Thonet, Projektgeschäft, Geschichte
Thonet, Projektgeschäft

Our history in the project business: 400 chairs at once – large-scale orders at Thonet from the earliest days to the present  

Thonet is famous for its icons of furniture design that have always enjoyed great popularity in the private living sector. What is much less known is the fact that the production of products for commercial use is one of the roots of our company: from the very beginning, Thonet has been supplying furniture to public institutions, cafés and restaurants. 

 

The beginnings: in his carpentry shop established in 1819 in Boppard on the River Rhine, Michael Thonet intensively worked on the development of new wood bending techniques. These experiments caught the attention of Prince Metternich, who called the craftsman to Vienna in 1842; there, Carl Leistler involved him in the furnishing of the Palais Lichtenstein and Palais Schwarzenberg.

 

In 1850, Michael Thonet presented his chair no. 4 at an exhibition of the trade association of Lower Austria. The gastronomer Anna Daum was fascinated with it and gave him a large-scale order to furnish her coffee house at Vienna’s Kohlmarkt. Later on, an order from a hotel in Budapest for 400 copies of chair no. 4 was added. These are milestones in the early project business at Thonet. In 1904, Otto Wagner, a teacher at the art academy and one of the “original fathers” of the Vienna Secession, designed an armchair made of squared beech wood in an objectively strict constructive style for the assembly hall of the directorate of the Vienna Postal Savings Bank: fauteuil no. 6516, the so-called “Postal Savings Bank armchair”.  

Thonet, Projektgeschäft, Postsparkasse
Thonet, Projektgeschäft

From the early 20th century to the present: due to its decisive role in the development and production of tubular steel furniture in the Bauhaus era, Thonet has been able to win one more mainstay in the contract furniture market since the 1930s. To this day, the innovative objective furniture of the time by Mart Stam, Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are bestsellers. In 1932, Thonet supplied the seating for the natural science reading room at the Leipzig National Library.  

 

At first, World War II brought Thonet numerous orders for invalid chairs for military hospitals; at the end of the war, however, all of the facilities in Eastern Europe (including the one in Bystritz) were dispossessed, and the Thonet House in Vienna and the Frankenberg facility were destroyed. Georg Thonet, the great-grandson of Michael Thonet, rebuilt the facility in the north of Hesse. With 20 employees and makeshift repaired machinery, the first furniture was produced, including the lath chair, which could not be outperformed with regard to simplicity and plainness. Soon, Thonet was again able to furnish restaurants, cafés and public spaces.  

 

The post-war designs that became a success in the project business and have to be mentioned are the chair 652 by Eddie Harlis and the chair programme S 800 by Hanno von Gustedt for conference rooms. 

 

When the use of plastic moved into the furniture industry in the 1970s, Thonet landed a hit with its chair programme “Flex” by Gerd Lange: from the onset it was not planned as an individual chair but as a flexible system that was characterised by row linking, stackability and a range of versions.

 

In the 1980s and 1990s the comfortable and elegant upholstered chair S 320 and the cantilever conference chair programme S 73/S 74 conquered the assembly and meeting rooms. When the German Bundestag redesigned by Norman Foster was inaugurated in 1990 in the former Reichstag building in Berlin, several Thonet models were used, among them the S 43 by Mart Stam for the parliamentary group rooms.

Thonet, Projektgeschäft, Geschichte
Thonet, Projektgeschäft, Geschichte

In 1992, the table system S 1000 was the first that allowed for the separation of legs and tabletops in order to create modular table configurations, which opened up entirely new possibilities in the design of conference rooms. From this design, the designers Lepper Schmidt Sommerlade developed the successful programme A 1700; you will be able to experience its evolution further on in this brochure.

 

In the past decade, Thonet also furnished countless conference rooms, halls, educational institutions, hotels and, naturally, cafés and restaurants – headed by the row chair S 360 developed by Delphin Design, which quickly became a bestseller due to its space-saving and almost invisible patented linking technique. Thonet in the project business is a story that is constantly progressing into the future.

Thonet, Projektgeschäft, Geschichte