Rattling off the names of Danish designer Hans Wegner’s 500-plus chairs—The Peacock. The Wishbone. The Sawbuck—you’re liable to feel like you’ve dropped into a Lewis Carroll novel. While Wegner’s chairs don’t necessarily possess the same zaniness as Carroll’s characters (they’re nothing if not refined) they are definite characters, with each featuring unique forms and robust and colorful backstories.
In celebration of Wegner’s birthday (he would have been 104 this April), we’re highlighting ten of this master’s most iconic seats. From the ubiquitous Round Chair that was once hailed as “The most beautiful chair in the world” by Interiors magazine, to the rare and jocular Dolphin Chair, learn more about our favorite designs from the iconic Danish master below.
1. The Round Chair
There’s no arguing with the design genius of a chair that’s been bequeathed the moniker “The Chair,” which just so happens to be the nickname of Wegner’s 1949 Round Chair. Among its many accolades, the Round Chair was selected as the seat to accommodate John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon during the first evening of the televised 1960 presidential debate, earning it legions of admirers from early on. Composed of four tapered legs, two shapely arm rails, and a bow-shaped back, the Round Chair is equal parts functional and sculptural, which might explain why Wegner himself was once quoted as saying the Round Chair was his finest achievement.
2. GE 375 Lounger
You’d be hard-pressed not to feel relaxed sitting in these GE 375 Lounge Chairs from 1969, and we deem that reason enough to consider incorporating them into your interior. The slatted wood backs get upgraded to comfy status courtesy of three canvas-covered cushions, while a reclined profile earns points in the ergonomic department. Among our favorite details is the slight gap between the back cushions and neck cushions, which displays a hint of those sensational back spokes.
3. The Sawbuck Chair
When you consider that Wegner’s 1952 Sawbuck Chair takes its name from a carpenter’s sawbuck, it should come as no surprise that it’s a workhorse—from the dining room to the office, this marvelously lightweight chair does it all. Yet there’s something about the Sawbuck’s aerodynamic form and seamless, puzzle-lock joinery that elevates it far beyond the utilitarian realm. While the Sawbuck was taken out of production in the 1970s, Wegner’s daughter had it reintroduced it to welcome reception in the 1990s, proving that it has decade-defying appeal.
4. The Peacock Chair
For years, Wegner debuted a new chair at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild of Copenhagen every spring. In 1947 Wegner debuted Peacock Chair, which was loosely modeled after a classic British Windsor. With its radiant back, this classic-with-a-twist chair piqued the interests of fellow Danish designer Finn Juhl, who exclaimed that it resembled an in-all-its-glory peacock. The name stuck and the chair went on to become one of Wegner’s most ubiquitous designs.
5. The AP27 Chair
Years before Adrian Pearsall unleashed his Jetson-style creations on America, Wegner’s AP27 chair entered production with A.P Stolen in Denmark. Introduced in 1954, the high-backed, wool-upholstered chair showcases the same organic consciousness as Wegner’s all-wood pieces, but displays a softer, mellower side that’s a definite departure from most of Wegner’s creations. For those who might find Wegner’s Papa Bear Chair a bit too surreal-skewing, the AP27 chair is a fine alternative.
6. The Dolphin Chair
If there was ever a Wegner chair to flip for over, it’s his Dolphin Chair. Originally designed for the 1950 edition of the Cabinetmakers’ Guild of Copenhagen, the chair was produced in a limited run by Johannes Hansen but never officially entered production. In addition to being one of Wegner’s rarest chairs, the Dolphin Chair also has to be one of Wegner’s most satirical seats, earning its name from the swooping oak frame which is said to resemble a jumping porpoise (or a dolphin dorsal, depending on who you ask). Either way you view it, with its handwoven cane seat and seaside connotations, this one’s made for the beach house.
7. Bull Horn Dining Chair
Wegner wasn’t know for his steel work, but when he did employ the medium, he didn’t treat it as though it were capable of anything less than wood. The result were chairs like the Bull Horn Dining Chair or PP701 Chair, a remarkably graceful steel dining chair that (in the ultimate sign of utilitarianism) was designed to be stacked. Of interesting note is that Wegner selected the PP701 to furnish his own Gentofte, Denmark home, which was completed in 1965, the same year that the Bull Horn made its debut.
8. The Wishbone Chair
The Wishbone Chair was the culminating design developed for Wegner’s 1940s-era China Chair Series, a collection of chairs inspired by classic Chinese designs. The Wishbone in particular was inspired by historic portraits Wegner came across featuring Danish merchants seated in 17th Century Ming chairs. The resulting hybrid is an unabashed ode to Wegner’s famed quote that “A chair should be beautiful from all sides and should not have a backside.” With a textural, handwoven seat and a steam-bent, horseshoe-shaped back, it’s easy to see why the Wishbone Chair is Wegner’s best selling chair ever.
9. The Papa Bear Chair
Surprisingly enough, Wegner’s Papa Bear Chair didn’t earn its name by way of Goldilock’s seal of approval (although it certainly could have), but was actually named by a critic who referred to the chair’s cradling armrests as the equivalent of “great bear paws embracing you from behind.” How’s that for an endorsement? Often referred to as a surrealist take on the English Wingback, the Papa Bear Chair is the Mid-Century Modern enthusiasts’ answer to what chair to idle by the hearth and take that whiskey on the rocks in.
10. The Circle Chair
Effortless as it may look, the Circle Chair actually took Wegner a lifetime to complete. Among the most elusive elements of the chair was the large hoop that Wegner envisioned forming its back and arms. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s, when Wegner was in his 70s, that a special machine was finally developed to create the chair’s giant ash wood circle frame. To keep the chair spectacularly lightweight, Wegner elected to string the chair with pleated flag line secured by steel clips. The effect lands somewhere between basketball net and dream catcher, making for one of Wegner’s most statement-making chairs.
Lead photo by Nikolas Koenig / OTTO