How can a chair be antique and modern at the same time?? When it is a gorgeous Thonet designed bentwood chair it can. This awesome timeless chair was first produced by Gebruder Thonet and exhibited at the American Centennial Exhibition 1876 in Philadelphia. This set of six chairs, consisting of four side chairs and two armchairs, are marked Made in Italy and have the SAL label of Salvatore Leone meaning they were made circa early 20th century. Their steam bent beach wood frames are painted black and have a tall arched back with an oval secondary frame with the typical Thonet cane insert as the back support with a smaller circle between the top of the oval and the arch of the frame. There is a half-circle at the base of the oval back rest. The seats are also caned, and they have the standard Thonet style legs and support rails. The combination is simply stunning! The two armchairs have the signature Thonet spiral swirl as well. I think they may be my favorite bentwood chair ever.
Salvatore Leone from Modena, Northern Italy, was a furniture maker in the early 20th century known for high quality furniture making. But…using the designs of other well-known companies and designers. And only one of the high-end furniture makers who copied and created Thonet iconic designs. This furniture was made of the highest standards and is sought after in its own right as well as Thonet pieces. His family members, as well as he, were master craftsmen of furniture, cabinetry, coaches, and boats until his death in the late 1970s.
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 1851 his chairs for the Crystal Palace at the London World’s Fair won a prize medal and by the late 1850s 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.
This ever so versatile chair will blend with or enhance almost any design style you may have from mid-century modern to traditional and from Bauhaus to Art Deco to Industrial. You just need to make them yours. Then choose a table…maybe one we have listed as well.