Hans Wegner's "The Chair": A Timeless Masterpiece

CEO Khai Intela
Introduction Have you ever wondered what makes a chair truly exceptional? According to renowned Danish designer Hans Wegner, a chair should be beautiful from every angle. This guiding principle shaped Wegner's approach to design, resulting...

Introduction

Have you ever wondered what makes a chair truly exceptional? According to renowned Danish designer Hans Wegner, a chair should be beautiful from every angle. This guiding principle shaped Wegner's approach to design, resulting in the creation of 500 chairs throughout his lifetime. Among them, one chair stands out as a masterpiece: the 1949 Round Chair. Nicknamed "The Chair," it has been hailed as the most beautiful chair in the world and remains an iconic symbol of Danish Modern design.

The Symbol of Danish Modern Design

Wegner's Round Chair quickly gained international recognition after appearing on the cover of the American magazine Interiors in 1950. Its elegant and graphic lines, function-driven form, and expert joinery showcased the simplicity and sophistication of Danish Modern design. In contrast to the colder metal aesthetics of the Bauhaus style, The Chair marked a new era of Danish design's prominence on a global scale. Alongside other influential designers like Arne Jacobsen and Finn Juhl, Wegner helped shape the Modern design movement of the 1950s and '60s.

Craftsmanship and Comfort

Craftsmanship and comfort were paramount to Wegner. His apprenticeship under cabinetmaker H.F. Stahlberg and his studies at the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts provided him with a solid foundation in woodworking. The original design and production of The Chair were a collaboration between Wegner and furniture maker Johannes Hansen. Today, Wegner's designs continue to be produced by Danish company PP Møbler, maintaining the legacy of exquisite craftsmanship.

The Distillation of Design

The Chair embodies Wegner's philosophy of simplification and purity. Composed of four straight legs, two arm rails, and a curved back rail, it combines masterful technique with organic forms. The seat is available in woven cane or leather upholstery. Wegner's attention to detail is evident in the exquisite joinery, with beautifully accentuated zigzag patterns on the joints. This attention to the decorative features of fine cabinetmaking elevates The Chair to a work of art.

Hans J. Wegner and woodcutting machinist Henry Fisker in the studio Hans J. Wegner and woodcutting machinist Henry Fisker in the studio - Courtesy of PP Møbler

Unparalleled Design Solutions

Wegner's ingenious design solutions can be seen in The Chair. In its earliest conception, exterior dowels were used to join the top rails and curved back and armrests. However, Wegner recognized the potential for deformation and opted for interior wedged mortise and tenons, creating seamless lines and reinforcing the strength and beauty of the wood. This innovative construction technique showcases Wegner's craftsmanship and problem-solving abilities.

Wegner's Enduring Impact

Wegner's impact on global design cannot be overstated. His fusion of elegant design and challenging craftsmanship set new standards. Wegner's furniture was meticulously developed and tested in his own home, ensuring optimal functionality and design. His deep respect for woodworking traditions revitalized the furniture industry and raised the standard of furniture design worldwide.

A Chair that Makes History

In 1960, The Chair secured a place in history yet again when it was chosen for the first televised U.S. presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Its comfort, quality, and timeless design made it the perfect choice for such a significant event, solidifying its status as an iconic piece.

The Chair made history as part of the first-ever televised US presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon. The Chair made history as part of the first-ever televised US presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon - © CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

The Legacy Lives On

Even today, The Chair continues to grace the world stage, beloved by world leaders and renowned institutions. As the midcentury modern design movement experiences a resurgence in popularity, Wegner's creations have found a new generation of admirers. Although Wegner himself regarded The Chair as his most precious design, he believed that the pursuit of the perfect chair was a never-ending task. His unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation ensures that his legacy lives on.

All images in the gallery generously provided by PP Møbler

Text by

  • Anna Carnick

    Anna Carnick

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