A Little Horse Rocks Its Way Out of Fritz Hansen’s Archives

What was originally a delightful discovery by company members of Fritz Hansen became a project that took nearly three years to revive one of the Danish brand’s most playful designs: the Rocking Horse.

wood rocking horse

Back in January 2021, the heritage team that’s responsible for maintaining Fritz Hansen’s 151-year-old history and archives found two small photos in an old furniture catalogue dating back to 1946. One of those showed a whimsical rocking horse with its sculptural shadow cast onto the wall. The other looked like an optical illusion, with multiple horses in the image made possible by the use of a mirror. The photos proved to be a mystery, with no lead on who the toy maker was or where the original edition could be.

sculptural rocking horse

Original photo from the Fritz Hansen archives

While its origins are blurry – the team posits that it’s likely an artisan from the workshop created the rocking horse for a child or grandchild – it was clear to Fritz Hansen that the object was a testament to the ingenuity, heritage, and craftsmanship of the brand, especially given the time. Thus the design team decided to embark on a long journey to bring the Fritz Hansen Rocking Horse back to life.

rope, leather, and wood scraps on a table

rocking horse prototype

rocking horse prototypes

rocking horse prototypes

rocking horse prototypes

It’s an understatement to say that creating a piece of furniture from two small photos is hard – perfecting the proportions, scale, and details were essential to staying true to the authentic design. And unlike traditional rocking horses where the animal is usually mounted to facilitate movement, the original toy maker incorporated the rocking function into the unique form making the design even more challenging to recreate. In another surprise twist, music-making became the catalyst for problem solving.

Mads-Ulrik Husum, Design Developer at Fritz Hansen, explains:

We found inspiration for the curvature of the piece from centuries-old techniques used in crafting musical instruments, like cellos and violins. Once we started to view the rocking horse as a musical instrument, we had a way to approach the design with a fresh perspective, utilizing circles and lines to create perfect curvature. As soon as we tried this method, so many of the issues we had were solved.

man holding rocking horse prototype

Mads-Ulrik Husum, Design Developer at Fritz Hansen

hands screwing a nail on rocking horse

rocking horse prototype in workshop

Close to three years and 12 prototypes later, the iconic Fritz Hansen toy finally rocked its way from the archives and into the workshop for production. The revived horse is a refined abstraction, yet still familiar to little children, with a silhouette made from molded veneer in an homage to the same material design legend Arne Jacobsen experimented with to create his stacking chair. Its halyard rope tail, which is the same material in Danish icon Poul Kjærholm’s PK25 and PK4 chairs, is contrasted by ears fashioned out of leather leftover from Fritz Hansen’s current productions. Available in natural or black Ash wood, the Rocking Horse is a tale of love come alive – love of timeless design, love of exceptional craftsmanship, and love of the child for whom the sweet toy was originally made.

natural and black wood rocking horses

natural and black rocking horses

natural and black rocking horses

rocking horse details

black rocking horse

natural wood rocking horse

rocking horse in a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows

To purchase or learn more about the Fritz Hansen Rocking Horse, visit fritzhansen.com.

Photography courtesy of Fritz Hansen.

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