The design museum was established in 1890 by the Industriforeningen i København and the Ny Carlsberg Museumslegat and opened in 1894 in a new building by Vilhelm Klein on what is now H C Andersens Boulevard. From the start, what is implied is that there should be a connection between industry and business and an aim to collect examples of the applied or decorative arts as a study collection for teaching to improve the quality of design and production.
Frederik's Hospital closed in 1910, with no clear new use and there was a rumour it might be purchased by speculators. In 1919 Councillor of State Emil Glückstadt bought the buildings and gave them as a gift to establish a new home for the museum.
The Museum director was Emil Hannover (1864-1923) and a competition was held for “the Future Home of the Museum of decorative Arts.”
There was not an outright winner but the committee preferred the scheme proposed by Ivar Bentsen, Thorkild Henningsen and Kaare Klint. Henningsen withdrew from the project (because of an ongoing personal dispute with Hannover) and the contract was signed by Bentsen although in the end most of the design work was completed by Klint as the project architect … not just deciding on the major arrangement of the internal spaces but designing the main features such as the four new staircases, based on appropriate 18th-century models, determining the form of the display cases and designing, library fittings, doorcases and doors and even handles and hinges..
However, the museum also commissioned work from other major designers of the period; G N Brandt produced the scheme for the courtyard - Grønnegården - with paved alleys and the planting with lime trees; lamps for the new museum were by Poul Henningsen based on a lighting system developed for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1925 and Mogens Koch and Ole Wanscher designed the display cases following a system of basic cube units devised by Klint. The cases were made by the master cabinet makers N C Jensen-Kjær and Rudolf Rasmussen, Otto Meyer and Jacob Petersen.