Monday's Visual Treat - Day 1/ Objects of Desire


It's the beginning of the work week and sheer determination is gonna get us through the day.  Thankfully a little cooler than last week, and, the essence of summer permeates the air;  day-lilies everywhere have begun to bloom and the tomato plants keep on getting taller as well as full of tiny yellow flowers.  At the garden party, a beautiful woman remarked that the aroma of the honey-suckle was almost criminally seductive.  Earlier, on Saturday, I had the pleasure of feasting on the early-summer bounty of  Lady Emblon's garden where tart currants, juicy blue-berries, as well as sweet strawberries were mine, and mine alone.

The theme of this week's visual treats is: 'Objects of Desire,' with day one devoted to bentwood furniture and more specifically, cafe chairs.  I know that you probably walked past them without a second glance, or effortlessly slid your tush on and off one of these little beauties every time you lunched at the corner bistro.  Not noticing them is understandable since good design frequently doesn't call attention to itself or appear self-conscious; nor demand an audience or hefty price.  Good design is supported by the tenets of form and function, and whenever this criteria is applied to the bentwood cafe-chair there is little doubt of its merit, being the recipient of numerous awards of distinction throughout the decades since debuting in 1859.

Wikipedia states that, {the} No.14 chair is the most chair made by the Thonet chair company.  Also known as the bistro chair, it was designed by Michael Thonet in the 19th century using a unique steam-bending technology, known as bentwood, that required years to perfect.  No. 14 chair is the most famous chair made by the Thonet chair company. Also known as the bistro chair, it was designed by Michael Thonet in the 19th century using a unique steam-bending technology, known as bentwood, that required years to perfect. Thonet’s No. 14 was made of six pieces of steam-bent wood, ten screws, and two nuts. The wooden parts were made by heating beechwood slats to 100 degrees Celsius, pressing them into curved cast-iron molds, and then drying them at around 70 degrees Celsius for 20 hours.  The chairs could be mass produced by unskilled workers and disassembled to save space during transportation, an idea similar to flat pack Ikea furniture.  Later chairs were made of eight pieces of wood: two diagonal braces were added between the seat and back, to strengthen this hard-worked joint.  The design was a response to a requirement for cafe-style chairs. The seat was often made of woven cane/palm, because the holes in the seat would let spilt liquid drain off the chair.  Chair No 14, today known as 214, is still produced by Thonet.
Offered to prospective buyers and entrepreneurs as that essential component for completing the European, New York, or Victorian cafe look, countless eateries, bistros, luncheonettes, fern bars, diners, ice-cream and desert shops employed the highly versatile Chair No 14, black and white checkered floor tiles, simple lace/cotton cafe-curtains, white tablecloths, plain flat-ware, ironstone or Syracuse china, and clunky, clear glass-ware as the epitome of 'relaxed chic.'  The addition of table arrangements signaled aspirations, and any enterprising owner/manager quickly realized that seductive lighting, adult refreshments served from a long bar, and the crooning of a French chanteuse overhead almost always guaranteed a favorable P&L.  Really, things never looked better for No 14, which has retained its popularity with accumulated sales of over 100 million and still produced in the original factories established by Michael Thonet in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

I have comfortably sat in bentwood cafe-chairs in little hideaways all round the world; in places ranging from Mexico City to Stuttgart, to London.  Beautiful times, wonderful memories; and the reasons for my hiding were many....   

Enjoy the peep-show, 




Michael Herbas said…
Yes the chairs were all over Europe, I felt right at home.....

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