July 18, 2014 3:35 pm

Design classic: Arne Jacobsen’s Tongue chair

It was one of the Danish designer’s favourite pieces but has never been widely available
Arne Jacobsen's Tongue chair

One of Danish designer Arne Jacobsen’s favourite pieces, the Tongue is only the second chair he completed. Yet it has never been widely available and is regarded as something of a lost classic.

Originally created for the Munkegaard School in Denmark in 1955, it was then modified into a bar stool for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, where Jacobsen designed not only the building but was responsible for everything inside, from the decor to the door handles and even the restaurant cutlery.

This was a habit of his: at the Munkegaard School, he designed the building, the desks used by teachers, the speakers and the curtains. Chairs were made in three different sizes to suit children of different ages. In 1960, he was invited to design the first new Oxford college for nearly a century, St Catherine’s. It is now Grade I listed, although there are as many critics as there are fans of the glass building.

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Though popular in Scandinavia, the Tongue was only available internationally for a brief period in the 1980s. It has now been reissued by the Danish company Howe, and is available to buy from Heal’s from £495. Its classic curved shape with splayed legs is available in wood, leather or material and has been re-engineered for everyday use by using high-tech steel for the base. Each chair is delivered in a wallpaper-printed box and comes with a book outlining the chair’s history.

Jacobsen (1902-1971) trained as an architect but is also remembered for his chairs, many of which – such as the Ant, the Swan, the Seven series and, most famous of all, the Egg – are in the permanent collections of museums around the world.

Jacobsen’s father was a wholesale trader in safety pins while his mother was one of the first women in Denmark to be trained in banking. At his boarding school he showed a talent for painting and decided his future lay in the art world. His father, however, had other ideas and urged him to consider architecture.

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