Last year Thonet opened it’s first Concept Gallery in Amsterdam and when meeting Peter Thonet, a fith generation family member of the Thonet family, I asked him about his favourite piece of the collection. He told me he still loves the bentwood chairs and showed me his favourite, the Thonet 209 armchair. Some weeks ago I had the change to visit the Thonet factory in Frankenberg and learn more about the process of wood bending and the company’s history and 2016 collection… more about that later!
The tour started in the old factory, a beautiful example of industrial heritage with dusty windows and old machinery. We were guided through the production of the Thonet collection and saw the making of chairs, sofas, cabinets and tables. The wood bending process was not only really impressive to see but we also got the change to do it ourselves! Wooden rods were made elastic by steam pressure and within 7 minutes, the time the wood will stay flexible, the rods were bend by hand in a metal mold to the correct shape by two men.
On walking distance from the factory the Thonet museum gives an impression of Michael Thonet’s lifetime achievements, collected by his great-grandson Georg Thonet, while the showroom shows how classic as well as new bentwood and tubular-steel furniture can be used in contemporary interiors.
I am not a fan of chrome plated-tubular steel but in the showroom located in the former 1889 home of the Thonet brothers I discovered how beautiful and different the chairs and desks look when painted black. Looking at the chair collection I have a few favourites, Peter Thonet’s personal favourite the Thonet 209 in light ashwood, well known with it’s wicker seat, and in my opinion even more beautiful with a black leather seat, the the same model in black is really beautiful as well.
If you would like to see more of my trip to Germany have a look at this Thonet Album.