Around the bend: Sustained chair production from Thonet


Five generations of the Thonet family in Frankenburg, Germany have produced their famous bentwood chairs for nearly two centuries. Since 1819 the company’s pursuit of excellence in design, use of durable materials and hand-finished quality production has ensured their survival. No shallow distractions or whims of fashion, Thonet provides an object lesson in the benefits of taking ‘a long view’. Michael Thonet’s ‘214’ café or dining chair still sells today, 145 years after the first curvaceous example rolled off the production line. This ‘timeless’ aesthetic was flat-packed to ensure transportation efficiency for distant markets. Gracing the cafes for the Parisian aristocracy and the rowdy ‘bal musette’ dancehalls, the bentwood style was ubiquitous. Thonet continue to innovate and evolve their designs, such as the eco-efficient model 290F, winner of an iF Ecology Design Award. Their tradition informs progression, respect generates sensitivity, and foresight ensures a sustainable business. [by ©Alastair Fuad-Luke, 2005]