Dionne Warwick famously sang that “a chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sitting there,” and while this may be true, some chairs remain icons whether or not someone is sitting on them. Designed by the son of a Danish cobbler, the iconic Y chair has been reinvented and reinterpreted innumerable times while the original has been in constant production since its creation in 1950 by Hans J. Wegner.
The elegant, smooth and simple lines of the Y chair have made it an undisputed modern icon with a distinctly Danish look. Originally inspired by classical portraits of Danish merchants seated on Chinese chairs from the Ming era, the Y chair was perhaps the catalyst of the changing attitudes towards furniture design, as Wegner’s masterpiece required expert craftsmanship to create this seemingly simple piece.
While technology has made the process much quicker, the Y chair is still constructed of the same 14 parts – which require over 100 different steps to fashion – as it was when first put into production in 1950.
The back and the legs are sanded so as to create the chair’s iconic curved look, and the now famous Y is crafted from strong laminated plywood which fits into a groove in the back of the chair. Once it has been constructed the whole piece is then hand-sanded before adding the hand-woven seat. The design of the chair remains exactly the same as it was in 1950, maintaining its simple, elegant and beautiful look.
“A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all angles.” —Hans Wegner
Originally titled the CH24 chair, the Y chair has also been known as the Wishbone Chair, for the similarity in the shapes of the backrest that connects to the seat. Its iconic nature has made Wegner one of the key figures in the Danish Modern movement, combining traditional furniture craftsmanship with elegant and ergonomic forms. Wegner was quoted in 1952 as saying “If only you could design just one good chair in your life… But you simply cannot.”
So perhaps Dionne Warwick was right, and a chair is still a chair, but the Y chair is also so much more than that. It’s a combination of the past and the present, of classical and modern, and a way for Danish design that looks beautiful from every angle to add to the look of any modern home.