So I haven’t updated you on my progress of my chairs recently – not because I haven’t been doing much with them, but mostly because I’ve been waiting to see what the response is..
You see, after my wonderful day with Wet Paint last month I discovered a little note inside the chair – “Made in Czechoslovakia” and, as it happens, they turned out to be a designer chair, dah-ling! EEK! My first thought, while at the workshop was – meh. I’ve made a start on the chair, I may as well carry on. And, as Laura of Wet Paint pointed out, the chair I’d brought was in such a sad state that it probably wouldn’t retail for much..
So, once I came home I took a look at the other remaining few chairs I had that I hadn’t already made a start on painting, and, actually, they’re in really good shape!
It dawned on me that I could potentially be sitting on (no pun intended!) a little goldmine in their own right!
I’ve contacted a few antiquities dealers, and I’ve only just got a response last weekend (ONE! From the numerous emails I’d already sent with pictures! Rood…):
Your Thonet chairs are of relatively recent manufacture and, sadly, are of little commercial value.
So at least I now have my answer. It was quite exciting though, at one point! I’m going to get cracking on repainting and reupholstering the chairs soon, so watch this space. I received some beyooootiful samples from Blendworth today and may have spotted a contender for the reupholstering..
A little history on the chairs:
The Thonet chair bears the name of its author, Michael Thonet (1796 – 1871), a joiner and furniture designer of German origin, who settled in Bohemia in 1856 and founded two manufactories producing furniture from bent wood – in Koryčany(map) in Moravia in 1856 and in Bystřice pod Hostýnem (map) in 1861. Thonet’s bent furniture immediately became a hit and the German businessman received many awards for it, including the golden cross of merit or the knightly order of Franz Joseph.
The history of the famous Thonet chair no. 14 began to be written in 1859, when Michael Thonet designed its first model from bent wood. This type of production was a breakthrough in its time. In comparison with its competition in the era, the chair was unbelievably light; it only weighed about three kilograms. It was cheap, comfortable and over time proved to be almost unbreakable. It became an essential part of the interior of many cafes, night clubs, casinos, barracks and saloons of the previous century.
Michael Thonet even demonstrated its quality and solidity by throwing from the top of the Eiffel Tower during the World Fair in Paris, where he also won the gold medal. Famous personalities who took a liking to Thonet’s products include Pablo Picasso. As for living personalities, we can mention Sandra Bullock who also rests on a Thonet chair in her home.
Today, the chair is still produced in its original design in the factory in Bystřice pod Hostýnem. The technological procedures have practically remained unchanged since the beginning of production. The chairs are made by steaming pieces of beech wood in saturated steam so that the wood bends more easily. The actual bending of the backrest part of the chair is done manually using a mould with a special covering strap that prevents the bent wood from cracking. It is a highly sophisticated manual work that cannot be done properly by any machine.
The company in Bystřice pod Hostýnem is the oldest and biggest producer of bent furniture in the world. It employs about 850 people and exports its products to sixty different countries. It is a unique Czech furniture company that regularly exhibits at the Salone del Mobile in Milano, a major exhibition event in the world of furniture design.
So there you have it. Some of the world’s most important designs in the history of wooden chairs is sitting in my house, ready to be re-loved. Can’t wait to get started!