Anne Boysen manipulating a lamp she designed. one of her armchairs is in the background.

Anne Boysen Creates Furniture that Prompts Play

The Dutch architect and designer is building a reputation for turning complex functionality into fun-loving furnishings.

It’s hard to predict whether users will find delight in their furniture. But Anne Boysen aims to change that. Since establishing her namesake firm in 2012, the Danish architect and designer has created beds, seating, lighting, children’s furniture, and accessories designed to encourage people to rearrange, manipulate, and explore their clever components. In short, they are built to prompt play: a lounge table with an oversize storage drawer and a removable tray; a floor lamp distinguished by a large disc that users spin manually to alternately diffuse and reflect its LED; and child-size modular floor cushions that can be organized to form seats, surfaces, and fantasy playscapes.

Her studio in the Danish port of Køge, less than an hour’s train ride from Copenhagen, is a capsule of craft and joyful experimentation, a spirit that seems to stem as much from her childhood in a family of carpenters as it does from her formal training as an architect. At Denmark’s Aarhus School of Architecture, where Boysen earned her M.Arch, the curriculum is aimed at cultivating practitioners who master, among other things, “artistic experiments” and the transformation of “complex problems into statements.” 

Anne Boysen Portrait
Anne Boysen earned her M.Arch at Denmark’s Aarhus School of Architecture; her practice draws heavily on her passion for craft and her childhood in a family of carpenters. Boysen’s designs caught the eye of contract furniture manufacturers following her win on the Danish television program Denmark’s Next Classic. COURTESY ANNE BOYSEN

Boysen’s practice elevates that philosophy by requiring users to physically interact with her creations. A pattern of functional whimsy has won her the Erik Jørgensen Design Award for her Senecio daybed; the Danish Design Award for Talent of the Year in 2012; the German Design Award for the SHUFFL modular sofa; and the 2020 season of Denmark’s Next Classic, a television program in which designers compete for the national distinction.

modular melamine display units in gray and white
To highlight the capabilities of a new Solid Textile Board Melamine developed by manufacturer Really, designer Anne Boysen used the recycled material to create reconfigurable, modular display units. COURTESY ENOK HOLSEGAARD
Boysen in her fabrication studio gluing pieces of material
Boysen, who handcrafts her prototypes, views her furnishings like the Levitate Sofa as art you can touch. COURTESY ENOK HOLSEGAARD

Contract furniture commissions have followed the industry recognition. This year she collaborated with Really, a manufacturer partly owned by Kvadrat that developed a solid textile board made of recycled fabrics, which Boysen used to create Really Module, a line of storage. Lighting design giant Louis Poulsen is rolling out Boysen’s Moonsetter floor lamp, the elvish, chrome-plated design that won the Danish TV show competition.

Boysen, who also paints, views such furnishings as another form of artwork—the kind you can touch. For inspiration, she looks to her preschooler’s reaction to certain designs. “When my four-year-old son understands it, I know it’s right,” she says. The Levitate Sofa floats atop a mirrored base. From behind it resembles a modern work of art, but camouflaged in the mirrored base is the convertible frame of a combination sofa and daybed with a table and storage. “It’s quite the same when you go to a museum and see some art,” Boysen says. “You get focused and you see the world in a different way.” Her designs are intended to evoke this same awareness. 

Melamine board samples
Solid Textile Board Melamine developed by manufacturer Really was the inspiration behind Boysen’s modular display units. COURTESY ENOK HOLSEGAARD

As Boysen put it, her work has dybde, the Danish word for depth. Her ambition is for users to become captivated by her well-crafted furniture, instead of the ever-present technology that surrounds them. “When you dig into my furniture, you can experiment, and get all the feeling and happiness that I did when I designed it.” 

Boysen's levitate sofa
Boysen’s Levitate Sofa uses a mirrored finish to give the appearance of weightlessness. COURTESY ENOK HOLSEGAARD
boysen's moonsetter floor lamp
Winner of a national design award in Boysen’s home country of Denmark, her Moonsetter floor lamp, which is partly controlled using an integrated disc, is being manufactured by Louis Poulsen. COURTESY ENOK HOLSEGAARD

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