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Take a seat, it’s a Wegner.

If you pay any attention whatsoever to design and decor, the silhouette of the Wishbone chair, designed by Hans Wegner in 1950  for Carl Hansen & Son, will be familiar.

Since then, it’s been ripped off, replicated, and referred to as, er, “inspiration” ad infinitum: a Google search turned up iterations at Ikea, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Structube, on Wayfair and Amazon, and at Modern Living and Rove Concepts.

The man who came up with the timely, timeless design was born in 1914 to a cobbler in southern Denmark, he began working with wood cabinetry as a child. As an adult, he found himself at the Danish School of Arts and Crafts, and then the Architectural Academy in Copenhagen. Wegner went on to become a central design figure of his century.

Wegner’s deep craft and an innate understanding of wood as a material are perfectly realized in the Wishbone chair (aka CH24), which was reportedly inspired by portraits of Dutch merchants sitting in Ming Chairs. For its time, the design was extremely avant-garde. The form was steam-bent – challenging to make, but which allowed for a one-piece back and armrest.

“There was a completely new and exciting expression to the work, but also a simplicity that appealed to many people,” says Carl Hansen & Søn CEO Knud Erik Hansen. “The first chairs had a totally unique expression and their quality was first-class. Each chair had its own original look and contained characteristic elements that were later included in other chair designs.”

It came amid at a time of rapid change in the way materials could be used. Bonded plywood, lightweight plastics, thinner steel, foam padding, mouldable fiberglass, many of were invented for various types of  manufacturing, were all emerging. All that’s extremely well explained, btw, in Judith Miller’s coffee-table book, Mid-Century Modern — a brilliant read and excellent resource.

According to its maker, each Wishbone chair is built from solid wood and 120 metres of sustainable paper cord treated lightly with wax. It has 14 parts, and requires over 100 production steps to assemble.

Get this, though. The Wishbone was one of five chairs Wegner designed in his first three weeks at Carl Hansen & Søn (see pic above left). That’s crazy, given all five arguably deserve the wildly–overused description of iconic. Each chair is superb, and together, they are an essay in exceptionally executed mid-century modern design.

** It’s not all knock-offs: You can buy the real thing from Design Within Reach, starting at $595  and on 1stdibs recently, a pair of vintage beech Wishbones, deep cleaned and sanded/ finished with three soap-treatments and fitted with new woven paper cord seats was listed for $2950.

All photos from Carl Hansen & Søn.

 

 

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