The unique success story of Thonet began with the work of master carpenter Michael Thonet (1796-1871), which established the transition from manual furniture production to industrial production. Michael Thonet succeeded in making the breakthrough to industrial production in 1859 in Vienna with chair No.14, later called the „Vienna coffee house chair“, for which the innovative technique of bending solid beech wood was used. The individual production steps were standardized and the division of labor concept was implemented for the ﬁrst time in furniture production. In addition, the chair was easy to disassemble and could be shipped in a space-saving way. Chair No.14 cleared the way for Thonet to become a global enterprise, and numerous successful bentwood designs followed. Thonet’s production peaked in 1912: that year, two million units were produced and sold worldwide.
Tubular steel furniture is the second constant in Thonet’s product line. In the 1930s, the company was the world’s largest producer of this innovative furniture, which was designed by a number of famous architects including Mart Stam, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. Today, the early tubular steel furniture designs are considered milestones in design history. Their clear, open and simple forms were an expression of a new attitude in every-day culture and architecture, which became famous under the catchphrase “New Objectivity”. Currently, numerous successful classic models are still in the product line, among them the ﬁrst cantilever chair S 33 for which Mart Stam was awarded the artistic copyright for its form and basic principle, as well as models S 32 and S 64 by Marcel Breuer.
The family company has had its head ofﬁces in Frankenberg in the north of Hesse. Today, all bentwood and tubular steel classics as well as the contemporary collections are produced here in a facility with cuttingedge production equipment and a staff of workers with vast experience to draw upon. Thonet still develops innovative products that stand out due to their quality materials and timeless formal language and always take sustainability and durability under consideration.
Michael Thonet July 1796 - March 1871
Austrian - German cabinet maker
Michael Thonet's lifetime achievements impressively reflect the transition from handcraft to industrial mass production in the 19th century. However, the success of Thonet's production process was not only based on perfecting the bending of solid wood; it was the entrepreneurial vision of master joiner Michael Thonet that guaranteed the continual development of products and production techniques over the years. The best proof of his extraordinary abilities is the bentwood furniture, which has been in continuous production in Frankenberg following the originals by Michael Thonet. The Museum Thonet started out on a very small scale. Many pieces were acquired or exchanged on site since the factory has been producing furniture in Frankenberg since 1889.
Georg Thonet, a great-grandson of founder Michael Thonet, delivered the decisive boost to the collection due to his passion for finding and purchasing Thonet furniture even in the most remote corners of the world. The reopening of the Museum Thonet in 1989 took place precisely one hundred years after the establishment of the Thonet factory in Frankenberg.