THE SUNDAY CLASSICS: THONET
A couple of years ago Thonet had an amazing stand at the old post office in New Oxford Street. Demonstrating step by step the crafmanship that goes into each chair. The chairs are bent with the help of a steam bath then moulded by hand onto a metal mould frame by the craftsperson. Truly a chair that takes years of knowledge to have that level of skill and precision to create what has become a staple chair all around the world. With the resurgence of boho chic, rattan and cane furniture. Thonet is bound to be much sought after in the seasons to come. So this Sundays lesson... Happy Geeking out!
Michael Thonet was the pioneer behind creating bentwood furniture. He was a German-Austrian cabinet maker born in 1796 in Boppard. Since founding his first workshop in 1819, the name Thonet has been synonymous with quality, innovation and clear aesthetics. His first success was the Boppard layer-wood chair in 1836.
The secret to his success was, he discovered a way to give light-strong wood, bent into curved-graceful shapes by forming the wood in hot steam. This enabled him to design elegant, lightweight, durable and comfortable furniture. In 1842 he was invited to Vienna by Prince Metternich. The following year Thonet presented the Imperial family with his unique collection of furniture and chairs.
Thonet fell into financial difficulties and sold his establishment in Boppard and immigrated to Vienna with his family. There he worked with his sons on interior decoration. Together with his four sons he was once again able to open his own company in 1849. In 1853, he transferred the company to his sons under the name Gebrüder Thonet. This company is the ultimate foundation of Thonet Company and has survived to this day.
Thonet's coffee shop chair no. 14 is one of the most produced chairs in the world of which 50 million replica has been made and is still in production today. More than 865,000 bentwood chairs were produced annually in Czech Republic, Hungary, and Russia. The nature of the product was revolutionary in terms of mass production as it could be disassembled into a few components and thus produced in work sharing production line processes.
Michael Thonet's sons were very successful in running his business after he passed away in 1871. In the 1930s, the company was committed to the construction and technology of tubular steel furniture and rapidly became one of the largest manufacturers in the world. In 1857, the first Thonet furniture factory was built in the Moravian town of Koryčany. Five more production sites were established in Eastern Europe and the seventh and last production site was added in the Hessian town of Frankenberg, Hesse, Germany.
After WW I and WW II, The German site was the only one to remain running and is still Thonet’s head office. Thonet is still a family-owned business and is currently managed by the 5th and 6th generation as associates and sales partners. Thonet has stood for high quality, innovative and elegant furniture since its establishment. In 2006 Gebrüder Thonet became Thonet GmbH.
During the company's long journey some of its most successful and iconic inventions were - the rocking chair no. 1, coffee shop chair no. 14, models no. 18 and no. 56, the elegant no. 209, the art nouveau armchair 247 and the postal savings bank chair. Today, besides making well-known bentwood furniture, the company also manufactures tubular steel classics. Personally the oldies are goodies for me! Its all about the naturals and woods (for the moment!).