The Shell Chair (CH07) was designed in 1963 in a number of versions. Originally Wegner’s ideas for the legs and upholstery were different from how the chair looks today.
Wegner was not unfamiliar with the use of moulded plywood shells. Back in 1947-48 he had worked on the prototype of a two-piece shell chair for a design competition sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but the chair was never put in production.
Ref: Hans J. Wegner. A Nordic Design Icon from Tønder. Edited by Anne Blond.
In 1949 he had used the moulded shell technique to make a totally functional three-piece shell easy chair that he exhibited at the Cabinetmaker Guild Exhibition along with the Folding Chair (with woven seat) and the Round Chair. However. This chair was not put in production either.
In 1963 he tried again. His new two-piece shell chair was shown at the Cabinetmaker Guild Exhibition, both in a painted version and one with teak-veneer shells and a beech frame. This chair, too, was unsuccessful, both with colleagues in the Guild and potential buyers. The Guild felt the chair was too industrial a
product to belong in the exhibition, and customers liked neither the chair’s idiom nor the fact that it took up so much space. On top of which it “looked uncomfortable”, which in reality was a completely mistaken assumption.
For a long time the chair remained ready to go into production with furniture manufacturer Johannes Hansen. Twice the company attempted to market it, but both times gave meagre results. In 1989 a few copies were made in honour of Wegner’s 75th birthday, but it was not until 1997, after Carl Hansen & Son agreed to re-introduce it, that the chair finally began gaining acceptance. The atypical, three-legged easy chair was given product number CH07.
That same year the Danish interior design magazine, Bo Bedre, gave the chair its classic furniture award, and today CH07, with its almost free-floating seat, is considered a modern classic in furniture design. It could well be for this reason that Carl Hansen & Son decided to produce an exclusive version of the chair in 2013 on the occasion of its 50th birthday. 150 copies were put on the market with a seat and back made of teak, an oil-treated oak frame, and African goatskin upholstery.