Hans Wegner: Meticulous Master and Mid-Century Modern Visionary

Hans Wegner is considered to have developed the “Organic Functionality” style. His close work with manufacturers and meticulously thoughtful design was a key contribution in the increased worldwide popularity of Mid-Century modern furniture and Danish modernism. Wegner was a master of his craft and strived to design the perfect piece for his customers, with painstaking attention to detail.


Hans Wegner
Hans Wegner

Hans Wegner was born in Denmark in 1914. His father was a cobbler. Developing a keen interest in woodworking and furniture from an early age, young Hans was an apprentice to master cabinetmaker H. F. Stahlberg. After he finished his apprenticeship and served in the Army, he attended The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Back in those days the institution was simply known as The Artisan College. He also trained as an architect.

Mid-Century Modern Chairs Fit for a King

Around the time he finished his schooling, Hans frequented Carpenters’ Guild Furniture Exhibits. Seeing these master craftsmen at work is what inspired Wegner to produce pieces of his own. In the 1940′s Wegner spearheaded a collaboration to fill out a town hall. At this time Wegner also started to work with Master Carpenter Johannes Hansen who also largely contributed to the widespread popularity of Danish Mid-Century Modern furniture.

Wagner opened up his own furniture design studio in 1943. From there, he went on to design over 500 different chairs. More than 100 of those chairs were manufactured on a large scale and distributed worldwide. As his career and popularity boomed, Wegner once spent two years perfecting a chair for the Danish king, Frederick IX. Anyone who is afforded that much time to deliver a product to a King has got to be widely respected.


Hans Wegner Kennedy Armchair

Kennedy Armchair

Perhaps Wegner’s widely known piece was the chair he designed for the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon Presidential Debate. The simple yet elegant design is a compliment to any room. The futuristic set design and in particular the Wegner chairs the candidates sat on were said to give the American voting public a sense of hope and inspiration for the future. This piece and its implications were a bit of a metaphorical prelude to the influence Wegner’s design would have on future generations. Times they were changing in the 1960′s, and so was furniture design, lead by Hans Wagner.


Hans Wegner Wing Chair

Wing Chair and Ottoman (CH445 Wing Chair)

The Wegner Wing Chair and Ottoman also known as the CH445 Wing chair also came out in 1960. The manufacturer discontinued the design shortly after, due to lack of popularity. The chair has since been reintroduced in the new millennium and has won numerous International Design Awards. This piece is sleek yet very comfortable, with solid support for your back and neck.


Hans Wegner Shell Chair

Shell Chair (CH07 Chair)

This piece has a slanted design that was common in many of Wegner’s works. Designed in 1963, the Wegner Shell CH07 chair was intended to be futuristic, comfortable, and reasonably priced. Unfortunately at the time, consumers didn’t like the way the Shell chair looked along with their other home decor. The piece was reintroduced to the public in the 1990′s after an auction in London. Carl Hansen & Son began producing the iconic Shell Chair once again. This piece is perfect for modern offices and homes alike. Today, the Shell chair is sold all over the world; further solidifying Wegner’s status as a Mid-Century Modern furniture visionary.


Hans Wegner Wishbone Chair

Wishbone Chair (CH24 Chair) and Barstool

Since its inception, The Wishbone CH24 chair is a Wagner piece that has been in constant production. This chair has become known as a staple of Wagner’s work and ingenuity to the craft. Since 1949, the Wegner Wishbone chair has been purchased for use usually in a dining room. The CH24′s unique curved back legs let you know it’s a Wegner piece. The semicircular top rail provides back support and adds to the overall atheistic of this classic chair.


Hans Wegner Elbow Chair

Elbow Chair (CH20 Chair)

Wegner’s Elbow chair, also known as the CH20 chair is a simple yet elegant addition to any office or dining room. The unique shape makes it a stellar dining and desk chair alike, because of the low and horizontal back. This piece was one that Wagner experimented on, using molded veneer. This sturdy and strong chair features 11 layers of molded veneer.

Continued Influence

Wagner changed the way the world bought furniture in the Mid-Century modern style. Not only did Hans Wagner legitimize high-end luxury furniture design in the Mid-Century period, but his mastery still inspires the design of today. Many of Wegner’s pieces can still be seen in functional use.

When asked about his process of designing his iconic chairs, he said that it was “a continuous process of purification”. When asked about one of his designs, Wegner was famously quoted as saying, “We must take care that everything doesn’t get so dreadfully serious. We must play – but we must play seriously.”

Wegner’s invaluable concept of “playing seriously” is not only inspiring and important to current designers and creative professionals but for entrepreneurs and business owners of practically any industry that requires innovation. And if you know anything about business, there aren’t too many industries populated with professionals who desire to remain stale in designing their products or delivering services. While keeping things loose, yet paying remarkable attention to detail and style, Wegner is an inspiration to anyone that takes the time to learn his life’s work.

Wegner was the first ever recipient of the Lunning Prize and received the 8th International Design Award in Osaka, Japan. His furniture designs can be seen in permanent collections of the world’s most highly regarded museums, such as The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Hans Wegner died in Denmark in 2007. After his death, even the New York Times sang his praises. The article reminded older generations about presidential candidates in the 1960 debates sitting on Wegner chairs, highlighting the elegance and comfort of his works. His death and continued admiration also piqued the interest of a new generation of furniture aficionados.