes like those in Denmark, but also cities like New York, where most of Lanoba’s clientele come from. (They used to ship nationwide, but they’ve since narrowed down the tri-state area.) Pretty much every dining table in Lanoba comes with an elegant set of leaves that stretch out to form a larger area. I also noticed a surprising number of charming corner shelves suitable for a cozy Manhattan studio. “The idea has always been that people would keep their furniture for 60 years,” Singh explains, stressing the importance of utility. “It was not a quick piece of furniture.”
In many ways, Lanoba is the antithesis of fast furniture. By breathing new life into already-built furniture, designers reduce the environmental impact associated with building new rooms from scratch. The shipping side of the business may increase the company’s carbon footprint, but most of the parts we buy today already travel thousands of miles, mostly from Southeast Asia, so the model would only be beaten by a furniture company that sources materials and manufactures everything in the US “Where we save on the footprint is we don’t have to replicate new pieces,” explains Balderskilde.