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Danish designer Hans J. Wegner designed the CH20 Elbow Chair in 1956, and promptly slipped the plans into his archive after producing a single prototype. In 2005, Carl Hansen & Søn CEO Knud Hansen found the sketch by chance on a visit to Wegner’s wife, Marianne Wegner, after Hans’ death.
After convincing Marianne to let Carl Hansen & Søn make the chair, the cabinetmaker brought the design out of hiding and began producing it to great acclaim. It’s been in production, and highly popular, ever since.
Why would Wegner set aside the design for this chair without even giving it a shot at mass production? At the time, the chair was too complicated and expensive to make. Technological improvements since that time have made it a much less daunting undertaking.
The chair’s backrest highlight’s Wegner’s focus on this element at the time. The steam-bent backrest is made from one single piece of wood, making it not only comfortable but highly durable.
The CH20 is one of Wegner’s “round chairs,” a phase of experimentation in which Wegner consistently used rounded, wide chair backs that stretch forward to become armrests. The Wishbone Chair is the ultimate expression of this idea.
But the Elbow Chair is equally successful in its design, if not as well-known. The back’s curved shape, along with the organic (elbow-shaped!) movement of the middle support in the back, offer not only a soft and modern aesthetic, but also additional comfort for the person seated.
There’s something so vital about the look of the chair; one can imagine the horns of a bull in the armrests when looking at it from the front. Similar to many of the Danish mid-century modern chairs by the likes of Wegner and Finn Juhl, the Elbow Chair was designed to be beautiful from all angles.
It’s not just the backrest that makes the chair special; the curved seat almost appears to be floating atop the legs, and the legs splay out at a very slight angle. The overall affect is one of clean lines with a dynamic personality. For this reason, the chair is easy to use in a number of ways.
Ideal as a home office chair, dining room chair, or simply as additional and sculptural seating around the home, the Elbow Chair is highly functional no matter where you use it.
It elevates any space, adding a timelessness that can only be achieved with this kind of obvious quality yet slightly off-beat aesthetic.
That a chair of this caliber was found in Wegner’s archive nearly 50 years after he first designed it begs the question: what else is in that archive?! Let’s hope we get a peek before another half century goes by.
Buy the CH20 Elbow Chair by Hans J. Wegner
Elbow Chair specs
Seat Height: 46 cm (18.1 inches)
Height: 73 cm (28.7 inches)
Depth: 47 cm (18.5 inches)
Width: 54 cm (21.2 inches)
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Backdrop fabric is Kuuskajaskari linen fabric by Marimekko.