The classic wing chair has always stood for the comfort of one’s own home. Their name derives from the ‘wings’ that are attached to the back of the chair and form a protective enclosure around the user, protecting his or her head from draughts.
And while the modern consumer is well catered for in terms of indoor thermal comfort, the wing chair still captures people’s imagination due to its connotations of old-world comfort and its protective formal gesture.
Finnish modernist Alvar Aalto tried to adapt this type of furniture to a modern formal language with his laminated-wood, cantilevered 1933 ‘Armchair 401’ for Artek, which features reduced symbolic wings, but it wasn’t until 1958 that the Danish minimalist architect Arno Jacobsen managed to create the first modern iconic wing chair, the ‘Egg™’, as a part of the lobby in his Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. In this seminal design, manufactured by Fritz Hansen, he integrated all the parts of the chair into a single organic sculptural form, with an optional matching footstool.
Since then, a number of designs that build upon this successful archetype have been produced and are available on the market today, such as Vitra’s 2011 ‘Grand Repos’ designed by Antonio Citterio; OFFECCT’s 2009 ‘Oyster’ designed by Michael Sodeau; Moroso’s 2012 ‘Take A Soft Line For A Walk’ designed by Alfredo Häberli; or Cassina’s 2005 ‘277 Auckland’ designed by Jean Marie Massaud.
However, the traditional wing chairs are still in strong demand. The ‘Winterthur Wing Chair’ is still available at Kindel Furniture, despite being designed between 1804 and 1815, and the British manufacturer Fleming & Howland produces traditionally handcrafted wing chairs using traditional techniques from the 19th century for their ‘Heritage’ range, with a wide range of designs such as ‘John Stuart Mill’, ‘Hamilton’ and ‘James Boswell’.
In between these two divergent approaches lie endless variations: either the stripped-down, classical forms of Donghia’s 2003 ‘Heron Wing Chair’ and Piero Lissoni’s 2011 ‘Chauffeuse’ for Living Divani; or a more angular take on Jacobsen’s classic, as in the case with Gijs Papavoine’s ‘Felix’ for Montis or Roger Persson’s ‘Select Easy chair’ for Swedese.