When one considers the 160 years history of the Michael Thonet chair company, most don’t consider the impact he had on other forms of furniture, such as tubular steel chairs. Michael Thonet’s company started by making simple, and sometimes extravagant, bentwood furniture. 60 years after his death the company had diversified greatly working with tubular steel.
Out of the Bauhaus School came several tubular steel bending masters – Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe and Mart Stam to name a few. Some of these designers went on to have Michael Thonet’s company produce their tubular steel designs.
Several different Marcel Breuer chairs and tables were manufactured from the late 1920’s onward by the Thonet company. The Marcel Breuer Cesca Chairs, Laccio Tables, and Wassily Chairs were all manufactured by the enormous Michael Thonet plants that had massive capacity as they could produce the Marcel Breuer chairs inexpensively. Though the Marcel Breuer chairs cost three times as much as Michael Thonet chairs made of bentwood, the tubular steel chairs could last much longer.
Le Corbusier chairs were also made by the Thonet company. The Le Corbusier LC1 Basculant Chair, LC4 Chaise, LC7 Swivel Chair, and other chairs were made for many years under license by the Thonet company.
Mies van der Rohe’s chairs were perhaps some of the most extravagant of the tubular steel framed MR lounge chairs made by under agreement with Thonet. These elegant cantilever chairs were only available to the most well-heeled buyer.
Though the manufacturers that have made the tubular steel modern classics above have changed over the years, it is unlikely that they would have gone onto be commercial successes without the bentwood pioneer, Michael Thonet.