In the 1840s Michael Thonet began to experiment designing furniture using bent wood steamed into a soft and pliable state. Over the next 20 years Michael Thonet and his sons developed the processes and machines that would allow them to build bentwood furniture in unprecedented quantities. It was in this time period that he developed what has become thought of as the “traditional” Michael Thonet designed bentwood chair: one featuring a back rest and back legs made from a single piece, a rounded cane or laminated seat, and front legs.
This was the renowned chair No. 14, the so called “Vienna chair,” has been produced for over 150 years. The Number fourteen was the first chair was designed for factory manufacturing. Over 80 million pieces have been produced so far (50 million before 1930.)
The output of Michael Thonet’s factories was vast, due in part to his idea of designing separate pieces which would be combined to make a large number of models. Michael Thonet stands out as a designer and pioneer both in mass production and in design, as he artistically explored the new forms and unique qualities of his newly invented technique. Remarkably few changes have been necessary over the last 150 years. The factory still follows the 19th century production methods developed by Michael Thonet to produce stylistically accurate, handsome, and sturdy bentwood chairs, stools, tables, and accessories. You’ll find our bentwood collection here.