Designed in 1952, the Ant Chair was first produced with three legs and was not an instant hit. It was only in 1980 that a fourth leg was added and a variety of finishes and colours were included in the range that it took off as a product.
Its name came from the Danish Myren, meaning Ant, because its outline appeared to resemble the insect with its head raised.
The chair was originally made for the canteen at Novo Nordisk, an international Danish healthcare company, but it nearly ended up as another one of Jacobsen’s prototypes because he wasn’t convinced of its potential. Novo ordered only 300.
Jacobsen said of it: “I based my work on a need: what chairs are needed? I found that people needed a new type of chair for the small kitchen dinettes that are found in most new buildings today, a little, light, and inexpensive chair. At the same time, I made one that can also be used in lunchrooms, as a stacking chair. It can be stacked by inserting the chairs into one another, consequently saving both time and energy.”
He was a prolific designer, making prototypes of wallpaper, furniture, textiles and silverware and by the end of the 1950s he had produced several other pieces that would go on to be design classics as well: The Swan and The Egg to name but two, as well as various lights, one of which has already been featured on Design Classics . Many of those products were designed for The Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, where Jacobsen insisted on overseeing every last detail.
He joined forces with Fritz Hansen in 1934 but it was the Ant that propelled both their names into furniture history. Earlier this year, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Ant, Fritz Hansen teamed up with Jamie Oliver for The Big Chair Project in which a number of celebrities were asked to customise an Ant chair for an auction to raise money for Oliver’s Big Food Foundation. Designers include Christopher Bailey, of Burberry, Matthew Williamson, Paul Smith, Superdry and Tracey Emin.