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Chair No.14, or “the Bistro Chair”, is the first mass produced and the best-selling chair in the world

Alex A

The chair that you have definitely seen gazillion times and mostly likely reminds us to a nice French Bistro, it’s, in fact, the first mass-produced chair in the world.

Designed by the German-Austrian cabinet maker Michael Thonet, Chair No.14 was introduced in 1859 by the Thonet chair company. Colloquially known as the Bistro Chair, it was made using a unique steam-bending technology, known as bentwood, that took years to perfect.

Nr.-14-Chair. By Holger.Ellgaard - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Nr.-14-Chair. Photo Credit

The innovative bending technique allowed for the industrial production of a chair for the first time ever. What was revolutionary about the former no.14, which is today’s no. 214, was the fact that it could be disassembled into a few components and thus produced in work -sharing processes.

The chair could be exported to all nations of the world in simple, space-saving packages: 36 disassembled chairs could fit into a one cubic meter box.

Michael Thonet in his 60s. Source: Wikipedia/Public Domain
Michael Thonet in his 60s. 


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 °C (212 °F), pressing them into curved cast-iron molds, and then drying them at around 70 °C (158 °F) 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.

Because of its affordable price and simple design, it didn’t take long for Bistro Chair to get the title” Chair of all chairs” and to become one of the most popular and best-selling chairs ever made; some 50 million have been manufactured so far and it is still in production today.

When it was first shown at the 1867 World Exposition in Paris, it earned a gold medal for its simple and elegant design. Since it was launched, eminent architects and designers praised the Bistro chair.

The prolific  Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier once said  “Never was a better and more elegant design and a more precisely crafted and practical item created.

 Bistro Chair Source: Wikipedia/Public Domain
Bistro Chair 


So, we guess that simple, practical and classic design it’s never out of fashion. Next time when you sit in a coffee shop or a bistro on a No.14 chair, remember that this is more than a chair,  it’s a fragment of time where

Next time when you sit in a coffee shop or a bistro on a No.14 chair, remember that this is more than a chair,  it’s a fragment of time where simple and practical design was valued above all.