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We recently spruced up a set of eight Bentwood chairs, otherwise known as Thonets (after German architect Michael Thonet.) The name ‘Bentwood’ is quite literal. Bentwoods have arguably the most recognizable silhouette of any chair that’s ever been produced.

The original No.14 Thonet is made up of six pieces of wood, ten screws and two nuts. It was the first piece of furniture designed to be shipped in parts to save space during transportation and came with simple instructions to put it together. This was long before IKEA!

I stumbled upon these Bentwoods last year at the excellent North Fork design and found object reclamation yard, Lumber + Salt. My friend Brooke, who owns L+S with her partner John, always accompanies me to poke around for exciting pieces. After we found a few Bentwoods in their repurposed greenhouse, Brooke unlocked a large shipping container that sits in the back of their yard. It was like opening a portal into another era. Amongst the oversized chandeliers and other treasures that looked like they were taken from an old European castle, we found eight Thonet chairs, a couple of French Henry II Walnut Embossed Leather Chairs, multiple wooden turned leg stools, and a French Empire armchair.

The picture above features one of the chairs in its original state. The wood was split and cracked in some areas, but these chairs are so sturdy that they were worth reinforcing and refinishing. Thonet developed a technique to create Bentwoods: solid beechwood is steamed at over 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then clamped into a cast iron former. The beech is then dried for at least twenty hours. I don’t know the birdthdate of these  Thonets we refinished but I’m guessing they’re at least 75 years old.

Above is a picture of the eight refinished Thonet/Bentwood chairs around my client’s art table. We upholstered them in a vinyl by Knoll so that they’d be easy to clean. We chose the blue and yellow color palette to keep the space cheerful and fun.

© / all rights reserved / 440-371-5846


© / all rights reserved / 440-371-5846