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Design March, 18 2009

Thonet 214 Turns 150

Michael Thonet released the “14″ (now 214) chair in 1859. The first mass-produced seating furniture on the market, the design has gone on to sell over 50 million pieces and been continuously produced over the 150 year period.

More information after the jump.

THONET 2009 – THE YEAR OF ANNIVERSARIES

190 years of the Thonet company
120 years of Thonet at the company’s head office in Frankenberg Germany
150 years of the coffee-house chair 214
90 years of Bauhaus

Six components and a handful of screws: The 214, the “coffee-house chair” became the first flat-pack chair. This revolutionary process enabled the chair to be constructed from six components and a handful of screws. As a result it was easily shipped all over the world and assembled on site in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa. Today the 214 chair is the most successful industrial product in the world, and is the reason why Thonet is regarded as one of the pioneers of industrial design.

New and simple aesthetic appeal: With its simple, unfussy shape and high level of functionality, the chair’s introduction also saw the beginning of a new aesthetic appeal. Homes, cafés and restaurants suddenly looked quite different – lighter, and less opulent. Michael Thonet revolutionised the furnishing world of his day, since the new chairs were inexpensive and could be afforded by the broad masses. The quality was- and remains – so good that the chairs survive for generations. Many of the chairs produced in the 19th century are still in use today.

Timeless, sensuous, perfect – what people have to say about this “chair of chairs”: Although the 214 chair has inspired many architects and designers, the design has never been beaten. The Swiss architect Le Corbusier confirmed that “… this chair, millions of which are to be found on the European mainland and in both Americas, has class.” The Danish designer Poul Henningsen once said that if ever an architect produced a chair that were five times as expensive, three times as heavy and just one-quarter as beautiful, then he would undoubtedly make a name for himself by doing so. According to the Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza: “An old person or a child can easily carry it….. It is still a chair that looks like a chair. It is the chair.” The French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec write: “The subtle harmony of its shapes, created by the pioneering method of bending wood, have made the chair a timeless classic. …..”
Source of the last two quotes: “Mein liebster Stuhl”, publ. Sandra Hofmeister, Munich: Callwey 2008

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