France & Søn / France & Daverkosen


France & Søn—and its predecessor, France & Daverkosen—are among the most sought after names on the vintage market today. Numerous pieces that are still in circulation retain their original identifying labels and were designed by major midcentury Danish designers, like Hvidt & Mølgaard, Grete Jalk, Finn Juhl, Arne Vodder, and Ole Wanscher. It's surprising, then, that so little information about the company's history and evolution has survived.

The popular Danish manufacturing firm was founded in Denmark in 1936 by British businessman Charles W. France and Danish cabinetmaker Eric Daverkosen, who had met years earlier in Yorkshire while working at the same textile company where they became close friends. Sadly, Eric Daverkosen died a year later in 1937, but France continued to run the factory with Daverkosen's widow.

Mattresses may have been the company's first focus, but by 1952 France & Daverkosen had built a large furniture factory in Hillerød, just outside of Copenhagen, and was fast becoming one of most successful Danish furniture companies dedicated to mass production rather than traditional artisanal methods. Seating that features loose cushions and light, teak frames became France & Daverkosen's signature.

In 1957, when France’s son James France joined the company, the name was changed to France & Søn. Many models produced by France & Daverkosen had been named FD followed by the model number, and France & Søn continued to produce those designs under their original names while introducing new collections every year.

Sometime between 1964 and 1967, Danish designer-manufacturer Poul Cadovius purchased France & Søn and renamed it CADO. Cadovius continued to produce France & Søn designs and to collaborate with an impressive roster of iconic designers, including Verner Panton, until he closed shop some time in the mid- to late-1970s. Notable designs produced over two decades by France & Søn and its related companies include the FD145 chair, Minerva sofa, and the Model 523—or Pinwheel—side table by Peter Hvidt and Orla Molgaard-Nielsen (all 1950s); the FD109, FD110 (both 1950s) and Senator chairs by Ole Wanscher (1951); the 209 Diplomat (early 1960s) and Bwana (1964) chairs by Finn Juhl; and the FD164 armchair and ottoman by Arne Vodder (1960s).

Arguably, France & Søn's success in the arena of mass production contributed to its lackluster coverage by design historians; the sheer quantity of its production may have interfered with creating an aura of "specialness." Yet, one surviving story claims that France & Søn was the first—under the direction of Finn Juhl—to figure out how to work with teak at an industrial scale, an impressive feat in the modernist era. Juhl's Model 133 Spadestolen Chair (1953) was the first result. Furthermore, France & Son ensured its products could be easily dismantled, making them cheaper to export. In the late 1950s to early 60s, the company supplied furniture to offices of the International Monetary Fund and created large export markets in Germany and the United States. And the fact that so many France & Søn pieces can be found today in very good condition attests to the company's achievements in quality.