Bending the Rules with Bentwood!

Almost a century later designers gravitated back to these laminated bentwood techniques and applied them to the new ‘modern’ furniture. The clean, simple, curvaceous lines were applied to create the organic, clean simplicity indicative of what we now call Mid-Century Modern.


Seamless, sleek and contemporary, bentwood furniture is very much back on trend right now with the revival of the Mid-Century Modern look that has been hitting the social media mood boards for the last few months…but who knew that you could ‘bend’wood without it breaking anyway and where did this strange idea originate? 


Centuries ago it was discovered that if you applied heat and moisture to wood it would soften the fibres enough that it could be bent or stretched. The process was economical both on time and resources… no sawing, no nails, no waste! The technique has its ‘roots’ firmly based in processes that were used to produce baskets, tools, water vessels, even weaponry and last but not least the huge boat building industry.


In the 1830’s cabinet maker, Micheal Thonet, had an idea and experimented with gluing thin slats of wood together, and then bending this ‘laminated’ wood using hot steam. It produced graceful curved shapes with an inherent strength that he felt could be used in the creation of furniture. After a lot of experimentation, he eventually created the now instantly recognisable ‘Boppard Layered Wood Chair’, a novel, elegant and durable design which was extremely lightweight. What a departure from the heavy carved furniture that had proceeded it! 


Based in Vienna, Thonet refined his design and produced the ‘N. 14 Chair’ for which he won a bronze medal at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. His even more elegant ‘Coffee shop Chair’ is still called the ‘chair of all chairs’ by industry insiders and it would be surprising if there were anyone alive today who was not familiar with this design. 

Amongst other things the movement gave rise to the ever famous Eame’s chair whose breezy beauty has been mimicked many times since. Perhaps in British minds bentwood chairs were made evermore famous in1963, when in a series of iconic photographs a curvaceous Arne Jacobsen styled chair was evocatively straddled by the equally curvaceous and very naked form of Christine Keeler, right at the height of The Profumo Affair! 


It might also be worth noting that the Arne Jacobsen Series 7 is one of the most sold chairs in modern history!


And so here it is again! Bentwood is back! Its sinuous curves paired beautifully this time with chrome, naturally turned wood and leather or premium fabric coverings. It’s comfortable organic curves and arches are easy on the eye and just perfect for the new biophilic designs that are flooding into our offices and home office spaces. Biophilic or ‘nature based designs’ are thought to help lessen stress, increase creativity and clarity of thought, improving our over all well-being and accelerating healing. The Peter Green Hampshire collection has a huge range of office furniture all with a mid-century Modern…bent! 

Take your pick from deep rich walnut, light oak and cool grey finishes. This comprehensive range covers desks, cabinetry, bookcases and the most comfortable, exquisite, retro chairs available today. 


So if you are getting all ‘bent out for shape’ about comfort and designing your office… consider bentwood…its fab!

5th July 2021

Back to blog