There is a saying which gets bandied about in design circles: “when in doubt choosing a chair, choose a bentwood.” And I wholeheartedly agree; you can’t go wrong with an elegant bentwood chair. They are a timeless classic which can suit the most modern of decors or the more traditional style of decorating.
Saarinen tulip table with bentwood chairs. Image from here
Although I have a mid-mod aesthetic, a bentwood chair would sit comfortably in a mid-century home alongside modernist furniture or even a Queenslander with predominantly mid-century furniture – 19th century design can look so good with mid-20th century design.
Originally made in the 1850s by a German-Austrian cabinet maker, Michael Thonet (pronounced ton-et), the bentwood chairs were seen as highly innovative for the times. Solid rods of beech were treated with steam to allow for the rods to be bent into shape and were then left to cure. The chairs were lightweight, yet durable and were seen as a chic alternative to the heavy carved furniture that was prevalent in that period.
|white (albeit very dirty) bentwood chair needing repair|
Poking out from the detritus were two curvy bentwood chairs. My friend and I looked at each other and with a knowing nod we immediately did a u-turn to salvage those chairs.
Fortunately, it was late and it was dark. We got those two chairs stashed into the boot of the car and drove home pronto, exhilarated by our find. My friend took one chair, while I took the other.
|Some dodgy bracing on one leg...|
The plan is to dismantle it to make it a little less rickety, put a new plywood seat on it and then repaint it. Cross fingers it will be salvageable. It will be a nice handy chair to have around the place... You can't have too many chairs, right?