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February 11, 2014
Hans Wegner's name is synonymous with Danish design the world over, and his seemingly simple chair designs helped usher in an appreciation for Scandinavian modern design in the United States. Here we highlight eight gems from the Wegner design archive.
Hans Wegner studio Denmark Danish design chairs
Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner in his studio. Photo courtesy PP MØBLER.
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Hans Wegner Round Chair kennedy nixon debate Danish design chair
The Round Chair from 1949 is one of Wegner's most iconic pieces and a highlight of Danish design. “Round One” is minimalist art reduced to its bare essentials. It required incredible craftsmanship to create such smooth curves—each of the crescent-shaped armrests are fashioned from a block of wood, and interior mortise-and-tenons hide the connection between the arms and legs. Famously, when Kennedy and Nixon sweated it out during the first televised Presidential debate, they were both sitting on Wegner’s design. Manufactured by PP Møbler. Photo by Jens Mourits Sørensen.
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Carl Hansen Hans Wegner wishbone chair modern design icon
The Wishbone Chair (1949), also known as the Y Chair, marries a hand-woven seat and steam-bent frame. The chair, an undisputed modern icon, has been in continuous production since its introduction in 1950. Inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs, this was the culmination of a series of chairs created in the ‘40s. Photo courtesy Carl Hansen & Son.
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Hans Wegner Flag Halyard Chair danish design fur rope chair
The lush design for the Flag Halyard Chair (1950) was supposedly inspired by a day at the beach, when Wegner was slowing carving himself a spot in the sand to relax. Lounging is supported by 240 meters of flag line strung through a steel frame and sheepskin covering—those coveting this chair can even reserve their own sheepskin. Manufactured by PP Møbler. Photo by Jens Mourits Sørensen.
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Modern valet chair by furniture designer hans wegner

Combining the best traits of a bench and a butler, Hans Wegner’s 1953 Valet chair is the one piece of midcentury-modern furniture that the fastidiously turned-out chap overlooks at his peril. Marrying formal elegance—these handsome curves have been handcrafted in PP Møbler’s Danish workshop since it took over production in 1982—with a surprising functionalism, the Valet chair all but does away with the need for Jeeves. Initially a four-legged chair, Wegner decided to trim the final product and arrived at a tripod design, though he maintained the initial design when Danish King Frederick IX requested his own. Manufactured by PP Møbler. 

Photo by 
Courtesy of 
Fantl Photography LLC
Originally appeared in This Way, Gentlemen
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Hans Wegner Shell chair Carl Hansen wood Danish design
The public was initially reluctant to accept the Three-Legged Shell Chair (1963), an edgier piece of work, from Wegner, which debuted at the 1963 Furniture Guild Exhibition in Copenhagen, but has become more attracted to the wavy, airy design since the chair was reintroduced in 1998. Photo courtesy of Carl Hansen & Son.
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Hans Wegner Ox chair leather armchair Danish design
Often referred to as one of the designer’s favorite pieces, the leather Ox chair (1960), perched on chromed steel supports, shows modern design doesn’t always need to be so “dreadfully serious.” The inflated shapes of Picasso’s paintings supposedly inspired the shape of this piece, which -- true to form if you’re taking Surrealism as a reference point -- initially were sold with or without horns.
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Hans Wegner Swivel Chair
During a Danish furniture trade show, Dr. Eigill Snorrason critiqued the industry for not paying enough attention to ergonomics. The Swivel Chair (1955) Wegner’s rejoinder of sorts, an elegant backrest of hand-carved wood that’s been compared to a gently bent propeller. The smooth lines, thin profile and wheels invite a sure-footed slide across any office. Manufactured by PP Møbler. Photo by Jens Mourits Sørensen.
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Hans Wegner easy chair
It requires roughly ten hours for a craftsman to weave paper cord across the curved frame of this oak Easy Chair (1950) before it’s complete. Another example of Wegner melding design and material without unnecessary fuss or adornment. Photo courtesy Carl Hansen & Son.
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Hans Wegner studio Denmark Danish design chairs
Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner in his studio. Photo courtesy PP MØBLER.
Scores of craftsmen can build you a chair, but Danish icon Hans Wegner earns the rare distinction of having created the Chair. His Round Chair (1949)—with its single, curved back rail forming a parabola of finely shaped wood—was a stylish shot heard round the world, which heralded the arrival of a major design talent and made Danish design a cover story in the United States.

Son of a cobbler, Wegner started out as a teenage apprentice with cabinetmaker H.F. Stahlberg before studying at the Copenhagen School of Arts and Craft and the Danish Design School, where he refined the hallmarks of his style, often called organic functionality. During the course of his heralded career, he designed more than 500 different chairs, with more than 100 of them entering mass production. Here's a look at our top ten.

“A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all angles.” —Hans Wegner

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