Are Carl Hansen Wishbone Chairs Comfortable?
Comfort is always a top priority for anybody hunting out a new kitchen or dining room chair. So if you are looking to equip a house, a question is: are Carl Hansen wishbone chairs comfortable? Nobody wants to wriggle around in discomfort when they sit down to eat, work or for a good gossip. Just as bad, nobody wants a reputation for making their guests wriggle and squirm in an uncomfortable seat.
Comfort is where the Carl Hansen Wishbone Chairs come into their own. They have a well-deserved reputation for reliability and comfort. Their good name is an achievement won over more than 70 years of solid use. It shows no sign of fading either.
- Origins of the Wishbone Chair
- First steps to a Wishbone Chair
- Comfort by Design
- The Final Step to the Wishbone Chair
- The Wishbone Chair is Born
- Are Wishbone Chairs Out of Style?
- Are Wishbone Chairs Expensive?
- Making a Wishbone Chair
- The finished Wishbone Chair
- Natural wood or paint?
- Spotting a Fake
- The Carl Hansen CH24 Wishbone Chair
Origins of the Wishbone Chair
There is story behind this model of chair. It helps explain not only their pedigree but also answers the question: are wishbone chairs comfortable? The tale also explains why they are still such an iconic design after all these years.
Everything starts in medieval China back when the descendants of Genghis Khan were running things. Being staunch Mongolian horsemen, comfort was not only unimportant, they positively frowned on it. A question like “are Carl Hansen wishbone chairs comfortable?” would have had them scratching their heads in puzzlement before prescribing another day in the saddle.
So high-backed upright chairs with hard seats were the order of the day for all the palace minions. That didn’t apply to the Emperor. When you’re running things, you get all the cushions you want. Most of the elite courtiers also found ways round the restriction. For the scholars, scribes and civil servants who worked for the empire and made the empire work, it was a different story.
First Steps to a Wishbone Chair
It couldn’t last, though. There was a rebellion and, as the old rulers fled back to Mongolia, they took their demand for uncomfortable chairs with them. In came the Ming Dynasty whose emperors were happy for their underlings to be comfortable as long as they were loyal.
The Dynasty is justly famous for the beauty, style and craftsmanship of the many works produced over the next 300 years. From porcelain to woodwork, they not only made the most elegant goods around, they were prepared to trade them to the rest of the world.
Furniture played its role as its design reached new heights. The scribes and civil servants reckoned running the empire may be a pain in the nether regions but they shouldn’t to need to put up with a pain in the nether regions to do the job.
Comfort by Design
The result was that the newly liberated minions hunted out some local craftsmen with a simple order. They were on show in and around the court, so style and elegance were a given. They needed all that plus supreme comfort wrapped into a single chair.
The craft workers went away and thought about it for a while before coming back with a classic light but strong design. It had a horseshoe-shaped armrest held up by thin supports at the front and a solid sheet of wood at the back. The seat was made from woven cord that had enough strength to last for years but was also soft enough to feel luxurious.
It is a classic piece of work. Remember, the Ming period is generally accepted as the golden era of ancient Chinese furniture making. This piece reflects the standards and values of the time. The Ming craftsmen knew a thing or two about comfort and used all that knowledge in this design.
It was helped by new techniques. The invention of new types of joint allowed the woodworkers to create a piece both light and strong; serviceable and comfortable; simple and elegant. It fulfils every part of the design brief of fostering a sound environment for both body and soul.
The Final Step to the Wishbone Chair
Wind the clock forward 600 years, or so, and meet Hans J Wegner. He is a young Danish designer with a background in the craft of cabinet making that earned him a reputation for his mastery of wood and joinery techniques. He has also studied design at the Copenhagen School of Arts & Crafts. His mission in life is to bring his two passions together.
The Carl Hansen wishbone chair is one of his creations. It came at a time when he was helping establish Denmark as a world laster of modern furniture design.
It all started when he saw a picture of some Danish merchants in the Far East on some of those Ming chairs. He was impressed by the way something so simple-looking could be so functional. It was the root of his next design, but he knew he could still improve it.
The solid sheet up the back gave way to a Y shaped support. It looks a bit like the wishbone from a Christmas turkey and gave the chair its name. Modern woodworking techniques allow the armrest support to sweep up continuously from the rear leg in a sensuous S shape. The armrest itself is at a comfortable height, coming far enough forward to give support without getting in the way. It is a work of art but still completely functional.
The seat is the key, though. It is made from paper cord that is woven and wound tightly round the frame. So tightly that it takes about 400 feet of cord to make just one chair. The result is both soft and durable. It answers the question “Are Carl Hansen Wishbone Chairs Comfortable?”with a firm “yes”.
