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Grete Jalk

Progressive furniture designer, writer, and instructor, Grete Jalk is known as one of the few female leading figures in the mid-century modern Scandinavian design movement. Her comfortable and clean aesthetic placed her at the forefront of design in the 1950s and 1960s. With a comprehensive education, she was able to create some of the most iconic pieces and establish herself as a force to be reckoned among her male counterparts.

Born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1920, Jalk began her studies in design at a young age, just after graduating high school. She enrolled in the Copenhagen Design School for Women where she studied under Cabinetmaker, Karen Margarethe Conradsen. Soon after she went on to the renowned Danish Royal Academy where she studied under the guidance of the famed instructor, Kaare Klint. In 1946, she completed her education while earning her first prize at the Cabinetmakers Guild Competition - a competition that she participated in nearly every year for two decades.

Some of her innovative designs stemmed from her progressive ideals, notably in her “self-supporting women’s den.” She designed the set in 1947 – a sofa bed, wall-mounted storage, and a desk. The design was meant to serve as both a bedroom and study room for the modern professional woman. In 1953, Grete Jalk established her own design studio. Her minimalist, multi-functional furniture made it cost-effective for mass production, though, ironically, her most famous design was not. In 1963, Jalk participated in the first competition hosted by The Daily Mail, in which her innovative design, the GJ Chair made her the first-place winner. Due to the high production cost and design complexity, there were only about three-hundred units manufactured - one is permanently displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

From sofas to side tables, storage units to chairs, Grete Jalk was able to do almost anything. Not only was she a furniture design pioneer, but her work for the design magazine Mobilia and the four-volume publication titled “40 Years of Danish Furniture Design” demonstrated her versatile capabilities and knowledge of the field. There is no doubt that throughout her career, Jalk was and still is a crucial figure in the popularity of Scandinavian design.

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