You never know what you’re going to find when you answer a Craigslist ad. Perhaps you’ll find a gently loved item from a sweet littler old lady or maybe you’ll find a terribly described piece of trash in a dimly lit basement that will give you nightmares for years to come. It’s always a gamble. But it’s often a gamble worth taking. Recently I answered an ad for a vintage stereo that was advertised as “fully working.” It was not. It didn’t even pretend to work—not even a little. My disappointment, however, was lifted a bit when I spotted this slightly amazing bench sitting behind the stereo.
Amazing, right? I immediately asked if it was for sale. It was, they just hadn’t listed it yet. They’d take $20. Sold! I really didn’t know who designed or made it and I really didn’t care, I just thought it looked cool. The walnut bench has a floating design with a wool clad seat that arcs gracefully upward toward the edges. It’s simple, clean-lined, well made and very striking.
It has no markings so I had very little information to go on in identifying it. It sat in my garage for a few days before I decided to do a little research. Surprisingly it showed up very quickly in my Google images results, revealing it to be the U 620 bench—designed by none other than Jens Risom, one of the great masters of mid-century modern furniture design. SCORE!
Jens Risom is a Danish-born American designer. Risom began his furniture design career with Hans Knoll, designing the majority of Knoll’s introductory line. After WWII Risom started his own furniture company which grew to become one of the third largest in the US. His designs, many of which are still in production and included in the permanent collections of museums around the world, are iconic and were pivotal in the development of modern design in the 1950s and 1960s.
My bench isn’t perfect. The foam is dried up and the upholstery has a small tear. It will need some professional attention, but I’m happy to give it the makeover it deserves. If you’d like a shiny new version of the U 620 bench, however, it is currently available from London’s Rocket Gallery in collaboration with the 97 year-old Risom himself. Of course, a new one will set you back about $2,700. May I suggest trying your luck with Craigslist?