Thonet style

Thonet style takes its name from Michael Thonet, austrian cabinet maker, pioneer in the industrialization of furniture manufacture and Victorian bentwood furniture.

No. 18 Bentwood Cafe Chair, Thonet
No. 18 Bentwood Cafe Chair, Thonet

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Mass Produced Furniture

Until the Industrial Revolution, furniture was made by hand out of natural materials.

The first chair to be mass-produced was the Bentwood, developed by Michael Thonet. This changed how furniture was made and distributed from this point forward.

The furniture industry became mechanized in the 19th century, furniture was mass-produced. Parts were standardized, and ornamentation was machine carved, replacing handwork. Factories were built near timber, water and transportation to produce quickly and ship to stores and consumers.

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Michael Thonet

Michael Thonet and the No 14 chair
Michael Thonet and the No 14 chair

Michael Thonet (1796-1871) In the 1830s, Thonet began trying to make furniture out of glued and bent wooden slats. Thonet’s most popular designs were those of café chairs, rocking chairs, and hat stands.  His No. 14 Chair was the first chair to be mass produced on a production line. It was also known as the Vienna Coffee House Chair, it was made in separate parts, which could be assembled later, allowing for ease of transport around the world. The distributor / retailer would assemble the chairs on arrival at the place of sale. This is possibly the first example of ‘assembly’ furniture. This construction technique was a precursor to the way furniture is constructed in our modern world.

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Thonet Style Characteristics

Thonet’s pieces had gentle curves, which was completely new. By using beechwood, his furniture was light and durable.  Seats were commonly made of cane or plywood and were the only portions not made by the bentwood method. There were no complex joints. Chairs were made of a few pieces of laminated wood and put together with a few screws. This also allowed for them to be shipped unassembled. Parts for dozens of chairs could be put into one box for shipping, which cut costs.

Model no. 14 bentwood chair, Thonet (1859)
Model no. 14 bentwood chair, Thonet (1859)

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