60 years of an icon

Carl Hansen & Son celebrates 60 years of the insuperable Shell Chair designed by Hans J. Wegner, with a limited edition in rosewood and oak

Shell Chair by Carl Hansen & Son, design Hans J. Wegner
Shell Chair by Carl Hansen & Son, design Hans J. Wegner

Today we call it a design icon, easily recognized for its distinctive “smile” in modern interiors. We acknowledge its classic styling, constantly timely in spite of 60 years of history, six decades of fashions and evolutions. We appreciate its design that strives for simplification, exploiting the potential of the material to create a true seating archetype. But this has not always been the case for the Shell Chair by Carl Hansen & Son.

It was presented for the first time on 20 September 1963 at the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition in Copenhagen. The product was truly in the avant-garde, bearing witness to the visionary flair of its creator, Hans J. Wegner; perhaps too innovative at the time, and in fact it was not understood, drawing criticism and prompting debate. At the time, the production techniques also limited its reach. The Shell Chair had to wait 35 years to get the credit it deserves, when Carl Hansen & Son revived it in 1998, counting on the way it would be perceived by the new generation. It goes without saying that the company made the right choice.

Today the Shell Chair is exactly 60 years old and remains an admirable example of modern design. Shaping the wood in soft curves, Hans J. Wegner designed a form that matches the seated position of the human body, without the use of armrests and with a reclining structure. To gain stability for a chair with three legs, Wegner developed a particular double framework, which catches the eye from all angles. The result is outstanding comfort combined with a clear aesthetic language.

To celebrate this anniversary the company has created an exclusive edition in rosewood and oak (with a black leather cover for the seat), available for a limited time only, from 2 October to 31 December 2023.

“We decided to make the shells with rosewood. The typical dark, warm veins form a splendid contrast with the oak frame. Both types of wood are clear references to the Danish Modern movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when both exotic and more traditional varieties were in vogue. Today, the rosewood and oak come from FSC certified forests,” says Knud Erik Hansen, owner and CEO of Carl Hansen & Son.

The limited edition of the Shell Chair will make its official debut during Paris Design Week, from 7 September, and at the London Design Festival, from 16 September.