New Thonet-Style Chairs

20 Apr

thonet chairs

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must replace the as-is Ikea dining chairs he bought secondhand on Craigslist with something a little more, I don’t know, stylish? Sophisticated? Less self-assembled? That day has finally come courtesy of a set of six bentwood chairs Jennifer found on Craigslist.

Old Ikea Dining Chairs

Ever since our epic trip to Europe last summer bentwood chairs remind me of the charming cafés at the heart of Parisian life. (OK, so not like I’m an expert on Parisian life, but it sure seemed like the locals loved their cafés.) Since then we’ve been on the lookout for a reasonably priced set of Thonet-style chairs, but have only been able to find an occasional solo chair with a battered cane seat. Meanwhile, new reproduction Thonet chairs sell for $120 and up.

Despite generally poor luck with Craiglist in LA, Jennifer struck gold with these chairs. (In contrast to Atlanta where it worked quite well for us, being stuck in 1999 makes Craigslist only marginally useable in a city the size of LA.) The only trouble: they were 35 miles away, across downtown LA, at rush hour. If you’ve never had the joy of driving across all of Los Angeles at rush hour here’s what you’re in for (upper left to lower right):

map of la traffic

We could have waited until the weekend and hoped no else would snatch up our beautiful chairs, but it just seemed unlikely they’d still be around, and I could just see us kicking ourselves for missing the opportunity. So as soon as I got off work — well, as soon as I got home from work, which in LA is quite another thing — we set off to brave the traffic and claim our prize.

Thonet-Style Bentwood Chair

When we arrived we were met by a gregarious mover who buys furniture he knows is popular from his clients to resell on Craigslist. He showed us the chairs and asked if we knew about Thonet chairs and their history. I said ‘no,’ and he proceeded to tell us all about Thonet chairs, digressing along the way to discuss Herman Miller and furniture by several other designers I had never heard of. After the interesting history lesson, we bargained for the chairs and loaded them into the car.

Thonet-Style Bentwood Chair

Driving away I made the startling discovery that Jennifer knew all about Thonet and Herman Miller and all the rest! (Really I shouldn’t have been surprised.) She also informed me that Thonet is pronounced TONE-et, not tho-NAY as their previous owner and many others mistakenly assume. (He was German, not French.) She thought I was just playing dumb so as to seem ignorant of the history and desirability of the chairs to perhaps negotiate a better price. In reality I was just plain dumb and entirely ignorant! In any case we successfully purchased the stylish bentwood chairs.

We hope to re-cover the red vinyl seats in the future, but were pleasantly surprised to find that our curtains tie them into the room nicely. The chairs have turned our dinner table from used Ikea showroom to sophisticated dinner space.

thonet-style bentwood chair

2 Responses to “New Thonet-Style Chairs”

  1. kathy 21. Apr, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    what a charming and informative post!

  2. Lisa F. 30. Apr, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    I forgot what your old chairs looked like. I like the new ones very much!
    And I love this story.

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