Who has not owned a Thonet chair and not knowing it? Michel Thonet was born in Vienna in 1796 and became a well-known master ébénist under the rich Austro-Hungarian Empire. Thonet experimented a technical way to bend wood and succeeded by using warm steam to bend it to his liking, then placed the shapes created in steel molds to dry. Following the excellent results and high demand, in 1860 Thonet deposited his trademark and the Nᴼ14 chair, the most famous of his collection was born.
(Thonet chairs Nᴼ 14)
Every home, café, bistro and restaurant in Europe filled their rooms with Thonet chairs. The flexibility and resistance of this chair Nᴼ 14 became so popular through the Belle Époque and every era from then up to now.
Change country, travel down to Italy, same era, in the then poor agricultural region of Puglia. Thonet chairs were popular in well-to-do Italian households, I remember them in my family, but in the countryside and farmer’s families the straw chairs, practical, sturdy and durable, were the second-best choice. People who learn the art of stringing chairs made a good living. Necessity is the mother of invention. (Prices of most straw chairs here: http://www.lasediasrl.it/it/search/1/Paglia.html)
Many centuries later, while advanced countries push innovative recycle programs, down in Puglia, no longer a poor region, recycling is nothing new and doesn’t need to be created. Many crafts considered “ancient” are still in use in Puglia, a few people continue the art of stringing and weaving chairs, as we have mastered the art of reuse (I say we, because I am from there and I am one who reuse everything). We learn at a young age to fix broken items and not to throw them away in the land.
Poli Gaetano from the town of Rutigliano strings chairs since he was a boy. In the video, he speaks Italian, but watch his gestures, they are strong, decisive and precise to make sure each chair he fixes will live for long time. In 20-25 minutes a damaged straw chair returns brand new. His father was in that line of work and fed a family of seven. Gaetano is now over 70 years old passed the trade to his son.
Straw and cane chairs are suitable for a country décor, especially in the rustic Puglia style, as well as in Tuscan and French style décor. Straw or cane chairs are perfect in covered patios, tea rooms, breakfast nooks, conservatories, bedrooms, or anywhere extra chairs are needed.
(Photo above: Interior of Trullo Sovrano – Wikimedia Commons)
In the Egyptian style patio I decorated sometimes ago, I substituted the straw with upholstered fabric panels treated with blueprint technique.
In a French style boudoir, the same style chair became red and upholstered with traditional striped fabric.
Copyright © 2017 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
As an Italian designer and true to my origins, I am well-known to bring originality to people’s homes, but that’s not where I stop and any situation is a perfect opportunity to design something out of the ordinary. Check out my three books on