8 Iconic Chairs by Hans Wegner

By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
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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.
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.
Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner in his studio. Photo courtesy PP MØBLER.

Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner in his studio. Photo courtesy PP MØBLER.

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.


Hans J. Wegner Wishbone Chair
Hans J. Wegner Wishbone Chair
Designed specifically for Carl Hansen & Søn in 1949, Hans J. Wegner's Wishbone Chair (CH24) was the last part of his series that combined a chair's arms and top rails into one piece. The series was inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Chinese Ming Dynasty chairs. At the time, Wegner was making a huge leap of faith—and it paid off since Carl Hansen & Søn had been looking for a more lightweight chair than what was common at the time. The steam-bent solid wood top connects to the Y-shaped back in a way that provides both comfort and support. To this day, it’s crafted in Denmark with an acute attention to detail. The seat is hand-woven from paper cord, which is a durable material that replaced jute during WWII. You can choose to have the sculptural frame made of beech, oak, or walnut in a range of lacquer finishes. Photo: Chuck Choi
-Written by Paige Alexus | Dwell


Hans J. Wegner Shell Chair
Hans J. Wegner Shell Chair
The public was initially reluctant to accept the three-legged CH07: Shell Chair—an edgier piece of work—from Hans J. Wegner, which debuted at the 1963 Furniture Guild Exhibition in Copenhagen. Since it's reintroduction in 1998, the Shell Chair has become an instant classic with attraction to the wavy, airy design. The floating lightness is achieved through the winglike lines and the arched curves of the three tapered, laminated legs. The seat and back are made from form-pressed hardwood laminates and are available in upholstered in fabric or leather.  Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hansen & Søn
-Written by Dwell | Dwell
Carl Hansen & Søn CH29 Sawbuck Chair
Carl Hansen & Søn CH29 Sawbuck Chair
Trained as a cabinetmaker with a masterful understanding of wood, Hans J. Wegner created the CH29 Chair, also called the Sawbuck Chair, in 1952. Crafted from both solid walnut and oak with a clear lacquer finish, the chair's components fit together through expert joinery, needing no metal hardware. Its wide curves provide a comfortable seat, which can be upholstered in fabric or leather. The Sawbuck Chair was taken out of production in the 1970s, but Wegner's daughter facilitated its return 20 years later.  Photo: Drew Kelly
-Written by Jenny Xie | Dwell
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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Patrick Sisson

@patricksisson

During the course of his career writing about music and design, Patrick Sisson has made Stefan Sagmeister late for a date and was scolded by Gil Scott-Heron for asking too many questions. His work has appeared in Pitchfork, Nothing Major, Wax Poetics, Stop Smiling and Chicago Magazine.

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