Wood bent into chair elements, also Vienna bentwood.
Thonet is a historical furniture manufacturing company that specializes in producing chairs made from bentwood. Bentwood refers to the process of shaping wood by steaming it and then bending it into curved shapes. The technique was pioneered by Michael Thonet, a German-Austrian cabinet maker, in the early 19th century.
Thonets most iconic design is the No. 14 chair, also known as the Vienna coffee house chair or the café chair. It was first introduced in 1859 and quickly became a worldwide success due to its stylish yet practical design. The No. 14 chair is made from six pieces of wood bent into curved forms, which are then assembled together. It features a lightweight and durable structure, making it suitable for various settings like cafes, restaurants, and homes.
Thonets success with bentwood furniture revolutionized the industry as their manufacturing process allowed for mass production of chairs. They became known for their innovative techniques, such as using steam to shape the wood and then securing it with glue and nails. This production method significantly reduced the cost and time required to produce chairs, making them more accessible to the general public.
The term Vienna bentwood is often used to reference Thonets bentwood chairs because of their strong association with Viennese coffee house culture. These chairs were frequently used in Viennas famous coffee houses during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Vienna coffee house culture valued comfort, elegance, and conviviality, qualities that Thonets bentwood chairs embodied perfectly.
Thonets bentwood chairs continue to be popular and are considered design classics. Their timeless appeal, durability, and distinctive aesthetic have ensured their longevity in the furniture industry. Today, both original vintage pieces and reproductions of Thonets bentwood chairs can be found in homes, cafes, and restaurants worldwide.