"A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles."
So was a key principle of Hans Wegner, one of the leading furniture designers of the twentieth century. A principle demonstrated in his designs time and time again throughout the decades. Combining a minimalistic outlook with natural softness, his chairs were instrumental in leading the way of the “Danish Modern” furniture design. In fact, his iconic designs in the 1950s and 60s helped to popularise Danish furniture throughout the world.
But while his pieces were pleasingly aesthetic, all were highly functional as well. He was an adoptee of “organic functionality” - a combination of natural simplicity with application - with stunning success.
Over his lifetime, Wegner designed more than 500 chairs. Today, we’re going to put the spotlight on four of this “Master of the Chair’s” most iconic designs.
“Wishbone” - The Y Chair
Known simply as the “Y Chair” due to its distinctive back support, it was brought to life by Wegner in 1949. Among all the chairs that Wegner created over the decades, the Y Chair is one of his most popular and well known.
The chair’s origin was a part of a “China Chair” series, inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Chinese Ming chairs. It was the last (and most popular) of that series, and its popularity has continued unabated for over 60 years.
Its curves and sleek design completely embody his “beautiful from all sides and angles” philosophy. Bud despite its simple appearance, the Y Chair is difficult to produce, requiring a deep knowledge of wood joinery and masterful skill.
“Powerful” - The Ox Chair
With inspiration from none other than Picasso, Hans Wegner designed a powerful, masculine sculpture that was in contrast to many of his simpler, wooden creations. Conceived in 1960, the Ox Chair’s production in this period was short-lived as it was considered too advanced for its time.
The day for this large, powerful chair was yet to come. Production resumed in 1985, using modernised techniques to build it but staying faithful to the original design. It’s remained one of Wegner’s more iconic designs since and continues to perform well today. The Ox Chair was also a personal favourite of Wegner, with one sitting in his living room.
Many of Wegner’s chairs were made to highlight their wooden frame, so this leather and chrome steel masterpiece is a clear contrast to that principle. The Ox Chair is often partnered with the Ox Chair Stool, which was specifically built to accompany the chair. The upholstery is offered in three luxurious styles: cashmere, standard leather or premium leather.
This light but sturdy chair can be built from a number of different woods, from walnut to oak, beech or even ash.
“Smiling” - Shell Chair
With its rounded seat resembling an upside-down shell, the Shell Chair was another of Hans Wegner’s 60’s creation. The chair debuted at the 1963 Furniture Guild Exhibition in Copenhagen and met with great critical acclaim. The public reception was not so positive. It’s unusual, 3-legged design was “ahead of its time” and met with reluctance and sales were poor.
However, that wasn’t the end of the story for the “Smiling Chair” (nicknamed due to the curve of its seat). After several sold for impressive prices in early 1990s auctions, it was re-released. This time, it not only won more design awards, it also won the hearts of the public. They snapped up the Shell Chair and this “not-so-instant classic” continues to sell well to this very day.
The key components of the chair - the seat and back - are crafted from the highest quality woods. VOGA offers the Shell Chair in walnut or oak, with the upholstery in leather.
“Round” - The Chair
Yes, it is most commonly known as simply “The Chair” (though some refer to it as the Round Chair, on account of the backrest’s shape). The Chair is another of Wegner’s creations reduced to the most simplistic elements of a chair, without sacrificing any of the minimalistic aesthetics.
Conceived the same year as the Y Chair - another of his most popular designs - The Chair shot to fame when Kennedy and Nixon used it in the 1960 US election debate. Almost 60 years later, it’s still a favourite of furniture enthusiasts.
Hans Wegner transformed furniture design with his “Organic Functionality”. His pieces are exhibited, sold and replicated all around the world. The chairs highlighted in today’s post are only a small sample of what he produced.
Want to see more of the masterpieces Wegner created? Then check out the full range of his masterfully and faithfully replicated pieces here on VOGA.com.