The History of Thonet

I have always loved wooden armchairs with smooth, curvy details. There is something about bentwood furniture that  is classic, clean and sculptural. So this week I thought I would touch on the work of Thonet, one of the most recognized chair designers in history.

Michael Thonet.jpg

In my mind, what makes Michael Thonet (1796-1871) one of the most fascinating furniture designers is his clean and modern design which far predates the movement of modern furniture. I was shocked to learn that his bentwood chairs and rockers were developed in the mid 1800s and yet are still very common today. For those who may not recognize his name, take a look at these pieces. You’ve seen them in magazines, restaurants, maybe even your own home.

The German began his career in cabinetry and later moved on to furniture where he experimented and perfected the process of bentwood furniture making. With his process, long pieces of beechwood were steamed or boiled and then bent to shape curvy furniture pieces. This eliminated the need for hand-carving and allowed him to mass-produce furniture that could be easily made, transported and assembled. By the late 1800s, Thonet’s design was so popular his factory employed 6,000 people who made 4,000 pieces of furniture per day.

Thonet Chairs in modern applications:

Here is a set of eight armed Thonet chairs by Spruce. Click HERE for more info.