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History Of Thonet Chairs

History Of Thonet Chairs

If you frequent coffee shops, there is a good chance that you have sat in a Thonet chair. You wouldn't have been familiar with the name, but you will now discover a lot about them. These chairs have a straightforward appearance yet are quite solid and stylish.

The fact that we are still using this unique piece of furniture more than a century later speaks eloquently about its robustness and design. You may still find this furniture today, more than a century after the inventor passed away.

Who Invented Thonet Bentwood Chairs?

Steam was a key element in many businesses throughout the early years of industrialization in the 18th century. Michael Thonet, a carpenter, and inventor who was born in 1796, developed a method in the 19th century that enabled beechwood rods to be bent to take the appropriate shape. These delicate, curving forms were used as the framework for bentwood furniture. This technique was eventually employed by well-known coffee house furniture, and Thonet's name gained international recognition.

In 1819, German-Austrian cabinet maker Michael Thonet took over his father's business in Boppard, Germany. In 1830, he started experimenting with veneer strips, boiling them in glue. He then grabbed pieces of plywood and steam-moulded them. New technology was created when he, at last, adhered to the boiling veneer on the plywood that had been moulded. In this way, Thonet devised the revolutionary Boppard loop legs for his Thonet chairs.

Because the wood was bent during the manufacturing process, this furniture is referred to as bentwood furniture. The world learned about the success of this furniture maker when he and his sons began manufacturing this furniture on an industrial scale.

The Evolution Of Thonet Furniture

When Thonet exhibited his freshly designed furniture to the Koblenz trade association in 1841, Prince Klemens von Metternich, Austria's foreign minister, was impressed by his skill. He accepted Metternich's invitation to visit Vienna, and from that point forward, there was no turning back.

Even though Thonet's prior attempt to obtain a patent for his technique had failed, this time around the influence of the appropriate people helped him to acquire it. Metternich brought Thonet to the emperor. Seven years later, Thonet was able to move his family to Vienna and start his own business, which enabled him to produce his own furniture with success.

This forward-thinking furniture maker had his first factory up and running by the start of the American Civil War in 1861, and he was already mass-producing Thonet furniture. Thonet "no 14," also known as the Vienna or Qitay chair, was the most popular chair.

The Origin Of The Bentwood Chair

Bentwood chairs are sometimes referred to as Thonet chairs, despite the fact that they had been manufactured for at least two centuries prior to Thonet's use of the technology. He streamlined the procedure, which eventually enabled this line of furniture to be mass-produced. He even refined the use of hot steam to bend wood quickly.

The Boppard Layerwood chair, which was his first significant achievement, was made using light or strong varieties of bent wood and wooden slats that had been joined. In the sections above, we see how he managed to secure the patent for it.

But by the middle of the 1830s, he had developed a method for creating furniture by combining several kinds of wood, veneer, glue, and steam. 

How Are Bentwood Chairs Made?

The ideal woods for making bentwood furniture are ash and beech since they bend readily and do not shatter like other harder woods. Bentwood chairs have never really gone out of style and are now found in millions of homes, businesses, and institutions.

For Thonet chairs, the seat, back, and armrests are more ergonomically constructed. It is more pleasant to sit on these chairs since the design accentuates the human body's natural shape. You could even decide to place a cushion on the seat to support your buttocks. 

Interesting Facts About Bentwood Chairs

  • In order to illustrate the durability of the furniture, a member of the Thonet Company in Paris threw one of their chairs down the Eiffel Tower in 1889. The chair was unaffected, but the ground was shaken.
    • By the end of the 19th century, the United States opened up a whole new market for Thonet chairs, and the technology travelled from Europe to the Americas.
    • Even though there have been more than 80 million Bentwood chairs built, no two are exactly the same since they are crafted from different types of wood, making each one unique even if they may appear to be similar.
    • Thonet himself once used glue to assemble the chairs, but today no glue or binding agent is used. It's interesting to note that Thonet purchased a glue factory to ensure a stable supply for his chairs, only to witness the invention of the first chair that didn't require glue in 1856.
    • Thonet's infamous Chair No. 14 (also known as the Vienna or Qitay chair) has been made consistently for more than 150 years! 


    Through our Thonet collection, we at Home Canvas have attempted to pay homage to the brilliant artist. You can choose individual Thonet chairs or a set with a little centre table in the middle. In your bedroom or any other area of your house, you can use them as side tables. Simply having a lovely flower vase on a Thonet cane side table will surely transform the space.

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