Sometimes you have no idea where a blog is going to take you.

I am in St. Louis for my brother’s wedding. He is getting married for the first time at 46. I’m not sure what it means but we’re just glad it is happening.

This afternoon we visited the St. Louis Art Museum. I had asked what museums in town had furniture and several people mentioned the museum. For the record, they have lots of furniture.

I’ll get to the furniture in a few days but this one item caught my eye:

Not furniture but furniture related.

Not furniture but furniture related.

It is Spiral by Austrian furniture manufacturer Gebrüder Thornet in 1885. It is bent from a single 28′ ash board. It seems to exist to show their extraordinary wood bending capabilities. Don’t believe me, it says so in the museum:

It's in the museum, it must be true.

It’s in the museum, it must be true.

The name Michael Thonet seemed vaguely familiar so I did a bet of rummaging around online and discovered that Mr. Thonet was a German-Austrian furniture maker of the mid 19th century. He was making furniture using bent and glued wooden slats. Hoping to improve manufacturing efficiencies, he developed new methods of steam bending. One of his innovations was use of a metal strap on the outer surface of the bend to keep the wood from splintering. He started making a series of numbered chair, the most famous and iconic being Thonet Chair #14, the coffee house chair, in 1859:

Still in production.

Still in production. 50 million sold by the 1930’s.

To some, he is a hero because his innovations allowed for the industrial production of a chair for the first time. To others he is a villain because his innovations allowed for the industrial production of a chair for the first time. It all depends on your opinion of the industrial production furniture.

Part of the genius of these chairs, aside from being made from only six major components, is that the chair shipped flat. They claim that 36 chairs could be shipped flat in a cubic meter of space. An enormous saving in space. It costs a lot of money to ship air.

Mr. Michael Thonet and his chair.

Mr. Michael Thonet and his chair.

Rather than wasting more time retyping other people’s work, let me offer the following links:

A NY Times article entited: No. 14: The chair that has seated millions.

An Fast Company story called: How Do You Make The World’s Most Popular Chair?


and finally

The Thonet company website: Thonet GmbH

I have free time Sunday afternoon and most of the day Monday. Any suggestions of suitable diversions would be greatly appreciated. Already going to The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park on Saturday.