Design Classics #34: The Wishbone Chair by Hans Wegner

image from

Run your hands along the back of a Wishbone chair and you can instantly understand why Hans Wegner was known as the Master of the Chair. One of the most famous Danish designers (and let’s face it, there are a few to choose from), Wegner worked in a different way from all his contemporaries; when making a chair he sat in it.

It sounds obvious, but back in the 1950s, most designers worked to a strict set of rules when creating their furniture. They measured everything and stuck to a pre-agreed set of dimensions. Wegner actually sat in his pieces and decided if they were comfortable before moving onto the next stage.

Before Wegner, chairs tended to be very square, almost bombastic in style. Certainly male. Wegner made his chairs curved and feminine and, let’s be honest, more comfortable.

The top rail, which is steam curved making it comfortable to lean against, is just one of 100 stages in the manufacturing process. The seat is handwoven from 120m of paper cord and can last for up to 50 years, which basically justifies any questions you might have about the cost as a fake version won’t last anything like that long.

images from livingetc;;;;

The son of a cobbler, Wegner designed around 500 chairs, many of which are regarded as design classics, but it is the CH24, popularly known as the Wishbone, or Y Chair that is his most famous.

It was the last in a series of chairs begun in 1944 inspired by a portrait of Danish merchants sitting in traditional Ming Chairs. It was designed  in 1949 for Carl Hansen & Son and went into production the following year. Unlike many other design classics, it has never fallen out of fashion and production has continued uninterrupted since then.

Knud Erik Hansen, the son of Carl, says simply that Wegner was a connoisseur of wood.

“He really knew about wood and he didn’t use anything that wasn’t necessary to the piece,” he said. “His dimensions were optimum and if something wasn’t needed he cut it away. He was like a top chef, refining the design until all that was left was all that was completely necessary.”

As Wegner himself said of his work: “I have always wanted to make unexceptional things of an exceptionally high quality.”

I love the Wishbone chair because for me it sums up everything about Danish design in one piece. It is a chair in which form and function are both perfectly equal. There is no unnecessary embellishment and yet it is a beautiful object. Its simple outline belies the complicated procedures needed to make something so comfortable. It is classic yet contrives to look completely modern.

from livingetc


Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. absolutely love that last image of the Wegner chairs with the black and white artwork from Living etc..thanks for the post as I’m going to try and replicate that artwork with my Sharpie markers large scale 😉 Wishbone is top of my list for when I win the lottery heh heh – the dark wood and the teak especially…design classics.
    Great blog, found you through a google image search for Wishbone chairs when trying to describe them to a friend and the process of streaming wood to bend it…cheers Leza

    1. so glad you like the blog, Leza. I love these chairs too. One day … although the great thing today is that you don’t have to have matching chairs so you can just buy one at a time and mix and match until you have a full set.

  2. Thought you might have this somewhere in your blog – tapped Wishbone into your search thingy, and there she was…I can’t even begin to explain how much I want these chairs,(4 to be exact) but at £588 a pop, it may be a while…especially as the little ones tend to use our chairs as climbing frames at the moment!!

    1. There does seem to be an offer on at the moment – six for the price of five. Don’t know if that would help. They probably won’t do four for the price of three sadly, but now is probably the moment to strike. Try Aram or Carl Hansen or Nest.

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