Designer: Michael Thonet, 1859.
Details: Beech 214 chair in Black with wickerwork seat, left, from £520; beech 215R chair in Natural Beech with wickerwork seat and back, far left, from £620; and beech 214K knotted chair in Black with wickerwork seat, right, from £955, Gebrüder Thonet at Aram Store. Various finishes and colours are available.
The staple of cafés worldwide, the deceptively simple 214 was born when Prussian craftsman Thonet discovered how to bend wood without having to laminate it first.
Made from six pieces of steam-bent beech, ten screws and two nuts, the No 14 chair (as it was originally called) was easily manufactured, packed and sent round the globe to be reassembled (it was the first flat-pack piece of furniture – almost 100 years before Ikea’s self-assembly range began).
By 1930, more than 50 million chairs had been sold. Famous fans of the revolutionary design included Lenin, Einstein, Brahms and Picasso.
Le Corbusier said of it, ‘Never before was something more elegant… and more fit for practical use’. Today, the chair is considered the most successful industrial product in the history of mass-production and is still being made in more or less the same way by the fifth generation of Thonets in Germany.
The knotted version was created for the 150th anniversary in 2009 – literally, a clever twist on the classic.