Chairs I Have Loved—chair Nr. 14 - aka Konsumstuhl Nr. 14, coffee shop chair no. 14, today known as 214
My parents had Thonet chairs in the Living Room. I think of them as our Christmas chairs, because two of us, either my mom, dad, sister or me, would sit in those two Thonet chairs to unwrap Christmas presents. Thinking of ourselves as educated, oh so cosmopolitan mid-westerners, we pronounced Thonet-- "Tho-nay". I just learned this year that the name is pronounced "Tone-eT" with a hard beginning and ending t. J
No. 14 chair, aka the bistro chair, was designed by Michael Thonet in the mid-19th century using bent wood. I guess I like bent wood and bent metal (see Wassily ) because of the simple lines. The simplicity eliminates the need for hand carved joints—the back of the chair and the back legs are made from a single piece of steam-bent wood. I elongated it here to celebrate its latent giraffe qualities. I think they are so there.
No. 14 is made of 6 pieces of wood, 10 screws, 2 nuts, and a partidge in a pear tree--the last part, not really necessary unless trying to give a truly festive touch. Later chairs are made of 8 pieces of wood: 2 diagonal braces were added between the seat and back. The chairs could be mass produced and disassembled to save space during transportation, an idea over 100 years ahead of Ikea’s flat pack. Imagine. The seat is often made of woven cane/palm, which lets spilled coffee drain off the chair in café settings, or milk left for Santa in my childhood Living Room setting. (We won’t talk about the shag carpet now.) Practical. Elegant. Fun! (maybe not for my mom...)
No. 14 chair is a gold medal winner! From when it was shown at the 1867 World Exposition in Paris. Le Corbusier said, "Never was a better and more elegant design and a more precisely crafted and practical item created…This chair, whose millions of representatives are used on the Continent and in the two Americas, possesses nobility,” He asked for Thonet’s chairs in his buildings. Plus, artists like Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec feature 14 in their paintings. So I always enjoy seeing our Christmas chairs in their cameo appearances, never quite sure where they will turn up. Kind of like Where’s Waldo, without the red and white sweater.