Last week I reviewed the CH 88 Chair designed by Hans Wegner in 1955 that has just gone into commercial production through Carl Hansen.
In my files I came across this photograph of the dining room in Wegner’s own house in Gentofte, north of Copenhagen. He designed the house in 1962 and building work continued through to 1965. The chairs in the dining room were designed by Wegner in 1965 but are clearly based on the CH 88 and were one of the many pieces where he collaborated with the master cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen who then had workshops at 65 Bredgade in Copenhagen. The chairs were manufactured by PP Møbler and in some catalogues have the reference number PP 701 (JH).
The chairs are in steel with the back in maple and wenge and the seats are covered in leather. The back is more exaggerated than on the CH 88 with a more pronounced curve similar to that on The Bull Chair which was all in wood, including the frame. The most extreme use of this back shape was probably on the Swivel Chair JH 502 and also by Johannes Hansen.
These more pronounced curves could not be made from a single piece of timber simply because the extent of steam bending required, with the complex curve inevitably cutting across the grain, would have led to severe cracking. Wegner and Hansen made a virtue of joining the separate pieces of timber by carefully selecting wood with the right grain for the main elements, here cut from maple, and then using the dark colour of thin layers and keys in wenge to mark the joins.
The steel frame is also rather less severe than on the CH 88 with the front legs slightly splayed out, rather than being vertical, and the supports of the back curved to create a slightly waisted profile for the back frame.
The similarity in the two chair designs, ten years apart, does not, as I said last week, show lack of imagination. As a design evolved some ideas took the form logically through a number of developments and some ideas were modified and some abandoned. Returning to these ideas later was rather like going back down the route and seeing where a slightly different but equally logical path might take a design.
I pointed out in the review last week that metal-framed furniture was less common in the designs from Hans Wegner, or at least relatively less common, given the huge number of chairs he designed which reflects his training as a cabinetmaker and his clear appreciation of wood. That makes it even more interesting that he chose steel-framed chairs for his own dining room. He was a master of traditional techniques but used those skills in hugely innovative ways and certainly could not be described as conservative or staid in his taste.