Vienna Media News 08/2019 Thonet and the Viennese coffeehouse

The most instantly-recognizable piece of furniture to come out of Vienna, it is inextricably connected to coffeehouse culture: Thonet’s classic No. 14 design is feted as the original Viennese coffeehouse chair. The backrest, comprising just two curved pieces of wood, is a classic example of the work produced by bentwood specialists Thonet. Michael Thonet’s pioneering use of steam to bend solid wood revolutionized the world of furniture production.

Born in the Rheinland in Germany, he took up Prince Metternich’s invitation to come to Vienna where he set up his own workshop in 1849. But it was not long before he transferred production to Moravia, where wood and cheap labor was in plentiful supply. The Gebrüder Thonet workshops were transformed into an internationally-respected industrial company which still had its roots in Vienna. The new, modular manufacturing method ushered in volume production for the first time. And the chairs themselves could be packed flat and delivered to addresses around the world in just six pieces. Numerous other Thonet chairs are design icons. Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner and Josef Frank all created models for Thonet.

In 2019 chair number 14, now known as number 214 – one of the most produced pieces of seating furniture – will turn 160. Anyone wanting to try one out for size will not have far to go in Vienna. Thonet’s No. 14 Chair can be found in typical Viennese coffeehouses to this day including Café Tirolerhof, L. Heiner in the first district, Conditorei Sluka next to City Hall and Café Weimar near the Volksoper. And the chair also lends itself extremely well to more contemporary interiors, as Thonet 214 proves to excellent effect at café Ulrich in the seventh district.

The MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna is mounting a special exhibition dedicated to the nineteenth century’s largest furniture empire to mark Thonet’s bicentenary. The Bentwood and Beyond. Thonet and Modern Furniture Design exhibition looks at the pivotal role played by Thonet in furniture design in the early modernist era and presents its distinctive and world-famous bentwood furniture within the context of contemporary technological, typological, aesthetic and historic developments.

  • Bentwood and Beyond. Thonet and Modern Furniture Design, Dec 18, 2019-Apr 13, 2020, MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna,


Vienna Tourist Board
Helena Hartlauer
Media Relations UK, USA, Canada, Australia
Tel. (+ 43 1) 211 14-364

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