Classic Layout: Thonet's Bistro Seat

Michael Thonet, a 19th century German cabinet-maker-turned-powerful seat designer, developed the foundation for so a lot of the seat frameworks and shapes we are comfortable with now — whether they are out-and-out, or replicas, inspired by Thonet’s layouts copies.

Thonet created a special steam-bending procedure in the 1850s that revolutionized design and mass-production, enabling straightforward layouts to be made affordably from several parts, with easy assembly/disassembly for transport functions (a thought IKEA has perfected using its flatpack products). What is unbelievable about most of Thonet’s layouts is their longevity; despite how old they are, they can be completely present. Basically every fashion is complemented by them. The seats are now able to be set along with your option of lacquered finishes, numerous different wood finishes, and leather disguise for the seat.

The Thonet firm made — and proceeds to make — iconic furniture by the kind of Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe as well as the Eamses. The fifth-generation, family-owned business also produces goods by designers and well-known architects.

The Red Jet

Everything started with all the Thonet Version No. 14 seat, Thonet’s most well-known. Following its start in 1859, it had been given a gold medal in the 1867 Paris World’s Fair and continues to be referred to as “the seat of seats.” Also called the Bistro Chair, some 50-million No. 14s were offered between 1860 and 1930, and millions more have been offered (and copied) since, placing it directly in the layout-classic group. Seat No. 14, now recognized as 2-14, is nevertheless made by Thonet.

Thonet chairs mesh with almost any age of decor. Here, a mish-mash of table and seat designs pairs seamlessly using a Thonet in the foreground.

Ehrenclou Architects

In time, two angled braces were added between the seat and again to reinforce the joints, bringing the total amount of wood pieces taken to 8 for building.


Thonet’s No. 14 seats were developed midcentury — the 1800s — but they’re totally suited for use among the 20th century’s “mid-century modern” furniture growth, as observed in in SFGirlByBay’s house.

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While not an initial layout, this shape is not any doubt inspired by Thonet’s bentwood procedure, and especially Otto Wagner’s Wien’s Postparkasse (Postoffice Savings Lender) seat layout from 1906.

Bosworth Hoedemaker

Undoubtedly inspired by the No. 14s, these wonderful seats work wonderfully in this warm contemporary dining room.

John Maniscalco Architecture

Thonet made Arne Jacobson Ant seat.

Philpotts Interiors

Thonet engineering was crucial for the formation of a great number of seats now, we adore and know.

Ed Ritger Images

I really like this riff on a Thonet layout. It is new, surprising, but nonetheless respectful.

Scheer & Co.

Breuer’s Cesca seats hold a specific place within my heart: I spent my youth together as dining seats, so when my parents decided they no longer needed to make use of them (after almost 30 years), I cheerfully inherited them! Here they sat in our (miniature) former flat, their tubular metal framework and caned seat and straight back creating them seem weightless while adding a little feel.

Where to acquire some Thonet seats
More layout icons to understand