Why We Love It

You’ve probably seen this chair in dozens of cafes, but did you know it was designed in the 1850s? Originally known as the bistro chair, or the No. 14 chair, it was created to meet the need for more cafe-style dining chairs and is one of the earliest furniture designs to utilise steam-bending technology. It is also easy to assemble, making it one of the first few designs to be manufactured in bulk, and it is still considered a pioneer of mass-produced furniture today.

Who Designed It

Michael Thonet started as a carpenter’s apprentice in France before becoming a cabinetmaker in 1819. He started experimenting with furniture-making two decades later, which led to the development of a bentwood method in which he used steam-bent wood to create graceful furniture pieces. His designs – chairs in particular – caught the attention of the Austrian imperial family and sowed the seeds of his furniture enterprise.

What It Inspired

The 214P is one of many offshoots of the original No. 14 chair. This edition comes with a cushioned seat, while its predecessor sported woven cane or palm seats that had gaps to allow split liquid to drain off quickly. Modern variations include pieces with straight or tapered legs, or with moulded plywood seats that come bare or covered with leather or fabric.

The 214P chair is made by Thonet and available at Xtra.