Vienna straw

Timeless charm

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16 September 2020

In recent years it has become a must have in the homes of lovers of refined design and retro style. It is a material from the past but revisited in a modern way: Vienna straw. Thanks to its timeless elegance and versatility, today it is used in furniture, accessories and design objects. The simplicity of the raw material, combined with the care taken in processing, makes Vienna straw a unique material of its kind. In addition, the uses are manifold: ranging from comfortable seating, classic style cupboards and pantries, to everyday objects capable of mixing new technologies with the authentic look of the past.

A material with ancient origins

There are numerous historical finds that show that Vienna straw has a very ancient origin; in fact this material was already used by the Egyptian civilization which used to work filaments of the Indian cane in order to build furniture, beds and seats. Over time, this artisan process developed and found its greatest achievement during the nineteenth century, when the German cabinetmaker Michael Thonet patented the bent wood processing technique.

The innovative aspect consisted in the use of hot steam to bend and work the wood, then inserted into special molds to obtain the desired shape and finally dried to make it rigid again. The first seats were designed for some restaurants in Vienna and met with great success, until the Thonet 14 chair became an icon for commercial premises. Soon this type of furniture spread throughout Europe and later in the world, thanks to its versatility, comfort and aesthetic elegance that it was able to ensure. The Thonet family became famous and with their company began important collaborations with some of the greatest exponents of twentieth century architecture.
The Thonet furniture boasted the signature of architects of the rank of Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffmann who helped to blend this particular processing technique with the then current Liberty style. The result was the creation of the first chairs with a tubular steel frame and Vienna straw seat and many other furnishings that proved capable of maintaining the value of antique furniture unchanged by combining it with contemporary style.

Seat with Vienna straw seat, Thonet n.14, a model that became an icon in the 19th century
Seat with Vienna straw seat, Thonet n.14, model that became an icon in the 19th century

To view and download the 3d model of the Thonet chair n.14 click here

Among the many qualities of Vienna straw can be included the availability and low cost of the raw material, the uniqueness of the processing, the resistance and timeless elegance of the furnishings that are produced. Although with an apparently delicate weave, thanks to its smooth and robust surface it is able to support substantial loads. The wood fibers are selected and crossed in order to build a honeycomb texture on surfaces of different sizes.
The weft that can be obtained is usually characterized by octagonal or circular holes and the aesthetic result varies according to the type of processing. In fact, in the artisanal and hand-made processing, the final product is unique, very precious and the cost is high, while in the mechanized processing the surfaces appear standardized and have lower costs. The material can be natural and yellowish in color or lightened and colored through a specific chemical treatment.

Sometimes, thanks to the mix of Vienna straw seats and inserts and metal structures, the furnishings are able to recreate a balanced mix between vintage and high tech. In addition, straw seats, lampshades, wardrobes and stools can adapt to minimal, eclectic or rustic spaces. The inlaid texture that is obtained can be combined with environments with a different style, and guarantees a warm and classic atmosphere. For example, in a minimal setting, a straw lampshade can warm the atmosphere while a wardrobe with Viennese weaving doors will add value to the sleeping area. From the point of view of maintenance, this material needs to be moistened from time to time in order to preserve its elasticity.

Vienna straw furniture in a living area and a bedroom
Vienna straw furniture in a living area and in a bedroom – Left photo:

Vienna straw is a very versatile material and for this reason its use ranges from the field of interior design, to that of fashion design up to the high tech sector. The peculiarity that all design objects have in common is that of having a vintage look but with a contemporary reinterpretation. A concrete example of this are bluetooth radios with innovative features but with a fascinating look from times past. Even the lampshades of suspension or floor lamps are able to recreate warm and welcoming atmospheres thanks to the pleasant weave of the weaves and the soft light of the internal devices, sometimes adjustable thanks to special dimmers.

As far as furnishing accessories are concerned, they range from trays, to mirrors, to useful valet trays. But Vienna straw can also form panels and furnishing structures: handles and doors for flexible and transformable kitchens. Thanks to its lightness and transparency it is able to characterize environments by calibrating tradition and modernity. The outdoor spaces are also ready to accommodate tables, sofas and straw armchairs, in order to recreate an outdoor area where you can spend your summer days.

Vienna straw becomes a fashion must have and arrives in the world of furnishing accessories: trays, bags and shoes
Vienna straw becomes a fashion must have and lands in the world of furnishing accessories

However, this material is not only widely used in interior design but lately also the fashion field has experimented with original solutions with a strong aesthetic impact. In fact, dresses, shirts, outerwear and bags have customized the catwalks of the most famous fashion brands in recent years.

Like it or not, the sure thing is that Vienna straw, thanks to its timeless charm, will still have a long life!

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