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.

Old photo of Michael Thonet in his 60s.
Michael Thonet in his 60s

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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’s bentwood chairs in the setting of a warehouse. The chairs are made of a light-colored wood and a weaved seat and backing.
Thonet bentwood chairs

image source: 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’s chair with thin legs made in a light-colored wood.
Thonet  Chair – Chair no. 14 – 1859

Image source: by Holger.Ellgaard

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

Image source: 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

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

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Another 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

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