Updated: May 22
The smooth organic, curved lines of bentwood chairs are synonymous with timelessly chic European cafe bistro style. When this design was first launched in the late 19th century, it was truly revolutionary and marked an exciting departure from the heavy straight lines of the early Victorian era.
The first bentwood chair was made by German-Austrian cabinet maker Micheal Thonet in the 1850s in Vienna. The first of its kind was named the Model 14 and soon became known as the 'chair of chairs'. This iconic design in the world of furniture design received a gold medal at the 1867 World Fair in Paris. Thonet died just a few years later in 1871 but his unique innovation survives to this day. Thonet-inspired Bentwood suppliers continue to use the technique to produce innovating designed pieces such as the designer Tom Raffield www.tomraffield.com
Part of the genius of bentwood chairs is the way they are made, with no need for any extra materials apart from steam. Thonet's in-depth experimentation allowed him to perfect the technique of using steam to soften the wood, bending it into the desired shape, and then leaving it to cool and dry back into a completely solid form.
Jacob & Josef Kohn also based in Vienna together with Mundus challenged Thonet's patents and allowed them to created bentwood designs as part of their own collections. We have examples of both makers available to buy on our website.
In 1914 Kohn and Mundus merged, and later in 1924 with Gerbruder Thonet, to establish larger scale production to meet demand. They became the largest furniture company in the world.
We love the sweeping curves of a bentwood chair that offer a ergonomically design, more comfortable for the natural shape of the human body. By offering excellent economy of materials used, particularly by avoiding the need to cut curved shapes of wood out of larger, rectangular timber, the bentwood method is popular throughout bars, restaurants, cafes and bistros. Not only that, it offers a more sustainable solution for modern interiors.