Daumiller has always been drawn to sustainability and simplicity, in both his life and his work. The robust, sculptural forms of his designs pay testament to a lifelong love of the natural world, and an intuitive material understanding – the ability to take what’s there, respond to its inherent properties, and create something special, whether he is foraging for food or designing a piece of furniture.
Of all the furniture created by German-born designer Rainer Daumiller, the Daumiller Armchair in pine is perhaps the one that best expresses his values and approach as a designer. Solid in construction, simple in form, and sculptural in expression, its straightforward materiality and robust composition pay tribute to Daumiller’s lifelong affinity with nature. Furthermore, the designer’s choice of pine as his material demonstrates a dedication to sustainability that was ahead of its time.
THE EARLY YEARS
Daumiller started designing furniture while at elementary school. Together with a friend, he designed a desk and a wardrobe, then had them made by a nearby carpentry shop, fashioning the sculptural handles himself. After finishing high school, an apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker seemed like the logical next step for one so drawn to handwork.
Additional learning came via the philosophy of Austrian philosopher, social reformer, and architect Rudolf Steiner and a weekly visit from a teacher from the Waldorf School in Stuttgart. He taught how to form objects from seemingly random pieces of wood, based on what each specific piece suggested to them. This approach shaped Daumiller’s instinct for listening to materials and allowing their natural characteristics to shape the design.
EXPERIMENTING WITH MATERIALS
After such eclectic and intuitive training, the piecework available within the factory after completion of his apprenticeship seemed monotonous by comparison. In 1959, he moved to Denmark and still thirsty for knowledge, applied for the Artisan School’s (Kunstværkerhåndskolen) Furniture Department. He joined what would later be called the Design School (Designskolen) in 1960. Daumiller studied under Ole Gjerløv Knudsen and Ole Vestergård, among others, who taught carpentry as well as craft skills in exciting new materials. For his graduation project, he created furniture made from acrylic – an innovative choice in the 1960s.
THE LOVE OF NATURAL MATERIALS
Despite his experiments with acrylic, Daumiller had always been drawn to natural materials and one in particular – pine. He was inspired by its fine growth lines which, after many years of washing with soapy water, become even more pronounced – a quality he remembers from his mother’s childhood home. On relocating to the town of Hirtshals on the Jutland coast in 1975, he returned to his first love and contacted the local sawmill with a design for a chair and table that he had developed in his own kitchen. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration.
A WELCOMING CHANGE
After exhibiting the pieces at the Bella Center exhibition venue in 1977, Hirtshals Sawmill (Savværk) produced the chairs and table for almost 25 years, supplying them to Danish stores in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway and Japan.
The pine Daumiller specified came as a welcome change after many years of furniture dominated by teak and rosewood and was in tune with increased awareness of sustainability and the need to carefully manage rainforests. His bestselling piece, however, remains his pine armchair – a trademark of Hirtshals Møbelfabrik for over two decades.