The Secret History Of: Cafe Daum coat stand

If you can tell a design classic by how often it is copied, then the Cafe Daum coat stand surely has the credentials. From its illustrious beginnings in 19th-century Viennese café society, versions of it can now be found on Amazon for about 20 quid. And for £50 they'll throw in another, and a shoe rack too. The real thing will cost you nearer £200.

The original was created by Michael Thonet, who pioneered the technique of bending wood into curved shapes using steam. His bentwood chairs are another sought-after design classic. Born in Prussia in 1796, Thonet would later turn down the chance of secure work in Vienna because he believed so passionately in being free to experiment and develop new techniques.

Patrick Taylor, a former architect who writes about design (patricktaylor.com), says: "The furniture of the time was usually made from flat pieces of wood with numerous joints disguised by elaborate carvings, but Thonet rejected these traditional methods and looked for simpler means of production.

"Eventually he discovered the solution: a solid piece of steamed wood and a metal strap could be bent together in a certain way without cracking the wood and, after being dried out, the wood held its shape.

"A strong chair could thus be made with less pieces and less joints, with screws replacing glued connections."

In 1849, Thonet moved to Vienna, where he set up Gebrüder Thonet as the family furniture business. The coat stand was one of his first commissions along with a large order for his No 4 bentwood chairs. Six years later he had arrived at No 14, which is still being made today and is one of the world's most successful products: 15 million were sold between 1860 and 1930.

But it is the coat stand which concerns us here. Cafe Daum was one of the 500 or so smoke-filled salons frequented by Viennese high society, each with its own characteristics and clientele. The Daum was regarded as the most famous, according to an article in The New York Times in 1897: "There famous politicians, military aristocrats, statesmen and courtiers, some of the best-known names in latter-day Austrian history, were to be met. The history of the Daum Cafe was the history of Austria itself from 1848 down to the present decade."

Coat stands were popular as well as practical. In private homes they were often placed in the window as a sign that the owners were people who took care of their possessions and outward appearances.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam