Slow Furniture: A Return to Mid-Century Craftsmanship

Anton Assaad | Photography by Annika Kafcaloudis

Rebecca Stormont, our Modern Design specialist, chats to Great Dane Founding Director, Anton Assaad.

Tell me about what initially sparked your interest in Scandinavian Design?

I discovered and fell in love with vintage designer furniture in my late 20s but really struggled at the time to find pieces to buy here in Australia. When I was made redundant and given a small payout, I sat around for 12 months trying to work out what to do. It was at that point I thought why not import Danish furniture? So, I did… I imported my first container from photos and paid for all of it upfront. I really had no idea if the container would be empty or full as I had only spoken to the supplier over the phone. 

I think I was drawn to furniture as my paternal grandfather, a retired CSIRO scientist, had made his own, and taught my brother and I how to use woodworking tools. What I didn’t realise at the time was that all his furniture was inspired by mid-century Danish design. I think it was just meant to be!

You have worked closely with several designers, delving into their archives to curate collections – any interesting stories you want to share?

My partnership with the esteemed Arne Vodder significantly shaped Great Dane. The collaboration was a dream, I couldn’t believe he was interested in working with us. Most of the Danish industry people thought he had passed away. We met and formed a great connection sipping limoncello in his apartment and discussing his days in the industry. The partnership certainly put Great Dane on the global map as a leader in mid-century Danish design and pushed me to work even harder to find more designers from that period.

The Great Dane House | Photography by Lillie Thompson

What buying trends have you noticed recently in the Australian market? Any advice for those looking to buy investment pieces?

We say buy once, buy well. Our furniture is forever, not a fashion or trend; we are slow furniture. It often takes us three years to get a design into production and onto the Great Dane floor. When deciding what investment piece to buy, consider how you live – it is your home, so pick items that are classic that you feel you will love forever. We love it when clients come in years later and share how they still love what they purchased from Great Dane 20 years ago.

Great Dane recently held an exhibition on Nanna Ditzel, a truly remarkable figure of Danish mid-century design. How was the exhibition received and what were some highlights?

The exhibition’s resounding success was a heartfelt journey, allowing us to share Nanna Ditzel’s multifaceted career, spanning furniture, textiles, and jewellery design. Collaborating with Dennie Ditzel, Nanna Ditzel’s daughter and the CEO of Nanna Ditzel Design, was a very special experience. Dennie’s generous contribution of archival materials and her involvement in curating the furniture selections was truly memorable and something we won’t ever forget. Working alongside Georg Jensen to showcase Nanna’s jewellery creations was equally inspiring. Overall, the exhibition celebrated Nanna Ditzel’s remarkable legacy and created meaningful connections within the world of design.

Nanna Ditzel exhibition by Great Dane and Georg Jensen | Photography by Anna Osetroff

What have been some of your favourite auction purchases over the years? 

I recently found a home for a Snowball pendant light designed by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen in 1958. I had carried this light around for 20 years! It was only recently that I found the perfect spot at our beautiful new home in Point Lonsdale – The Great Dane House (now available to book on Airbnb!). That was a very satisfying moment when it finally found its forever home. I also have fond memories of purchasing a 1960s Brazilian Percival Lafer leather sofa with a rosewood frame.

With thanks to Anton Assaad for his time. 

REBECCA STORMONT / Modern Design Specialist

Banner Image: The Great Dane House | Photography by Lillie Thompson

October 2023