Home Thoughts: Robin and Patricia Silver, owners of The Home store, Salts Mill, Saltaire
Once in a blue moon, a really good piece of furniture design hits you in the face. It’s even more rarely that you come across a truly great piece of design. The “CH22” lounge chair designed by Hans Wegner is one of these “greats.”
Back in 1950, when the chair was originally designed, Hans Wegner was already established as a renowned furniture designer and a master cabinet maker and craftsman. He had started to work with Arne Jacobsen in 1938, designing furniture for the City Hall in Aarhus and during the 1940s, he worked with many other leading Danish architects and manufacturers. He set out to create a new collection of chairs that would achieve his dream of being both comfortable and characterful with excellent ergonomics but also, most importantly, look attractive from all sides. Front, back and side views, from above and from below. “A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles” he declared. In this lounge chair, he admirably fulfilled his dream.
Unfortunately, it embodied so many hand-crafted details and had such a complex and intricate construction that it was difficult and expensive to manufacture so production was quickly halted. Today, however, those difficulties have been overcome and the chair is now once more available for you to own.
It combines a wide range of techniques, including tiny marcatre inserts of different woods at the top of the front legs, a steam bent. form-pressed veneered back rest with contrasting inlaid wood panels that double up as covers to its fixings. The organic form makes the chair comfortable for people of all sizes and the turned and carved wood elements that support the arm rests borrow their shape from human anatomy, which adds strength and an organic quality.
Never one to make life easy for any manufacturer, the other elements of Wegner’s design are individually crafted timber pieces, some symmetrical, others bowed, arched, curved, scooped, rounded...you name it. The seat is hand woven using a special paper cord, which provides triangular patterning, tremendous strength yet enough “give” to add to its wholesome comfort.
Wegner is perhaps best known for his Wishbone chair, designed in 1949 and used in the famous Kennedy and Nixon televised Presidential debates in 1960. It was described by Interiors magazine in America as “the world’s most beautiful chair.” This may now be challenged as the world can today enjoy his lounge chair and, in time, it may well become his real signature piece.
As Wegner said, “a well thought out construction can be its own decoration.” Nowhere in his vast body of work of over 1000 chair designs is this more true than in this lounge chair. There is no unnecessarily detail. This chair demonstrates his passion for craftsmanship, precise industrial manufacturing techniques and the use of exquisite natural materials, oak and walnut. His designs are already much admired and loved by architects and designers and this new addition of a mid century modern classic will undoubtedly be no exception.