Q&A: Arne Jacobsen’s Oxford Chair
Oxford Chair 2003 (original design 1965)
Gitte Maj Schrøder, International Marketing Manager, responds
Where did the idea for the chair come from?
The high-back Oxford chair was originally designed for the dining halls at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford, specifically for the long tables where the professors had their meals—emphasizing the authority of the dons in relation to the students. Fritz Hansen and Arne Jacobsen put the chair into mass production in 1965 in an upholstered leather version.
Why is the chair innovative?
It was—and still is—extremely minimalist, yet it combines beauty with comfort.
What was the greatest challenge to realizing the design?
Over the years, the chair had become thicker with padding, so we took it back to the original design. We’ve made the base feel much more stable to sit on, but also slimmer. You see the curve of the long shell much better now because we’ve used a higher-quality, slimmer upholstery. With the technologies we had in 1965 it was not possible to make a chair that lived up to the wood model. Today we can come closer.
Tell us something interesting that happened during the chair’s development.
Adjusting an old design to accommodate people today, and then applying today’s manufacturing processes, were very challenging.
What’s your favorite object?
My own, low-back Oxford chair with the black Paul Smith fabric! Paul Smith was asked to design an upholstery textile for Maharam. Because it was the first time he had the opportunity to design for furniture, he wanted to do something that was classically British: pinstripes. Smith is known for his stripes in strong colors, so the fabric is in classic black, grays, brown, and blue with stripes in pink, green, and yellow. We were happy to be able to introduce this fabric with the Oxford chair. We think it goes very well with it because the Oxford is a classic, but it could have been designed yesterday.