Shaker Furniture and Thonet Chairs
Design, as a formal discipline, began to really develop when objects were no longer created solely by the ability of the artisan, but thanks to the reliability of a productive system able to faithfully replicate a specific model in infinite numbers.
The items of furniture produced by the Shaker community are the first examples of this system of producing and designing. The Shakers are a religious sect, founded in the USA in the 18th Century.
The Shakers’ utopian vision, of an egalitarian society, lead to the development of a system of cooperative production. Machines were used to allow more time to dedicate to prayer and to produce all of life’s necessities. So, the items of furniture, like everything else, were faithful replicas of models, produced using machines to save time.
Michael Thonet was an Austro-Hungarian industrialist in the furniture sector born in 1796 and was the first to have the idea of manufacturing furniture as a real industrial product.
The various models were made using turned wood, rendered elastic by steam treatment, bent into shape and assembled. In 1853 the company “Gerbrüder Thonet” was founded in Austria. The most famous model produced by the company is the No.18 chair from 1859. This furniture enjoyed such international success that Thonet factories were opened in many countries and its chairs were used by the most famous architects of the age.