Ilse Crawford Reimagines a Danish Design Classic

To mark the 70th anniversary of Carl Hansen & Søn’s CH24 Wishbone Chair, the London designer channels the historic influences of Hans Wegner with remarkable results.

Ilse Crawford sitting on the CH24 Wishbone Chair, Hans J. Wegner Birthday Edition, that she designed in collaboration with Carl Hansen & Søn.

When Hans Wegner first started designing chairs, he wasn’t trying to create an icon. Rather, the beloved Danish furniture craftsman set out to reduce and refine the chair to its simplest possible form—an organic process that yielded almost 500 chair designs throughout his career, many of which endure as timeless classics of Danish modernism. The CH24, also known as the Wishbone Chair, is perhaps one of Wegner’s greatest achievements. Its masterful construction, which features two armrests that coalesce into a single steam-bent wooden piece supported by its namesake Y-shaped back, “is quite feminine but also very strong,” says Knud Erik Hansen, the third-generation CEO of Carl Hansen & Søn. The Danish furniture brand has produced the Wishbone Chair continuously from its factory on the island of Funen, Denmark, since 1950. 

To mark the Wishbone Chair’s 70th anniversary, as well as Wegner’s birthday month of April, Carl Hansen & Søn has debuted a limited-edition version of the chair that sheds new light on the designer’s historic influences. The brand enlisted London-based designer and creative director Ilse Crawford, whose multidisciplinary practice, Studioilse, has long created collections of sustainable furniture, lighting, and accessories in natural materials. For the Wishbone Chair, Crawford opted for a glossy navy blue finish that pens a love letter to Asian design history and craft, which greatly inspired Wegner’s sensibilities throughout his career. “In China, blue is symbolically associated with the east, spring, and wood,” says Crawford, who chose a high-gloss finish to reference traditional Chinese lacquer. “Blue has been so much a part of Chinese culture, from the blue-and-white china that obsessed the world for so many centuries to the dark blue of indigo textiles.”

The CH24 Wishbone Chair, Hans J. Wegner Birthday Edition, designed by Ilse Crawford in collaboration with Carl Hansen & Søn.

Though glossy blue may seem like a curious choice to adorn a chair that’s celebrated for its un-showiness, Crawford’s edition is both charming and discrete. Not only does “the glossy navy blue highlight anew the quiet, simple beauty that has made the Wishbone Chair a favorite for so many years,” says Hansen, it also honors Wegner’s intent of making unexceptional things exceptional. “It changes the chair’s appearance without interfering with its integrity as a design.”

Crawford credits the unpretentious mindset of Danish design and craftsmanship as a guiding light during her design process—specifically, the humanity that Wegner invested into each of his creations. “His work is timeless, and the only thing that makes something truly timeless is essentialism, that constant striving to actually get to the heart of something,” she says. “It’s not about the thing itself, it’s about the energy and desire to make something that connects and does its job incredibly well. Those who make enduring things never set out to make a timeless chair—they set out to push limits.” 

The CH24 Wishbone Chair, Hans J. Wegner Birthday Edition, designed by Ilse Crawford in collaboration with Carl Hansen & Søn.

The CH24 Wishbone Chair, Hans J. Wegner Birthday Edition, is available until April 30.

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