A Chance Encounter with Jens Risom

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.

IMG_2147Amazing, 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.

IMG_2158It 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!

IMG_2150Jens 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.

IMG_2145My 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?

This entry was posted in Individual Finds and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. mary bramon
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Fabulous Bench!

  2. jessica girardo
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I love the bench!! I recently found a Jens Risom Tea Cart exactly like the one in the playboy magazine photo with all the men sitting around on Risom furniture. I am now trying to sell it but I am having trouble finding collectors. Any ideas?? Thanks!! Jessica

    • Austin
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Nice score, Jessica! The serving cart in the Playboy spread, however, was actually designed by George Nelson, the lauded designer who is sitting on top of it in the photo.

      That brings me to my first tip for selling: make sure you have the piece attributed correctly. Proving provenance is especially important for designer and high dollar items. Diehard Jens Risom collectors would know this isn’t his design and George Nelson collectors might not find your ad. This is also important for researching comparables for setting a price. Moving from one designer to another could mean a difference of thousands of dollars. Probably not for this piece, but still.

      Secondly, know your market. Unless you live in a coastal metropolis, designer pieces are difficult to sell for the prices you find online and they usually take much longer to find a buyer for. Be realistic with your pricing, but still know that patience pays off—the right buyer is out there, but he might not come looking for a few weeks or months.

      Craigslist is a great place to sell anything and that’s where I usually start. But you might also consider eBay and even posting your ad in collectors forums on social media sites like Facebook. If you have a really desirable piece, buyers will likely be willing to arrange for shipping. When you sell locally your price is bound by your market, when you sell nationally or globally your price is only bound by the desires of others.

      Good luck! And feel free to send us a pic of the cart, we’d love to see it!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>