September 5, 2016

When one thinks of mass design, the mind immediately goes to the Swedish colossus that has given shape to the interiors of globalized houses almost everywhere. But well before that, there have been extraordinary examples of design that have earned themselves the favour of a transversal public, stepping into houses all over the world and bringing beauty and functionality.

In this perspective, Thonet is one of the most significant examples. Thanks to the intuitions of its founder who, in the mid 19th century, perfected the technique of working with solid wood managing to curve it in series, the brand became synonym of avant-garde furnishings, acquiring a success that still today knows no boundaries. Master carpenter specialized in working with ebony, pioneer and innovator, Michael Thonet created the model 14 chair (today 214). This proved to be one of the most successful industrial products ever on the market, also thanks to the genius intuition that permitted him to stock the unassembled chairs in packages of 36. This enabled him to send them with ease to the four corners of the globe, giving birth to the industrialization of furniture.

Thonet opens his first factory in Boppard, on the banks of the Rhine, in 1919. There, he is noticed by none other than the Prince of Metternich, who becomes his patron: thanks to him, Thonet moves his furniture production to Vienna and then rapidly expands to a total of seven factories, some even outside of Austria. His furnishings revolutionize coffee houses, offices and private homes in Europe, first, and in the rest of the world soon after. A planetary success – celebrated even by the stern Le Corbusier – that righteously inscribes itself in the tide of renovation brought by Modernism and that shows a special bond with the applied arts of the Bauhaus.

The creations of the brand unite unprecedented quality and practicality, design and functionality: minimal, elegant, light, suitable for practically any type of ambience, they are universal without losing character, recognizable by the diversity that characterizes every single model, contemporary and timeless. Thonet leads the passage from artisanal to industrial furniture production by availing himself of the best talents of the time and marks an unrepeatable era in the history of design: looking at an s 33 chair by Mart Stam, an s 32/s 64 by Marcel Breuer or an s 533 by Mies van der Rohe means looking at a timeless masterpiece, the result of a passion and intelligence that overbear fashions. Sitting, today, on a Thonet chair is like travelling in time, to the experimentations of the 20th century and back to the contemporaneity of an object always capable of speaking the language of the present. These qualities couldn’t go unnoticed and, in fact, Gaggenau chose to include the brand’s products in the 333 Years in the Making exhibition, on show at BASE in Milan.