thonet 214 chair 14 Michael Thonet
July 10th, 2015 by smow

“The essence of the Thonetschen invention is that when bending a steamed piece of wood the neutral layer is relocated to the upper, convex, surface of the curved wood. If any cylindrical or prismatic body is bent, the upper layers are extended, the lower, concave, layer compressed, so shortened, and only one layer, namely that which passes through the centre of mass of the cross section, remains in the original length. Thus in this type of ordinary wood bending the upper, convex, lying part is stretched and tends to splinter. Thonet firmly attaches to that side of the not yet bent piece of wood which should ultimately be outermost, a sheet-metal strip; that the metal strip undergoes but a negligible extension during bending, the wood situated directly below the metal strip is forced to compress, to shorten. Therein alone exists the essence of the Thonetschen invention.”1

So surmised in 1875 Professor W.F. Exner from the Technologisches Gewerbemuseum Vienna the nature of the warm 3D wood bending process for which Michael Thonet received a patent on July 10th 1856. And which is still practised by Thonet to this day.

Or put another way:

Or yet another way:

Thonet 214 by Michael Thonet, (originally known as Chair 14)

Thonet 214 by Michael Thonet – originally known as Chair 14, and produced since 1859 via the process patented by Michael Thonet in 1856

1. W.F. Exner, Studien über das Rothbuchenholz, Wien, 1875 quoted in Peter Ellenberg, “Gebrüder Thonet – Möbel aus gebogenem Holze”, Verlag Theo Schäfer, Hannover, 1999

Posted in Design Calendar, Designer, Producer, Thonet Tagged with: , , ,

December 7th, 2010 by smow

If Christmas is a time for family, then Christmas is also surely a time to buy your gifts from a family business.

Currently being run by the 5th generation, Thonet have not only been responsible for the introduction and development of bent wood and steel tube furniture – two of the most important genres in the history of furniture design – but continue to support and develop young designers and so may just also discover the next big genre…..

The S 333 Thonet sledge by Holger Lange

The S 333 Thonet sledge by Holger Lange

Thonet S 333 by Holger Lange

Back in February while the (smow)boss was in a meeting with Nils Holger Moormann and his Moormänner in Aschau, we snuck up a near-by hill for some sledging fun with the Thonet S 333.

An experience we will never forget.

Not just because Holger Lange’s sledge goes like a rocket being chased by a pack of ferocious rocket powered dogs – but because steering is the Thonet S 333 is an art form that has to be learned before the first bend.

Fun, thrills and a genuine joy to use.

A sledge for adults the S 333 is proof that there is nothing boring and conservative about Thonet bent steel tubing.

S 43 by Mart Stam through Thonet - available in a range of colours

S 43 by Mart Stam through Thonet - available in a range of colours

Thonet S 43 Classic by Mart Stam

A further development of Mart Stam’s classic cantilever chair design the Thonet S 43 mixes plywood with steel tubing to produce an unmistakable, reduced design that works just as well at a desk as at a dinning table. The S 43 is not only one of the most recognised works of the Bauhaus era, it is also one of the most copied. In 2009, however, a court in Düsseldorf decided that being a work of visual art rather than a piece of industrial design the S 43 was still under copyright and consequently could only be (re)produced by the license holder: Thonet. There are cheaper illegal copies out there, however none posses the quality of craftsmanship nor the visual unity of the Thonet original. The Thonet S 43 by Mart Stam is available in a range of woods and colours.

Thonet B 117

Thonet B 117

Thonet B 117 by Thonet

The thing that one must always remember about Thonet is that they began producing and trading in an era before furniture designers and industrial designers. As such a lot of the products in the Thonet archive were created by the Thonet in-house design team. Such as the B 117 side table. With its “floating” drawer unit and reduced form the Thonet B 117 is not only a classic example of early 1930s design but is a design that remains as contemporary and relevant today as then. Created from tubular steel and stained beach the B 177 can be beautifully employed , for example,  as a bedside table, hall table or an additional IT office table.

The Thonet 214 Minature by Vitra

The Thonet 214 Minature by Vitra

Thonet 214 by Michael Thonet (Miniature) from Vitra

The Thonet 214 is not only the chair that initiated commercial furniture production, nor is it only the chair that paved the way for Swedish gentlemen to open large warehouses next to every motorway in Europe, nor is it only the chair that almost broke Michael Thonet. The 214 is all of these things. And the Vitra Design Museum Thonet 214 Miniature is all of these things in 1:6 scale. And as such is the perfect gift for all connoisseurs of good design.

