1. Home
  2. Design Culture
  3. Objects
  4. S40 by Thonet: an iconic garden chair
| Designbest editorial staff

I

n 1935, the B33g garden chair, later renamed S40, was first introduced by Thonet in catalogue. Here, is the story of this iconic garden chair that celebrates its 80th birthday. It didn't take long for this lightweight chair, with its extraordinary yet extremely comfortable springy seat, to become a truly stand out piece. And who really knows, if Michael Thonet, a cabinetmaker with a keen eye for research, expected this kind of success when he was first approached by Dutch architect Mart Stam. In all fairness, the original version, which Thonet and Stam presented in 1927 to the entire world, was just a cantilever chair with a conventional frame and overhang. This design references the earlier S43 chair, designed by Stam in line with the precepts of the Bauhaus movement. However, the main difference was that the new version, manufactured using iroko slats, would be sold as a garden chair.

One innovative idea inside another: on one hand we have a frame in tubular steel, which forms part of the load-bearing structure of the chair, a clear feature of the Bauhaus movement popular in the late nineteen twenties. And on the other hand, we have an exquisite type of timber, yet durable, flexible and also indestructible. In fact, S40 has a frame in stainless steel and slightly arched seat made from slats in iroko, one of the most sought after of African timbers, ideal for resisting to atmospheric agents.  

S40, is a chair with a simple and clean elegance, which is almost taken for granted. S40 also references the perfect aesthetics of earlier versions by Mart Stam, who had already found great acclaim by designing a chair with and without armrests, inspired by the functionalism of the period. However, an outdoor chair was truly missing in this scheme: this is how, Mart Sam, was able, once again, to bring forward true change and innovation. It's for this main reason that S40, represents even now an example of true modernity. This is a timeless chair, even if a lot of time has passed since it made its first appearance; 80 years ago to be exact. 

share on: