Thonet style

Thonet Style is named after the First Industrial Designer: Michael Thonet. He was a pioneer in the industrialization and mass production of furniture.

Michael Thonet photo, which is grainy and faded.
Michael Thonet in his 60s

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Thonet#/media/File:Michael_Thonet.jpg

Who Was Michael Thonet?

Michael Thonet is considered the forerunner of furniture design and inventor of the wood bending technique. In 1819, he opened a carpentry shop and laid the foundations for industrial production. Then, in 1849, he settled in Vienna, where he founded the company “Gebrüder Thonet”. Thonet’s company quickly reached international success and with rapid expansion, produced more than 865 curved wooden chairs a year. When Michael Thonet died, his sons took over the management of the company.

A photo of Thonet bentwood chairs in a warehouse-like setting. The chairs are a light wood with a weave seat and backing.
Thonet bentwood chairs

image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/6d4ffb6b-3260-4a41-8523-737a34ac4f40 by Mark B. Schlemmer

Mass Produced Furniture

Until the Industrial Revolution, carpenters made furniture from raw materials, in a slow process. Therefore, the most innovative features of bentwood chairs, in Thonet’s eyes, was their expendability due to the mass production. Others quickly copied his manufacturing process, and Bentwood chairs appeared all over the planet, burgeoning the economies of Europe and the United States with a new market.

A photo of a thonet chair with skinny light wood legs.
Thonet  Chair – Chair no. 14 – 1859

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/93f9543d-9d1a-4b64-92a7-56fee9f754e6 by Holger.Ellgaard

Four photos of bentwood chairs with different colors, including black, beech, Mahagonny and white
Bentwood chairs in differing colors

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/1a499afa-054e-4773-948c-4f71d3d12955 by Tigist Sapphire

His No. 14 Chair was his first industrially mass-produced chair. Yet, it was important to create the chairs in separate parts to be assembled later, making transport much easier. Further, retailers built the chairs after they arrived at the shop, which was the first example of ‘assembly’ furniture. 

Thonet Style Features

The Thonet chair used light, strong types of woods, and they had very graceful shapes were achieved through the use of hot steam. Moreover, Thonet created several designs that were unique, comfortable and long-lasting. Further, in his business model, parts for dozens of chairs could be stored into one box for shipping, which cut costs.

A photo of a boppard chair which has super curvy legs, and a skinny wood back.
Boppard Chair (1836-40), Michael Thonet

Image source: https://www.boisbuchet.org/collection/boppard-chair/

A page of a catalog with Thonet chair samples. Four rows of fill the page with various different designs. The text at the top of the pages reads, "THONET."
Thonet Brothers auction catalog dated 1885

Image source: https://museum-boppard.de/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Katalog-Seite-05.jpg

A page of a catalog with Thonet chair samples. Four rows of four chairs fill the page with various different designs.
Thonet Brothers auction catalog 2 dated 1885

Info sources:

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Thonet
https://decofilia.com/blog/michael-thonet/

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