Boppard Layerwood Chair (1836)

This Layerwood chair is an example of the famous  bending wood technique developed by Michael Thonet.  Today the famous cabinet maker and furniture designer is synonymous of elegance and old fashion industrial design.

Boppard Layerwood Chair Michael Thonet

From Layerwood Chair to Bentwood

The Boppard Layerwood Chair was the first success of Michael Thonet, although he failed to obtain a patent for the technology he invented to make the chair from different countries. Essentially, the Thonet chair was realized by using light, strong types of wood that were bent into curved, very graceful forms thanks to the use of hot steam. In this way, he could create a large number of designs that were unique, comfortable and durable. Notwithstanding his initial difficulty, his use of hot steam and wood laid the foundation for his enormous success.

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Thonet chairs

Across two centuries

Michael Thonet spent years and years making experiments in order to create the first mass-manufactured chair, which would be sold at a reasonable price (a price cheaper than a bottle of wine). His ambition was particularly audacious.  Alice Rawsthorn writes in the New York Times:

“When the No.14 was launched in 1859, it was the first piece of furniture to be both attractive and inexpensive enough to appeal to everyone from aristocrats to schoolteachers. By 1930, some 50 million No.14s had been sold, and millions more have been snapped up since then.”

Also known as the bistro chair and 214, the design is formed from six pieces of beechwood that are heated with steam, pressed into curved cast-iron moulds and then dried in the desired shape. Later versions had two diagonal supports added on either side to help brace the seat and back.

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What makes the No.14 so special? First, the No.14 satisfies its predetermined purpose, as every well-designed object must do. Second, it looks and feels outstanding.  The German furniture designer Konstantin Grcic said:

“It’s one of the most beautiful chairs there is, and it has exactly the right weight. When you pick it up, it feels perfect. That’s an important aspect of chair design that’s often overlooked.”

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Michael Thonet chair balance

Bentwood Chair: Why is so Interesting?

The Bentwood chair is thought to have seated more people than any other chair in history. Among others, there have been a several number of famous scientists and painters such as Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso.  Interestingly enough, more than 80 million Bentwood chairs have been sold and they are still very popular, holding a strong place in our culture. Another interesting fact is that although Thonet purchased a glue factory in order to use its own glue, the chair did not require any glue at all, which left Thonet with a factory that he did not need.

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Bentwood chairs           

Thonet Chairs Today

Today, Thonet chairs are still highly used and are considered some of the most popular ever made. After more than 180 years from its creation, Thonet chairs can be found in several restaurants, cafés, bars, bistrots, boutiques and houses all around the world.

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Modern living room with Thonet chairs

Data Sheet

Designer: Michael Thonet

Year: 1836 – 1840

Manufacturer: Thonet & CO. Boppard-am-Rhein, Germany

Material: Wood

Dimensions: H 84 × W 43 × D 52 cm × HS 46 cm

Bentwood Chair dimensions        

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About Thonet

Michael Thonet (Boppard, 1796 – Vienna, 1871) is considered the forerunner of furniture design and inventor of the technique of wood bending. In 1819, he opened his own carpentry shop and laid the foundations for industrial production. In 1849, he settled in Vienna where he founded the company “Gebrüder Thonet” involving his five sons. This company quickly reached international success and a rapid expansion, producing more than 865.000 curved wooden chairs a year. When Michael Thonet died, his sons took over the management of the company.

Michael Thonet (1796 – 1871)        

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