Design Icon

Design Icon: Thonet Chair

by Maxwell Tielman


Design: No. 14 Chair

Designer: Michael Thonet (German, 1796-1871)

Date: 1859

Country of Origin: Austria

Manufacturer: Thonet

Materials: Steam-bent beechwood, woven cane seat

Background: Perhaps one of the first “Modern” furniture designs, this classic café chair was a trailblazer in terms of industrial production—the result of Michael Thonet’s intensive experimentation with bent wood techniques. Crafted using an entirely new method of bending wood using steam, the No. 14 chair featured elegant curves and a lightweight construction that set it apart from the bulky, overweight chairs of the past. Despite its mid-nineteenth century origins, the Thonet chair remains an icon of simple, Modernist design, a beautiful illustration of what is possible through industrial manufacturing. This ubiquitous design remains in production to this day and can be found in homes, offices, restaurants, and cafés around the world.

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.

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