Thonet was founded by Michael Thonet. Michael was born in 1796 and was apprenticed by his father to a cabinetmaker. Shortly after he married, Michael opened his one-man cabinetmaking shop creating furniture and cabinetry in the traditional manner by carving the needed parts and then joining them together. In 1830 he began experimenting with bending wood into curved shapes and thus began a successful furniture company that has remained continually in operation for nearly 200 years. Thonet’s early work was very Biedermeier in style and not made for the common man. Gradually his designs became more Art Nouveau. In 1951 his chairs for the Crystal Palace at the London World’s Fair won a prize medal and by the late 1950s he began to make his first “consumer” chair. In 1875, a year before Michael’s death, Thonet’s five factories made 620,000 chairs. Then in 1876 after his death the company became Gebruder Thonet. But all was not roses. In 1869 the Thonet patents lapsed and by 1893 there were 52 bentwood companies in Europe. However, Thonet persevered. They branched out. They merged. They added designs by Le Corbusier and Breuer and alternative materials such as tubular chrome in place of bentwood to their offerings. Business boomed and waned through the years and there was even a Thonet revival, so to speak, beginning in the 1940s on into the mid-20th century. Till today, in the 21st century, Thonet is still a furniture company to be reckoned with almost 200 years later.

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