Mid Century Makers: France & Son
While it is difficult to know how to refer to this giant of mid century furniture design (it had three names inside 30 years), it is easy to underestimate its contribution to the success of Danish furniture.
Formed as a small-scale mattress manufacturer in 1936, France & Daverkosen, a joint venture between British businessman Charles France and Danish cabinetmaker Eric Daverkosen, was going nowhere fast.
By 1954, however, it was responsible for 60% of all Danish furniture exports.
That’s enormous when you consider that this was the golden age of Danish design.
Now, we expect this statistic to jar with readers who have come here to find an article about the enduring appeal of France & Son furniture.
How is it that furniture produced in such high volumes can be synonymous with quality, durability and attention to detail some six decades later?
Well, that is where the real story of France & Son lies.
It managed what few, if any, have achieved before or after: high-quality, mass-produced furniture.
This is the reason that the list of designers who worked with France & Son (Finn Juhl, Tove & Kindt-Larsen, Ole Wanscher, Arne Vodder, Grete Jalk et al) looks like a who’s who of Danish furniture.
What follows is some information you might find useful when shopping for vintage France & Son furniture:
Where to Buy France & Son Furniture?
As ever, the first place we would recommend is right here. We always try to acquire any items as and when they become available.
However, because this is one of the biggest names in Danish furniture design, that’s not always so easy to do. Private vendors tend to want to sell at retail prices.
Just be aware that all the vendors who sell through these outlets will have a very firm grasp of the market value of a piece.
You might get lucky with eBay and Gumtree but lucky would definitely be the operative word.
There are also some great mid century furniture shops in the London that, like us, will acquire any France & Son pieces they can.
Head to our vintage furniture shopping guide for more.
Some of the most famous France & Son pieces are now made under licence. The House of Finn Juhl is a good example of this.
Whatever you do, don’t go direct to FranceandSon.com expecting to find original, vintage pieces.
We’re not entirely sure what the story is here but we don’t believe there is any connection between this company and the Danish manufacturer.
When was France & Son Founded?
France & Daverkosen was founded in 1936.
Sadly, Eric Daverkosen died a year later.
The company name remained unchanged until 1957, when Charles France’s son James joined the ranks.
This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, when the company became known as France & Son.
In the mid-1960’s, the company was purchased by Danish furniture designer Poul Cadovius, who renamed the business CADO.
We’re not quite sure what happened at the end but it looks like CADO was no more within ten years.
Where was France & Son Furniture From?
France & Son was founded in Denmark.
Eric Daverkosen was Danish. Charles France was an Englishman.
Where was France & Son Furniture Made?
The main manufacturing facility was in Hillerød, outside Copenhagen.
It is here that the company developed, in conjunction with Finn Juhl, the sawing technique that allowed them to make mass-produced teak furniture—a feat which had previously eluded anyone and everyone that had tried before them.
What is France & Son Furniture Made From?
Teak. Lots and lots of teak.
One article we read in preparing this piece suggested that France & Son was the biggest importer of teak timber from Thailand for a number of years but we haven’t been able to verify that.
Still, it wouldn’t surprise us given the development of the aforementioned revolutionary sawing technique that really changed the face of the business, if not the industry.
How to Identify France & Son Furniture
Thankfully, the company was so proud of its output that they liked to put their branding on everything that left the building.
An Arne Vodder armchair that we stocked was actually stamped in three separate places.
The same can also be said of France & Daverkosen and CADO pieces.
What you won’t find is the black, Danish furniture control sticker.
France is alleged to have claimed that the company’s in-house quality control procedures would be far superior to those of the Danish Furniture Association.
Source: House of Finn Juhl
What’s France & Son Most Famous Design?
With so many of the biggest names creating shapes for the company it really is hard to narrow the list down to one.
However, if you pushed us, we’d probably say either the France Chair (pictured) or the Bwana Chair, both of which were devised by Finn Juhl.
The former, while perhaps not as striking as the latter, was a huge success in the USA. This success was due in part to the fact that it was one of the first instances of ‘knock-down’ furniture—or flat-packed furniture as it is known today.
Long story short, it was built to disassemble in seconds so it could be packaged and shipped across the Atlantic.
We don’t believe that this was the first instance of such design but it would definitely have made a significant contribution to its wider proliferation and for that reason it should be towards the top of any list.
Is France & Son Furniture Valuable?
Yes as it remains hugely collectible.
If we’re being honest, we would say the market favours sellers but if you want quality and can afford to meet the price, you won’t be disappointed.
How to Care for Your France & Son Furniture
If you choose to go a different way just make sure that whatever you use is natural and contains no solvents.
Wipe down mess and stains with a damp (not wet) cloth.
Upholstery work should always be carried out by a professional.
Sand solid wood pieces with caution and always sand the whole piece to ensure a consistent finish.
Don’t sand veneer furniture. If there is a blemish that is driving you to distraction, seek the help of a professional.
Head to our mid century France and Son furniture collection for more.