Founder of Danish furniture brand Montana, Peter J Lassen – who since the late 1950s worked as head of product and development, and then later as CEO of Fritz Hansen – is and always has been a forward-thinking man. In 1974, he noticed a shift from the decorative style of architecture and design to a more pared-back aesthetic, and created a piece to chime with this mood: the ‘System 60/60’. The shelving unit’s name refers to the size of the boxes that form it. At the time, it was crafted from solid pine and delivered to customers as a flat pack. This turned out to be impractical – or perhaps ahead of its time– and was discontinued a few years later.
However, Lassen knew that he was on to something, and when Fritz Hansen was sold in 1979, he left and bought back the rights to the system. It formed the basis for his new company Montana, which launched in 1982.
‘As a sculptor starts with an abstract stone, I began with an abstract square box,’ he says. ‘I removed all the unnecessary parts so that it featured rounded edges, missing corners and retracted fronts.’ He began manufacturing in MDF, a brand-new material at the time, making the system more lightweight.
In 2015, Peter J Lassen’s son Joakim took control of the firm, expanding its worldwide sales and its offering. Tables and chairs by Stefan Wewerka, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Design, Arne Jacobsen and Salto & Sigsgaard, as well as the ‘Montana Free’ system by Jakob Wagner, were added. This year, however, is all about Lassen’s close friend Verner Panton. A new take on the ‘Panton One’ chair, with a seat woven from paper string, will be followed by even more updates of the late designer’s pieces, due to launch at the Milan furniture fair in April. montanafurniture.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration April 2019