Anticipate a solid 50 years of continuous use before the cord seat needs to be renewed. If it does eventually wear out, just replace it. After all, the Ming stopped running China almost 400 years ago but you can still find chairs in use made during their period.
The lines are clean and continuous, the curves bond seamlessly with the straight elements such as the frame and the legs. Nothing is left to chance and there is nothing there that does not have to be there. Every millimetre is carefully planned, every joint created with care and attention to detail.
Are Wishbone Chairs Out of Style?
You might worry that a chair that has been in continuous production since 1950 might look a bit jaded in a modern setting. The worry might grow when you realise the inspiration is more than 600 years old.
Don’t. It is a needless concern. Some things are timeless; the Carl Hansen Wishbone Chair is one of them.
The clean appearance inspired by its Danish design heritage means it looks at home surrounded by modern furniture. Its classic design means it looks equally at home among antique furniture and all points in-between. It is almost impossible to think of a setting where a wishbone chair would look out of place.
Remember the original design brief all those years ago was to make something comfortable. It is truly a chair to relax into, a modernist ideal fused with East Asian grace. When you are sitting at a table or desk and working, the arms won’t get in the way but you will still feel the all-round support if gives. If you want to use it as a dining chair and are into those six-hour Continental meals, you won’t spend the last hour wriggling around looking for a comfortable way to sit. At no stage will you be wondering are Carl Hansen wishbone chairs comfortable?
Are Wishbone Chairs Expensive
When you look at what goes into making a wishbone chair and the length of service you can expect, they are good value for money. For a start, Carl Hansen make theirs from nothing but the best quality of hardwood, ash, beech, oak, smoked oak, cherry or walnut. These are all slow-growing trees and the Carl Hansen use nothing but the best from sustainably managed forests.
Making a Wishbone Chair
Each chair is made by hand by highly trained craftsmen at the company’s Danish headquarters. It is a quality item, not a cheap frame held together by nails and screws likely to split the wood over time. It is a crafted work of art with 14 separate parts and each joint cut to fit perfectly. There are more than 100 steps carried out by hand by the woodworkers at the factory to make the chair come alive.
That is just for the frame. The wickerwork seat uses a type of cord invented in Sweden during World War II. It is made from three strips of twisted long-fibre paper. There is so much of it that if laid out, it stretches a good 60 feet beyond the length of a football pitch. Weaving it by hand onto the frame is a skilled exercise that takes time and expertise.
The finished Wishbone Chair
What you get is a chair that will last not just a lifetime but for generations. The seat is renewable if necessary. With reasonable care, though, expect it to last for more than 50 years of daily use.
Remember there are still chairs from the Ming period around to have inspired the design. So there is no reason to think a chair bought today could not be doing service 600 years from now. It may be getting on but would still be answering the question, are Carl Hansen wishbone chairs comfortable?
The joints are all cut to fit. There is no metal to rust or deteriorate over the years. As long as the chair gets some reasonable care and you look after the wood, there is nothing to go wrong. The cord seat is protected by a thin wax finish. There is a natural patination over the years, which only adds to the effect.
Natural wood or paint?
The wishbone chair looks superb when you can see the natural grain of the wood through a clear lacquer, varnish, soap or oil finish. That version is probably best suited to a more traditionally furnished room. That is the kind of place where the natural appearance will fit in with the rest of the decor.
From the start Hans Wegner recognised, however, the modern market includes brightly lit, highly coloured, rooms. By design and appearance, the chairs fit in there as well but the natural colour finish may not be appropriate. As a result the Carl Hansen CH24 Wishbone Chair painted frame version of the has always been on sale alongside natural finishes.
Wegner himself decided on 13 colours that he thought would fit into just about any environment. More recently the company have expanded the range so the now there is a version to fit any colour scheme. The seat comes in either a natural wood or in black, again a classic look that fits in anywhere.
Spotting a Fake
It is more than 70 years since Hans Wegner came up with the design so inevitably people have tried to come up with some cheaper knock-offs but it is not hard to tell the difference. The quality of the wood, the attention to detail and the quality of the workmanship are all giveaways.
These days the Carl Hansen have protected the design by copyrighting it, so the fakes are harder to come by. Anyway, without the guarantee of quality, they are poor value for money. While the question “are Carl Hansen wishbone chairs comfortable?” gets a robust “yes”, the same is not true of the knock-offs.
The Carl Hansen CH24 Wishbone Chair
Here at Olson Baker, we have both the natural wood frames and the painted versions of the The Carl Hansen CH24-Wishbone Chair are on sale. Which you choose depends on the decor of the room they are going to live in. Both natural and painted versions are certain to enhance its appearance.