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United Nations office gets gorgeous midcentury renovation

A furniture donation from the Republic of Fritz Hansen turns the President of the General Assembly's office into a showpiece of midcentury style

Normally, when someone leaves a job, they take their personal effects and office decorations with them. But when Mogens Lykketoft, a famed Danish lawmaker and current President of the United Nations General Assembly hands over the reins to Fijian Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji, he’ll leaving a gift for him and his successors: midcentury Danish design, courtesy of his countrymen at The Republic of Fritz Hansen.

During Lykketoft’s one-year term, he decided to spruce up his office, a waterfront space in the UN Headquarters with striking views of the Four Freedoms Monument at Roosevelt Island and the landmarked Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City. Formerly filled with dark wood paneling and heavy curtains, he opened up the space to let in the light in, and outfitted the interior with a range of classic Fritz Hansen furniture, all original pieces from the ‘50s and ‘60s donated by the company.

The desk now boasts a classic Oxford Chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen for St. Catherine’s College, as well as Series 7 chairs, while the seating area now contains an array of Poul Kjærholm pieces, including the modular PK31 chair, the PK51 and PK61 tables, and a set of four Swan Chairs by Arne Jacobsen. New lighting, including Kaiser Idell floor and table lamps by Christian Dell (also owned by Fritz Hansen), illuminate the office. The golden hue of new Australian lacewood panels along the walls pick up the coloring and light inside the room.

Henrik Hjorth, Vice President of Fritz Hansen North and South America, said the furniture should be around for the next time a Dane takes the President’s chair.

"We try and have designs that are classic," he says, "If it’s in fashion, it’ll go out of fashion."

Lykketoft’s position requires numerous high-level meetings with heads of state and diplomats, and while there are numerous small meeting rooms and conference rooms throughout the UN complex, having a private room for conversations or discussions is a huge asset.

The look has gone full circle, with classic midcentury furniture now complementing the building’s midcentury architecture. Lykketoft was so happy for the donation. Along with the nearby Trusteeship Council Chamber, a colorful midcentury creation by Finn Juhl, Danish design now has a more permanent seat at the UN.

"For the last 64 years, Danish design has been next door," says Lykketoft. "It's nice to know a Danish mark will remain."