Iconic Design Series: The Wishbone ChairFurnishings
4 minutes read
The Wishbone chair by Hans Wegner remains popular for its authentic expression of Danish design
Think of Scandinavian furniture, and the Wishbone Chair comes to mind. The work of Danish designer Hans J. Wegner, it has been in production since 1950. While it has a distinctive look that is Scandinavian, the story of this Danish furniture is a surprising tale of finding inspiration in other cultures.
In 1943, at the age of 29, Wegner had opened his own drawing office. Wegner, by then, had developed his skills as a cabinet maker in his teens, trained as an architect and then designed furniture. Soon after, he came across portraits of Danish merchants, which sparked his imagination. What drew his attention were the Chinese Ming Chairs they were seated on.
The Ming Chair came from China’s Ming era that lasted from the 14th to 17th century. It is recognised by the graceful arms that sweep across the back and the splat, which is the vertical piece at the back, that functions as decoration and support.
That began his work on a series of chairs. In 1944, he produced the first design, the “Chinese Chair”. It was handcrafted in cherry wood. But it was the last of the series, said to be much less costly than the first and intended for mass production, that struck a chord with furniture lovers. The pioneering designer’s constant refinement of the series culminated in the Wishbone Chair in 1949.
Its characteristic “Y” splat at the back and the pared down steam-bent arms exemplify the designer’s pursuit of simplicity. For its seat, Wegner conceptualised a seat made of durable 120m-long paper cord. It requires a skilled craftsman about one hour to weave by hand.
Wegner was a master carpenter. And he incorporated his deep understanding of wood joinery to create a chair with exacting construction that belies its unpretentious design. The easy appearance of the chair not only works perfectly in Scandinavian interiors, but it also blends easily with minimalist, industrial, modern, Japanese interiors. Among others styles, too, it is a hot favourite for the eclectic home.
Wegner’s passion for designing chairs – he designed more than 500 chairs in his lifetime – contributed immensely to the reputation of Danish design. He also garnered multiple design awards, and the enduring title ‘the Master of the Chair’. The Wishbone Chair is said to be Wegner’s most celebrated work. Having been in constant production for more than 50 years has earned it iconic status. Thanks to its emphasis on comfort and functionality, and its distinct design, it is a classic piece that exemplifies modern Danish design.
Photos via Space Furniture
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