An old factory complex, which has stood witness to the events that have shaped the company’s direction. Now TON shapes the latest chapter of the company’s history, trusting that the factory will watch over the work of at least six more generations as they push its development even further.
Michael Thonet - Credits TONThis special occasion has provided the impulse for a collection of stories, which jointly reveal important milestones from the life of the factory in the book +- 160 and on the related website. The stories disclose the many ways in which bent wood has shaped countless lives.
The German inventor, designer and businessman Michael Thonet founded Bystřice pod Hostýnem’s bentwood furniture factory in 1861. He chose this location because of the beech forests surrounding it, as well as its advantageous logistical position and the hardworking local people. In the time the factory has been operative, it has gone through various periods of prosperity and decline, but it has manufactured its iconic bentwood furniture continuously on its premises right up to the present day. “Michael Thonet was a visionary. He invented the steel flange, which meant the beechwood fibres could be moulded into the chosen form. With this discovery, and by organising work on an industrial scale, he triggered a revolution in furniture-making. He also introduced lightness, functionality and design to furniture making, attributes that were not previously found together in furniture,” states Milan Dostalík, TON’s managing director. “In addition to revolutionary products, he also created entirely distinct business and marketing strategies. For example, as early as 1859 he was presenting his products in the first catalogue. We continue to learn from history, we are proud that the factory is still operative today and that we are the next generation taking it forward,” adds Milan Dostalík.
Historical ContextsThe factory was initially founded to produce the iconic number 14 chair. Over time, it became the most important manufacturing branch in the Thonet empire, which also included business premises in several other cities in what was then Austria-Hungary and Germany. Bystřice pod Hostýnem, however, had a specific role – it was where all new product designs originated, and where experiments took place; this was the responsibility of August Thonet, one of Michael’s five sons.
Factory in Bystr?ice Pod Hosty´nem - Credits TONThe golden age ended as World War I began, when radical changes were required in the field of bentwood furniture. The economic crisis did not stop the company from manufacturing. In 1924, the company merged with its competitor Kohn-Mundus, creating the Thonet-Mundus group. This period saw the rise of a wave of modernism; products with clean lines ushered in the modernist slogan “form follows function”.
The start of World War II, and principally its end, brought further restructuring – the furniture empire was broken up into individual units and the Bystřice pod Hostýnem factory was nationalised.
Employees - Year 1907 - Credits TONIn 1953, it was rechristened TON, the acronym for Továrna na ohýbaný nábytek, or bentwood furniture factory. TON worked with contemporary designers and architects, manufactured and innovated its own machinery, and represented what was then Czechoslovakia all over the world. The Communist regime fell and 1994 saw the creation of a joint-stock company, which today combines elegant bentwood shapes with designers’ innovative ideas.
The Present and the Future
P.O.V. Collection - Kaschkasch
“We are the sixth generation to write the story of bentwood furniture from Bystřice pod Hostýnem. This means we are compelled to think of future generations too. Regarding this place, we also need to think broadly about how we can specifically contribute to environmental sustainability,” Milan Dostalík explains. TON is therefore not only focusing on becoming carbon-neutral, but will also start offering a renovation service for whole products, as well as repairing cane weaves. “We want to focus on extending the product life-cycle and remember that sometimes it is enough to return to what previous generations were using,” Dostalík adds.
The book +-160 Years
Stories associated with the factory’s 160th anniversary are chronicled in a new book by Adam Štěch – +-160 Years. You can take a look at part of it on the website www.plusminus160.com. This site also has a 360° video, on which you can watch furniture being manufactured using both manual technology and machines to bend the wood. The book and the website will both be launched on 24 June 2021.
TON on Archiproducts.com
Adam S?te?ch - Editor of book -+160
Wood benders around 1900 - Credits TON
Cane around 1900 - Credits TON
Final polish around 1900 - Credits TON
Ton on Mont Blanc 1990s - Credits TON
200 years since the birth of Michael Thonet - 1996 - Credits TON
Milan Dostali´k - TON’s CEO
Old factory - Credits TON