Good Quality Wishbone Style Chairs. A Buying Guide

Some people complain about Chinese copies of European designs, however, for one of the world's most popular chairs, the reverse could be applicable.

In the 1940s, Hans Wegner, the most prolific Danish chair designer of modern times, took his inspiration from China for several chairs, including the wishbone chair, and most notably from the prosperous Ming dynasty period of the 1300s -1600s. This was a Chinese renaissance era when artistic and industrial designs flourished and furniture was being created with a new interpretation, with curved and organic flowing forms inspired by nature to give an aesthetic called 'yuanhun' (translated approximately as 'wholeness') or being at one with nature. This became known as the Ming Style. From the 1600's Chinese Ming chairs were being exported to Europe on the Silk Road trade routes.

walnut stain wishbone chair with black cord seat
Wegner apparently drew inspiration from these centuries old styles after seeing paintings of old Danish traders sitting on Ming Chairs, and ironically these styles are now more synonymous with Scandinavian aesthetics than they are with Asian.

The name came about from the shape of the centre back support which is a soft curved Y shape, like a wishbone. The semi-circular top curved half armrests have a wonderful symmetry and work well with round tables as well as with rectangular dining layouts. It is a chair that can just as easily be used in a bedroom or hallway.

The wishbone's pared back, simple yet elegant silhouette means it is a chair that you don't tire of looking at and of course it has that paper cord seat.

Paper cord is a 3 ply paper rope (each ply individually twisted) making it incredibly strong but also a flexible cord so it can be stretched and woven over seat frames to form four triangles that meet in the middle. In this era of sustainability it is an eco-friendly material, time-tested, durable, natural and recyclable
paper cord seat wishbone chair
It is normally treated with a light wax coating prior to weaving and is usually available in three colour options: natural which is a kraft paper brown/cream colour, black where the cord is dyed and white where it is bleached.

The origin of using paper cord in furniture making, emerged during World War II when materials were in short supply. It became a firm favourite with a generation of Scandinavian wood designers who were creating simple organic chairs which this natural seating material suited perfectly.

To buy good quality wishbone chairs we suggest spending a little more to get an interpretation that has a finesse to the wood finish.

Look for ones that have a single steam bent curved back rest without joints and also check that the weaving to the seat is to a good standard.

We recommend ash or oak woods for longevity and character to the wood which will also age well as the wood matures.

Check that the legs taper down. They should not be blocky looking. The curved back rest will have a flat central section and the backrest slopes slightly from the top back to the front of the half-arms.

Cheaper options tend to use beech wood and often with a varnished finish and have loosely woven seats that may look untidy in the weave lines and these cheap chairs tend not to last the day to day rigours of a utilitarian piece of furniture.

Beware of generic images used by some online retailers selling cheaper versions. If possible ask for photos of the actual stock so you can get a better idea of the overall finish.

Nicer quality chairs will have a lacquered, waxed or oiled finish to the wood rather than painted or varnished.

If purchasing a larger quantity it may be best to order one first to check the finish.

There are a myriad of reproduction wishbone chairs on the market, but overall, if looking for a solid wood dining chair in good quality wood with a craftsmanship finish to the overall piece, be prepared to pay for both materials and labour, to get that good reproduction wishbone chair.

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