Posted in Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat, Designer, Producer, Thonet, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Concrete bowl by Stephan Schulz for betonui
June 28th, 2010 by smow
Vitra Design Museum: The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction

Vitra Design Museum: The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction

The (smow)blog team outing to the cardboard furniture workshop was coupled with a visit to the current Vitra Design Museum Exhibition: The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction.

We must admit to finding it more than a little ironic that an exhibition on “Design and the Art of Reduction” should be taking place in a building designed by Frank Gehry, especially when Tadao Ando’s Conference Pavilion is only some 10m away.

And after the long journey to Weil am Rhein this thought honestly kept us amused for about 4 hours.

The exhibition itself is divided into 12 thematic sections each of which deals with a different aspect of “reduction”; be it elements that the end customer is aware of, for example, geometry or lightness or those that remain hidden from the customer, for example reduction in logistics.

Stephan Schulz: Concrete Bowl

Stephan Schulz: Concrete Bowl

Some 160 objects illustrate the various themes ranging from design classics such as Michael Thonet‘s Chair No. 14 or the Ant Chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen onto objects that are less well known – if every bit as interesting – such as Stephan Schulz‘s concrete bowl or Marcel Wanders‘ Knotted Chair for Capellini.

Good design needn’t be complicated, less but more, form follows function – the number of design theories that encapsulate the practice of “reduction” are as numerous as they are legendary: yet at design show after design show we are confronted with products that attempt to win us over through their complexity and extravagance.

We also don’t know why that should be, but we suspect it has a lot to do with a saturated market and the associated increasing role that the internet plays in ensuring that your – probably completely superfluous – work is seen.

Which design blog is going to feature Jasper Morrison‘s Ply-Chair when they have photo of a bookcase that looks like to two paradise birds engaging in a mating ritual atop Carmen Miranda?

Ok we would. But not many others.

For us the true art of reduction in design is when the designer reduces the volume of the product down to the absolute minimum – be it through the use of a new material, innovative joining of the individual elements or through reducing the exterior measurements.

.03 by Maarten Van Seeveren

.03 by Maarten Van Severen

One particular example that occurs to us being Maarten van Severen’s’ .03 with its integrated compound spring supports that give the chair its comfort and stability without unduly adding to the weight, volume or outer dimensions.

However as the exhibition “The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction” ably demonstrates  reduction can involve other processes.

Joe Colombo’s No 281 lamp, Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s tea service or Donald Judd’s Chair 84 proving nice examples of what can be achieved with the necessary talent and motivation.

On the negative side we must add that for our taste the exhibition highlighted the work of Charles and Ray Eames a little too heavily – specifically the dedication of the complete section “development” to their work looks suspiciously like a bit of editorial shoe-horning on the curators part.

That aside, for all interested in the design process, and especially where the difference between “designer” furniture – i.e. those furniture pieces where a targeted design process occurs- and cheaper, generic products lies, the Vitra Design Museum exhibition “The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction.” is definitely worth the trip.
The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction at the Vitra Design Museum runs until September 19th 2010. More details can be found at

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Fritz Hansen, Producer, Product, Thonet, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

August 26th, 2009 by julius

In the next week or so we will be introducing here some of the new products from Thonet that are now available at

But before we get that far, a small video below that explains something of the story of Thonet furniture and the production process involved in bent wood and bent metal furniture.

Narrated by perennial smow favourite Nils Holger Moormann. The text is currently only in German – we are however working on a translation – and so until then sit back and enjoy the pictures.

Posted in Producer, Product Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Thonet 214 - collapsable, though not recommended
June 11th, 2009 by julius

To celebrate the 150th birthday of Michael Thonet’s “chair of all chairs” Thonet are running a photo competition: 214×214.

The rules are ridiculously simple; whoever submits the best photo of a Thonet 214 wins a 3 day trip to New York. For the second best there is a trip to Thonet in Frankenberg and the chance to build your own 214.

If you don’t own 214, you could always buy one – or more – from smow.

Alternatively, keep your eyes open when your out and about, 214’s crop up a lot more often than you’d think.

All relevant information can be found at on the Thonet homepage.

Thonet 214 - stable and well balanced

Thonet 214 - stable and well balanced

Thonet 214 - seating and decoration in one

Thonet 214 - seating and decoration in one

Thonet 214 - collapsable, though not recommended

Thonet 214 - collapsable, though not recommended

Posted in Design Competition, Producer, Product, smow offline Tagged with: , , , , , ,