Looking Back at the History of Bentwood Chairs

bentwood chairs

The sinuous curves of bentwood chairs are synonymous with timeless European cafe chic. Yet, while today we take this style pretty much for granted when it first came out in the late 19th century, it was revolutionary and marked an exciting departure from the large chunky furniture that had been all the rage.

Who invented bentwood chairs?

All bentwood furniture is derived from the first bentwood chair that was made by a humble German-Austrian cabinet maker, Michael Thonet, in Vienna in the 1850s. Named simply the ‘No.14 ’chair, it quickly became a force to be reckoned with and received a gold medal at the 1867 World Fair held in Paris.

Thonet died in 1871, just a few years later, but his unique innovation is very much alive today. Thonet-inspired Bentwood chair suppliers continue to use the same technique to produce classic furniture in this style. Nowadays, Bentwood furniture brings to mind those golden years in the late 1800s and still out performs many of its rival modern techniques in terms of durability.

How are bentwood chairs made?

Thonet found that by steaming wood, it would become flexible so that curves could be formed without using any additional equipment. Once the softened wood set and hardened, it remained firmly in its curved shape.

The results are simply stunning even in today’s world. A bentwood armchair has soft sweeping curves which make it easier for the seat, back and arms to be designed with ergonomics in mind. Not only does this make the chair as a whole aesthetically pleasing but also more comfortable and accommodating for the shape of the human body.

So what happened next?

Michael Thonet’s sons took over the business and carried on making bentwood chairs with factories popping up throughout Europe. Slatback chairs are a further example of the technique which combine the bentwood steam method with a curved or straight slatted back.

By avoiding the need to cut the wood into curved shapes from larger rectangular pieces, Thonet’s method of steaming was more economical and efficient. Not only are bentwood chairs prevalent in cafes, bars, restaurants, and bistros, but they’re also doing their bit for the good of the environment.

Why are bentwood chairs so popular in bars?

They’re popular for all of the reason above and have a pleasant traditional look which appeals to many bar and cafe owners. They’re comfortable to sit on which means customers stay for longer and because they’re made by bending wood rather than joining it, there’s less to go wrong.

Do you need quality bentwood chairs? Take a look at our selection by browsing our online store or visiting our Brisbane showroom.