Hans Wegner’s Shell Chair
Hans J. Wegner once said „A chair shoud have no rear view, it should be beautiful from all sides and angles” and his shell chair is a perfect example. An elegant low lounge chair, with a generous smile and an inviting seat for life is what makes it one of Hans Wegner’s most iconic chairs. Yet it almost didn’t make it.
The three-legged shell chair, also known as Hans J. Wegner CH07 Lounge Chair, has been designed for the annual Furniture Guild Exhibition in Copenhagen in 1963. While some critics loved the avant-garde design, the general public was reluctant to accept the chair’s bold and different design. A few limited series were launched, but the project soon came to a standstill, because of its very high production costs. In the early ’90s, Wegner’s “Three-legged Shell Chair” began to attract impressive prices at renowned auctions around the globe, leading to Carl Hansen & Son re-introducing the chair in 1998.
The Shell Chair immediately won several design awards and the public absolutely loved it, showing that the CH07 Chair was truly ahead of its time.
The new manufacturer had been able to keep down the costs tanks to advances in techniques of woodworking, and after 34 years of oblivion, the chair finally got its breakthrough.
It’s curious to mention that one of the original shell chairs from the 60s sold for $20,000 at Christies in London in 1999. C. H. Olesen (2014)
The famous Shell Chair is beautiful three-legged piece made of form-pressed veneer, achieves its floating lightness thanks to wing-like lines and arching curves of a three-legged design. Seat and back are made of form pressed plywood shells from which the chair got its name. The three legs consist of a laminated construction, the two front legs are made of one continuous piece and the back leg is a separate element. Its deep seat is remarkably comfortable. To enhance the comfort, Wegner has added two upholstered cushions, which are fastened to the shell with screws from the back.
In its variations, the seat and back could be upholstered in fabric or leather. The design is minimalist with organic and natural softness, perfectly executed joints with exquisite shapes. It is both monumental and compact, very comfortable despite the asceticism of his lines. Wegner’s round CH008 table makes a popular accompaniment to it.
Simultaneously minimalistic yet generous. “It’s a chair you’ll have for the rest of your life.”¹
The Shell Chair doesn’t look like a sculpture. It looks like something to sit in. It includes only what is required for sitting. The single rear leg doubles as a support for the back; the decorative “wings” that flare out on each side turn out to be pleasant places to rest one’s hands. In spite of its three-legs, it stands well on the floor and does not easily topple over. Although it is low and does not feature armrests, it is easy to get up by seizing the front edge and pulling oneself up.
The triangular footprint means the Shell Chair fits in a wide range of spaces, from waiting room corners to living room centerpieces. It is elegant as a soloist as well as in groups of two, three or more.
It is perfect piece for furnishing either public spaces as cafes or longue bars or you can put it in the living room of your house by the sea. The style fits in variety of interior styles. It combined successful with leather or fabric couches, other pieces of classic or contemporary style furnishing and decors.
Several manufacturers such as Johannes Hansen, Carl Hansen & Sons, PP Mobler, Erik Jorgensen and more, manufactured the design. However, not only that, the Wegner’s famous chair is an object to lots of reproductions. This fact is a statement that this piece of furniture is popular and became a classic in present time. The classic mid-century furniture continue to influence the aesthetic and zeitgeist of today. The appreciation of vintage and nostalgia, and a reconsideration of design, its elements, principles, and applications, have reinforced the ‘classic’ and its value to contemporary design.
The Shell chair as many other “modern classic” design furniture are wildly spread across the world. You can find it all around the world such as Longue “Koyagumi” in Japan in original or by the replica on American ebay.com or from Australian online shop chicicat.com. The furniture fits as part of mid-century style furnishing interiors and the contemporary ones. You can find a lots of replica models in online shops. Some of them are in different size proportions or upholstered wit faux leather but if you can’t afford the price of the original and still want to get the look, you have a chance given thanks to its famous.
I had the opportunity to see this piece of classic design in original in couple of high street furniture shops in Stockholm. In one of them, it was exposed in arrangement of a group of two with upholstery sofa, accompanied with small round coffee tables and leather carpet on the floor. The chairs were made from natural oak and upholstered with white leather. That inspired me to represent my complement design for this iconic chair in the same combination of materials.
With its timeless appearance mild flowing ergonomic forms and high quality materials this iconic chair will continuing to expire furniture and interior designers all around the world. For me was a pleasure to make a complement to it.
- Unknown author
Christian Holmstedt Olesen (2014). Hans J. Wegner: Just One Good Chair. Hatje Cantz