From the December 2018/January 2019 Issue

The Wishbone Chair

Writer Ren Miller

Have a seat in this midcentury masterpiece of Danish sculpture

The graceful lines of the Wishbone Chair by legendary Danish designer Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) destined it for display in museums. Its comfort, durability and functionality, meanwhile, ordained it for use in homes around the world.

Wegner, who ranks among the leaders of midcentury Danish design, had humble beginnings as the son of a cobbler who went on to work as an apprentice to a master cabinetmaker in southern Denmark. During that time, he recognized his love for wood and decided to make it his career. After his apprenticeship and service in the army, he studied at what is now The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts—The School of Design.

He developed a style and vision that has been described as Organic Functionality, based on minimalist shapes, overlapping frames and, always, functionality. His design output was immense. He is credited with more than 500 chairs, more than 100 of which were mass produced and many of which have become design icons.

Arguably his most well-known chair, formally called the CH24 Wishbone Chair and also known as the Y Chair, was designed in 1949 and put into production the following year by Carl Hansen & Son in Denmark, where it is still produced. (Wegner also designed for other companies.)

The chair was inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Chinese Ming Dynasty chairs, but it has an identity all its own. The chair rail and arms are a single piece of steam-bent wood. For stability and to ensure comfortable support, Wegner designed the Y-shaped back that gives the CH24 chair its nickname. The legs rise and taper to meet the top rail.

The seat, perhaps surprisingly, is made of paper. To be precise, paper cord, sometimes called Danish cord. Danish cord is made of heavy kraft paper that is twisted or roped in a slender strand, waxed for a smooth look and feel, and then woven into the pattern for the seat. Similar to fiber rush, the material is stable and durable.

The back and seat of the chair provide support and comfort. The seat also is wide enough to allow the sitter to shift position easily, and the shape of the chair allows it to be pulled close to a table.

Today, the Wishbone Chair is available in various types of wood and finishes and with a natural or black paper cord seat. The chairs cost $595 to $1,095 depending on wood and finish and are available at Design Within Reach in Paramus, New Jersey or the Carl Hanson & Son flagship store in New York City. DWR.com or CarlHansen.com