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What Is a Bentwood Chair?

A Bentwood chair is a timeless piece of furniture, crafted through a unique process where wood is steamed and bent into elegant curves. Its iconic design, pioneered by Michael Thonet in the 19th century, marries durability with style, making it a beloved choice for homes and cafes alike. Curious about how this classic chair can elevate your space? Let's explore its enduring charm.
Norma Jean Howland
Norma Jean Howland

A bentwood chair is a chair made from wood that has been bent into shape using a steam process that was invented in the 1800s. This type of chair usually has a simple design and is made out of about six pieces of wood all held together by screws and nuts. Its wooden back is rounded. As one of the characteristics of a bentwood chair is comfort, it is often found in restaurants, hotels and bars. The chair remains popular today and is one of the most mass-produced pieces of furniture in the history of chair making.

The idea for a bentwood chair originated with Michael Thonet, a German born cabinetmaker. Thonet wanted to design a piece of furniture that could be mass produced, that had few parts, and that was not difficult to assemble. The manufacturing process for this type of chair involves heating the wood with steam, which allows the wood to then be bent into the classic rounded chair shape. This simple way of making furniture enabled mass production of the bentwood chair and helped to pave the way for what became the standard bentwood design.

Bentwood chairs are commonly found in sidewalk cafes.
Bentwood chairs are commonly found in sidewalk cafes.

Although there are several styles of bentwood chairs, a typical chair design features a hair pin or candy cane back with a rounded wooden seat. This simple, yet classic shape remains popular even many years after the first chair was manufactured. This type of chair is also sometimes found with a cane seat. Usually a bentwood chair is fashioned out of beechwood, which tends to be inexpensive and strong. Since the wood will usually become softer with age, the chair ages into an even more comfortable place in which to sit.

This classic chair is often bought in large quantities for use in restaurants, conference centers, and hotels. Yet the bentwood chair is known for its versatility and can be found in many homes around the world. The shape and style of the chair make it a recognizable piece of classic furniture that is often found in sidewalk cafes or coffee houses. The chair is lightweight and easy to store in a small space, and several of the chairs can be stacked one on top of one another when not in use.

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    • Bentwood chairs are commonly found in sidewalk cafes.
      Bentwood chairs are commonly found in sidewalk cafes.