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Carl Hansen & Søn has been on a roll recently, re-launching a number of mid-century pieces to add to its roster of classic and contemporary Danish design. I featured one, Børge Mogensen’s ‘BM0488’ short table bench, a couple of months ago and now it’s the turn of another: the beautiful OW58 ‘T-Chair’ by Ole Wanscher.
Less well-known outside Denmark than contemporaries such as Hans J. Wegner and Arne Jacobsen, Ole Wanscher (1903-1985) nevertheless played an integral role in the development of Danish Modernism. He studied under Kaare Klint at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and later worked at Klint’s studio, before striking out on his own in 1927. He also helped shape Scandinavian design as an educator when he took over Klint’s professorship at the Academy from 1955 until his retirement in 1973.
Wanscher considered furniture design as architecture and looked as far back as Ancient Egypt and Greece for inspiration, seeking out ‘ideal’ constructions that he could then give a more modern expression. His creations often appear as refined, sculptural objects, but they’re also highly useable and heavily influenced by the ‘design for everyone’ philosophy that began to emerge in Scandinavia in the post-war period. What’s more, they were created with quality and durability in mind, as the Danish newspaper Politiken noted in 1958:
“Owning a Wanscher chair is an adventure every day, and will be so even several hundred years from now, for this is how long it lasts.”
As its name suggests, the OW58 ‘T-Chair’ was designed in that same year and exemplifies Wanscher’s focus on sleek, elegant forms. It embodies both classic and modern lines, and its striking T-shaped backrest merges seamlessly with the tightly placed rear legs, making it look almost three-legged from certain angles.
The re-issued chair has been adjusted in height only, growing by 2cm to provide optimum ergonomics for today’s users. It comes in soaped oak (shown here) and oiled walnut, with a range of upholstery options to choose from, and it works brilliantly in contemporary spaces, as I’ve demonstrated by borrowing one to style in two different ways in my own home.
First, I used the OW58 in the dining room, where it proved to be the perfect balance of form and function. Despite its lightweight expression, the chair has a wide upholstered seat that makes it extremely comfortable, so it’s ideal for long, lingering meals. What’s more, it looks just as striking from the side and back as it does from the front – always a key factor with dining chairs, as they spend so long pushed up against the table.
The sculptural aesthetic means the OW58 also makes a statement on its own, so for the second set-up I moved it to the guest bedroom. It slotted perfectly into the corner of what is actually a very compact space, providing a place to sit and read or just gaze out of the window. The soaped oak and ochre-coloured Kvadrat fabric added a lovely touch of warmth to the understated beige scheme, and it inspired me to incorporate a few similar tones through artwork and dried foliage. And, as I found, the T-shaped backrest is ideal for hanging clothes – something that could prove very useful for guests in a room that isn’t large enough for proper storage!
In both set-ups, I was very taken with the beautiful detailing on the chair. It’s hand-crafted at Carl Hansen’s factory in Gelsted, Denmark, and the many hours of careful carpentry are evident in the smooth joints and transitions. I particularly love the way the design showcases the grain of the wood, and the way piping is used to add a smart twist to the seat. Politiken was right: this really is a chair you can invest in and use for decades to come!
The OW58 ‘T-Chair’ is available now, with prices starting at €1,225 / £1,050. You can find details of Carl Hansen & Søn flagship stores and stockists worldwide here.
All photography by Abi Dare