The Thonet No. 14 (1859)

“The chair that has seated millions”

The Thonet No.14 chair was the result of years of technical experiments by the 19th-century German-born cabinetmaker Michael Thonet. Thonet perfected a process of bending wood into strong, smooth curves. He created a durable and comfortable chair, which consisted of the fewest parts possible and standardised shapes and became the world’s first successfully mass-produced chair. When the No.14 was launched in 1859, it was the first piece of furniture to be both attractive and inexpensive enough to appeal to everyone and be suitable for every use. It consists of six pieces of wood – two circles, two sticks and a couple of arches – held together by 10 screws and two nuts. Efficient and minimalist use of materials followed also easy, efficient shipping (30 of them could fit in a one square metre box). By 1900 factories all over Central Europe produced already 4000 pieces a day, by 1930, some 50 million No.14s had been sold, and millions more have been snapped up since then. The Thonet No. 14 is a classic that has been praised by many and it continues to inspire furniture designers today. Among others, young Dutch designer Maarten Baas staged his own homage to Thonet by setting fire to a No.14-style wooden chair as part of the “Where There’s Smoke” collection of furniture.

Author: Martina Malešič

Photo: Gebrüder Thonet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons –