"Modern" Man

Copenhagen Imports owner Jorgen Hansen (right) with his daughter Emily, who now coordinates the company’s website and social media. Photo by James Patrick.

This is a love story about a love seat …
a sectional sofa … a teak dresser … an Eames chair and, well, anything you can find at Copenhagen Imports. The iconic, big-as-a-football-field contemporary furniture store celebrates 40 years in Tucson this spring — four decades of bringing sleek, modern designs of superior quality. So raise a shot of Aquavit or a Tuborg beer and toast their success.

Peek at a map and Denmark appears as a topknot above Germany. The Nordic country, often deemed the happiest on earth, is composed of a series of large islands and a peninsula. Its capital city of Copenhagen sits on the island of Sjaelland and is known for the harbor-side “Little Mermaid” statue and Tivoli Gardens. A bit to the south and west lies the island of Fyn, home to Denmark’s third-largest city Odense, where brothers Erik and Jorgen Hansen were born into the furniture trade. Home was the cozy apartment above the family business “Møbellageret,” which translates in English as “Furniture Warehouse.”

Erik Hansen ventured to the states in the late ’60s, working in furniture stores in Florida and California, and after a visit, younger brother Jorgen decided to stay as well. By 1970 both coasts had been exposed to Danish Modern design, so Phoenix was chosen as the place to open a store of their own along with partner Tony Christensen. The showroom, abundant with teak — dining room tables with smooth edges and corners next to dressers and sideboards with recessed pulls — was a hit. “Teak was popularized and will forever be associated with Danish design for its beauty and durability,” explains Will Joffroy, one of Copenhagen’s three interior designers. “The colors of the wood actually get richer and darker over time, and if used outdoors it will take on a silvery patina.”

Copenhagen Imports opened its original Tucson store in 1977 on Speedway just east of Columbus, and moved seven years later to its current location at Fort Lowell Road and Dodge Boulevard. Flags of the U.S., Denmark, Norway and Sweden wave a welcome to the 60,000-square-foot building as contemporary jazz plays on walkway speakers and huge storefront windows hint at inspirations to be discovered.  

Inside, individual showrooms unfold at origami angles. A drop ceiling, hardwood floors and sparkling track lighting bathe the store in warmth. Room vignettes by the store’s interior designers offer clients a better idea of what the furnishings will look like in their home. Cubist sofas and love seats are upholstered in soft leather with headrests that articulate like that of a luxury sedan. Chrome globe lamps swoop over the seating areas and throw pillows charm customers with colorful recreations of art by Picasso and Miro. Classic Mid-century Modern design — a Copenhagen staple — has been made more recognizable by the popular TV show, Mad Men.

Another showroom features glass-topped dining room tables with sculptural chrome or natural wood bases surrounded by cushioned chairs meant to encourage lingering with family and friends. “You look at a piece of modern furniture and you see where the body fits,” offers Emily Hansen, Jorgen’s daughter, a recent Princeton grad and coordinator of Copenhagen’s website, social media and events.  

Over the decades Copenhagen has expanded its collections and designers but has never changed its philosophy that “simplicity equals elegance and sophistication.” Jorgen Hansen credits “our incredible staff,” some of whom have been with him for 30 years, for allowing his summers to be spent in Denmark, with frequent trips to furniture shows and designer showrooms to keep Copenhagen’s offerings contemporary and unique.
The ingredients to success? “Clean design, quality, functionality, value and excellent customer service.” Best-sellers include the “Schillig” line from Germany and “Stressless” recliners and ottomans from Ekornes of Norway. Designer Joffroy says, “We really want you to leave the store with something you adore.” For additional choices, Emily suggests visits to the Copenhagen Clearance Center at 3648 E. Ajo to find fabulous discounted items.

“We are a part of the community,” says Jorgen, “We love Tucson, the nature, the mountains, the university and we love to give back.”

Working with Stressless, Copenhagen’s annual “Give a little, Get a lot” campaign, has raised more than $75,000 for select Tucson non-profits over the last seven years. Copenhagen also supports arts organizations such as Ballet Tucson and Tucson Desert Song Festival. A sponsor of Tucson Modernism Week, the store supports lectures from experts such as UA professor Mark Mussari, whose presentations have spotlighted legendary Danish designer Verner Panton, and — very near and dear to Jorgen Hansen’s heart — “Danish Modern: Between Art and Design.”  

— Betsy Bruce