Have a Seat
Reintroducing a Classic: The Hans Wegner Swivel Chair
Ask people about their favorite decades of the last century and you’ll hear a lot about the ’20s, ’60s, ’70s and maybe even the ’80s. You know what doesn’t come up much? The ’50s. They tend to be glanced over as that strange middle ground when most of Europe was still fixing their buildings and most of America was happy acting out their own rendition of Leave it To Beaver. But it wasn’t all Norman Rockwell paintings; there were stirrings of a revolution. Well before the psychedelic movement caught on or Hendrix picked up an electric guitar, deviance from the clean-cut, hard-line mainstream could be found in an unlikely place.
Design often is the avant-garde when it comes to social and global trends, and this was especially true in 1950s Denmark. Take Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair, which looks like it was commissioned for Studio 54 but was actually unveiled in Copenhagen in 1958. The creations of the Danish modernists, along with their counterparts around the world like George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames and a slew of others, were incredibly forward thinking and — at the very least — portended some of the incredible social change to come over the next 20 years. One of the most notable of these Danish designers was Hans Wegner (a former employee of the aforementioned Arne Jacobsen).
Wegner had a prolific career when it came to chairs: he designed no fewer than 500, 100 of which went into mass production, though a scant few remain in the hearts and minds of design lovers today. Wegner’s most famous creation, simply titled “The Chair”, is a beautifully sculpted wood seat that owes part of its fame to its former occupants: it was the seat of choice for the 1961 presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. A less famous but arguably more beautiful rendition of “The Chair” came in 1955 when “The Swivel Chair” chose casters over legs and turned heads around the world. This version had fallen out of production over the past 55 years, but Dutch firm PP Mobler has recently decided to bring the icon back. Yes, it carries the same price tag as a VW Jetta, but “The Swivel Chair” is a special piece of furniture; its true beauty lies within the details and stories hidden in its design. With that in mind, we break down the hewn looker above.