“I’m a treasure hunter,” confesses Ulla Jahn, founder and owner of Func, a Hamburg design mecca specialising in industrial furniture and midcentury classics. To step inside her shop, located at the quieter, more boutique-y end of the city, is, she says, akin to being invited into her living room. “These pieces are my babies. I have found and restored many of them myself.”
Jahn’s passion for design is palpable and, as well as sourcing popular classics such as a George Nelson Pretzel chair (€12,500), she has a knack for uncovering special, one-off editions. Among them are six colourful two‑piece plastic chairs (€7,500 for the set), produced by Herman Miller exclusively for the US market, and an early prototype of the wire Bikini swivel chair (€5,500) by Charles and Ray Eames.
For Jahn it’s important to know the origin of each piece. Take the two Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs (€4,000 each) on display. They were sourced from the original Jacobsen HEW Building in Hamburg and can command a higher price than the mass-produced versions of the same era. Another example is an original Poul Henningsen Artichoke light (€9,800); once suspended above the swimming pool of a private home in the south of France, it is one of Jahn’s favourite pieces. “It’s the perfect combination of beauty and functionality. I love that the bulb is completely concealed.” That its previous environment has caused the edges to rust only adds to its charm. “You will never find another one like it,” she says.
Other pieces for sale include a leather vaulting table (€3,200), rescued from an old gym and painstakingly restored, and an original Strafor cabinet (€5,000), which Jahn refers to as “a true culture piece by an important French brand”.
Func’s client base is widespread, from design aficionados in search of their next investment piece to restaurant owners hoping to furnish their space with vintage Eames stacking chairs (from €600). However there’s still a fear, Jahn says, of mixing eras and styles. “It’s strange, because when it comes to clothes we know that pairing designer jeans with a Mango T-shirt and a flea-market belt works. But people are not confident applying that same theory to interior design.”
As someone who, at home, has mixed a new Knoll table with vintage chairs, and modern sofas with vintage Alessi side tables, Jahn is an authority on this subject. She will even take pieces to clients’ homes to illustrate how they can complement the existing interior. She also doubles as a design consultant, recently refurbishing a retired punk rocker’s townhouse. “We painted the walls in Bauhaus colours and combined vintage and modern furniture from brands like Moroso and Established & Sons. The end result was amazing.”
As for the future, Jahn would love to happen upon pieces by Charlotte Perriand and Poul Kjaerholm, in particular his “suspended sofa”, as well as chairs by Carl Jacobs Kandya. Yet as time goes on, she concedes, such treasures are more difficult to find. “The big question now is what to collect next.”