Design Classics: Thonet Bentwood Chairs

Design Classics: Thonet Bentwood Chairs

Dabney Frake
Sep 25, 2012

You don't often think of scrolled arms and contoured backs as features of modern design, but Thonet's classic "cafe" chairs were light years ahead of their time. Their novelty lay, in part, with Thonet's innovative production methods, which pioneered the use of heat to bend wood into improbable shapes. The resulting chairs were graceful, comfortable and durable. Such lightweight and sculptural designs were entirely novel in the mid-1800s, and a total departure from other bulky, heavy furniture in vogue at the time.

Even past Thonet's death, his family company continued to produce millions of his iconic chairs, along with their own bentwood and tubular steel creations. Still going strong today, Thonet's designs get continually tweaked and revisited, keeping them fresh and timeless. They look equally at home in a rural farmhouse as a contemporary loft.

1. Another great mismatched set of chairs and colors, in a rustic setting. from Homelife Magazine, photographed by Sharyn Cairns
2. A workaday Thonet chair used in the craft studio of Caitlin Betsy Bell as shown on Paper N Stitch.
3. A literal twist on an old classic in a room designed by Malcolm Patterson.
4. Natural curves against a sleek white backdrop, as seen in these two architects' home in Denmark.
5. This chair doubles as sculpture in a dramatic and sophisticated black office in Lonny Magazine.

6. How beautiful and elegant is this curved settee? Room designed by Tom Scheerer and seen in House Beautiful.
7. A Thonet chair in a restored Frank Lloyd Wright home office. from Houzz
8. Thonet produced the first cantilevered chair. Amazement ensued. Photo by Mark Gregory Peters.
9. This bentwood rocker and ottoman looks like a comfy spot to soothe a fussy baby. from Apartment Therapy reader Kari
10. Homeowner Lotte Jensen put baby in a corner.

Thonet Style Chairs
Bentwood Chairs of Thonet
Thonet Bentwood Chairs for Every Room

(Images: Top Image: Petra Bindel for Swedish Elle, all others: as credited above)

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