“Quality is a funny concept. We tend to think of it as being associated with handcraft. But quality is also about your attitude toward design. Craftsmanship is just as much about how you run the machines that are now necessary for economic viability.”
Born in Denmark, Niels Bendtsen and his family immigrated to Canada in 1951. In place of a formal design education, Bendtsen trained as an apprentice for his father, who designed and built Scandinavian furniture. Through working with his father, Bendtsen gained valuable skills and a respect for non-industrial, hand-built traditions, but he was also intrigued by new technologies and ways to satisfy increasing demand. Between 1963 and 1972, Bendtsen had his own retail store where he sold his father’s furniture, as well as imported Scandinavian designs. He designed small items for the store, but it wasn’t until he was in his early thirties that he truly began designing furniture. Dissatisfied with the quality and limited functionality of the furniture he received from his overseas manufacturers, Bendtsen sold his store, moved to Europe and became a full time designer.
In the 1980s, he moved back to Vancouver, bought back his old store and added a manufacturing component. Using the skills he learned working with European factories, Bendtsen successfully found a balance between affordability, aesthetics and quality. Customers responded, and in the mid-1990s Bendtsen began making his designs available through other retailers, such as Design Within Reach.
An early Bendtsen design, the Ribbon Chair, is included in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his work was featured on a Canadian stamp celebrating industrial design. In 2006, Bendtsen was honored with the 2006 British Columbia Creative Achievement Award of Distinction.