Thonet: The Origins of Modern Style
In the past, a chair was a symbol of authority, and decorativeness was thus considered necessary. Therefore, most chairs had great decorations on their backs and legs, like the Queen Anne and the Chippendale styles※ of the 17th and 18th centuries.
In the late 18th century, when industrialization spread to Western Europe from Britain, the bentwood furniture invented by Michael Thonet from Germany became popular.
Thonet was trained as a cabinet maker. He pursued sturdiness and functionality in furniture, qualities that reflected people’s daily lives, and invented a bentwood technique to boil thin boards with glue, paste them together, and bend them. Later, after trial and error, the current bentwood technique that involves simmering wood and molding furniture was developed.
Bentwood chairs were distinctive from conventional products: they were light yet sturdy and practical, had a simple beauty, and were affordable. They spread around the globe and were adopted by many. Over time, the Thonet bentwood chair became a starting point for the modern style that endures today.
※The Queen Anne and Chippendale Styles
Styles born in 18th-century Britain. These elegant styles featured cabriole legs and backrests with decorations in the form of ribbons, and remain very popular to this day.
Akita Mokko: The Only Specialty Brand of Bentwood Furniture in Japan
Thonet’s bentwood technique first arrived in Japan in 1901.
In 1910, the Akita Mokko factory (current Akita Mokko Inc.) was established in Yuzawa City, Akita, as the area was rich in the beech and oak trees suitable for bentwood products. Since then, Akita Mokko has been creating handmade bentwood furniture with the philosophy of making the wood more beautiful than when it was standing.
Akita Mokko has collaborated with famous Japanese designers such as Isamu Kenmochi and Sori Yanagi. The collaborations occurred because the company has the finest techniques and is committed to creating excellent bentwood furniture. Many of their furniture pieces have won the Good Design Award.
Most of the bentwood chairs manufactured in Japan today use plywood, but the chairs of Akita Mokko still use the technique invented by Thonet. Akita Mokko is the pioneer of Japan’s bentwood industry and is the only specialty brand of bentwood furniture in Japan.