Where I Work: Hans Bølling at Brdr. Krüger

Danish architect and designer Hans Bølling is going strong at 86 years young, spending a majority of his time since the 1950s working with the family-run, Danish design house Brdr. Krüger. His attention to detail and whimsical style are perfectly paired with the Brdr. Krüger brand, who focus on solid craftsmanship and mid-century Danish modern aesthetics for contemporary users. You many remember both names after we featured Bølling’s TRIIIO Table launch in 2017. In this Where I Work, the acclaimed designer lets us into his workshop within the Brdr. Krüger’s offices and showroom for a look at his surroundings and his work style. Take a look.

What is your typical work style?

My studio is my base where I collect inspiration, from there I can venture out and work on projects. I have always enjoyed getting ‘hands-on’ quite early in the design process, preferring to prototype my ideas in wood. I believe I do my best work when I get my hands dirty, and for this I go to my longtime partners at Brdr. Krüger, with whom I have collaborated since the 1950s. Brdr. Krüger is a family-run furniture producer in Denmark, established in 1886.

What’s your studio/work environment like?

It is quite raw and reminds me of a growth house, placed inside a warehouse.

How is your space organized/arranged?

It has a big elevation worktable in the middle, surrounded by low shelves with handy tools and inspirational items. At the end wall there is a pinboard and there is also a sewing machine. It is both inspiring and practical. And just next door is the production, so we can materialise our ideas quite fast.

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

Brdr. Krüger recently opened their showroom, so this space is quite new. I have been in my old studio for 33 years. Before that, I worked in the centre of Copenhagen with other architects.

If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

More space for more models.

The Kay Bojesen monkey

Is there an office pet?

Not really, though we do have company of a Kay Bojesen monkey, that Brdr. Krüger produces for Rosendahl Design Group.

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

I love listening to Mozart and Bach when I draw.

How do you record ideas?

I always carry a pencil with me, to sketch ideas. I sketch on whatever I have at hand; the backside of a shopping list or a receipt from the gas station. At home, I have a notebook on my nightstand – I often wake up and am compelled to take notes, otherwise they are forgotten in the morning.

Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

Some drawings, cut-outs and material samples. I also have a small quote pinned there: “Words are the source of misunderstanding”, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. There is something profound and inspiring about that quote that I can relate to. My wife always says “you don’t work, you play”, and she is right. I am 86 years old but I have an almost childish approach to design; navigating mostly by my intuition. I believe my designs connect with people through sensitivity.

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

No, the process is the same, but I do enjoy working with wood and it has always been a part of my designs and development. Before I became an architect, I trained as a carpenter and my love for wood has remained the same throughout my career. When I work at Brdr. Krüger’s workshop, it is like a playground for me – the wood, the machines and the design-lab all throw up endless possibilities. I love to be hands-on and make decisions on the shop floor.

Art by Farshad Farzankia with Hans Bølling’s Tray Tables

What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?

At Brdr. Krüger everything becomes an inspirational object: the tools, the wood, even the woodchips on the factory floor. In the design-lab, there are old wood-turned objects from the past, they inspire me too – I cherish traditional craftsmanship. In the showroom there are big beautiful oil paintings by an exciting young Danish artist named Farshad Farzankia. I think his modern art goes very well with my Tray Tables.

Old tools on Hans Bølling’s Tray Table in black

Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

There are lots of old and new tools in the workshop. Brdr. Krüger is working with traditional craft and new design and this is a great inspiration to me. I keep getting new ideas by being in this environment and I am in constant dialogue with Jonas Krüger (who is the 5th generation to work in the family business) about adjustments and new developments.

Hans Bølling at the lathe

What tool(s) do you most enjoy using in the design process?

Without a doubt it is the lathe – I have one at home. I designed my very first Bølling Tray Table on a lathe, without any drawings. The idea just came to me and I went directly to the workshop and made it overnight. This was in 1963 and today I am told, the Tray Table has become a Danish design classic.

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

The only electronics I have are a photocopying machine and a calculator. My mobile phone can only make and receive calls and text messages, and I write letters. No email.

What design software do you use, if any, and for what?

None. I use my father’s old red fountain pen.

Hans Bølling sitting at his TRIIIO dining table in walnut

Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?

I have many favourites, but a recent great piece I want to mention is the development of the TRIIIO table series. It has been an immense joy to experience a sketch and prototype I made when I was 27 years-old (in 1958) in the hands of the skilled craftsmen in Brdr. Krüger’s workshop; to see them work their magic and witness how simple and elegant amendments have transformed my original prototype into three present-day tables with a timeless quality.

The original prototype of TRIIIO side table from 1958

Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? What has made you feel like you’ve become successful? At what moment/circumstances? Or what will it take to get there?

The fact that my designs are still appreciated after so many years, and that I can continue doing what I love, is a great joy and privilege. I started working with Brdr. Krüger in the 50s, with Jonas’s grandfather, then his father and now, most recently, with Jonas on the TRIIIO tables. We have evolved and achieved success together. I feel like Brdr. Krüger are family to me. I have a great life and I am very grateful.

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

Right now, we are collaborating with HERMÉS on a bespoke version of the TRIIIO dining table, for their new flagship store in Copenhagen. We are working on some custom details and alternative materials, which suits the architecture of the HERMÉS store.

What’s on your desk right now?

Samples and different test shapes as part of our research for the custom-made TRIIIO dining table for HERMÉS.

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

I have the Bølling Tray Table, of course…

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.