Born in 1926 in the humble village of Gamtofte, Denmark, Verner wanted to be an artist. His innkeeper father was against such aspirations, so Verner compromised by studying architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in the 1950s. After graduating, he worked a couple years for renowned Mid-Century architect and Scandinavian peer Arne Jacobsen; nevertheless, Verner remained true to his unique vision and soon left to found his own studio.
Verner was inspired by the unlimited possibilities of form. He initially focused on lighting, building UFO-shaped plastic lamps and pendants dressed in capiz shells, believing the design should obscure the light source. The shells of this mother-of-pearl pendant at Viyet are strung from a metal tiered frame, creating a dazzling iridescent centerpiece by day, and a celestial beacon at night.
But it wasn’t until he introduced the Panton Chair in the 1960s that he caused a global sensation, transcending Mid-Century Modern into the new decade of Pop Art. Verner envisioned a gravity-defying, legless chair made all of one plastic piece, which would be stylish and durable.
Facing rejection from those who didn’t think it possible, Verner took his drawings to the furniture manufacturer Vitra, compelling Willi Fehlbaum to collaborate on creating the first cold-pressed model, using polyester strengthened with fiberglass. They continually improved upon the material and technique until selling it to the Herman Miller Company. The stackable S-shaped chair became Verner’s most celebrated contribution to the design industry.
Resembling the fluid muscularity of the tongue, the Panton Chair was highlighted for its sexy silhouette, being photographed in articles for Nova (“How to Undress in Front of Your Husband”), and most notoriously in British Vogue’s 1995 cover featuring a nude Kate Moss. The set of four chairs on sale at Viyet is a 1999 re-edition from Vitra. It’s engineered in dyed, matted polypropylene, giving it longevity, style, and a comfortable shape.
Verner’s original pieces can be found at MoMA, London’s Design Museum, and the Museum of National History in Copenhagen. While his interiors injected a shot of fun into corporations and hotels, his pieces can enliven a contemporary residential space with their bold colors and ergonomic design. With a personality matched only by his creations, Verner’s radical vision and methodology made him a pioneer of 20th-century design.