French bistro chairs add a touch of romance

We chatted with Joan Stonich of TK Collections about the origins of the chair
TK Collections
TK Collections sells only to the trade. The nearly 30 styles and colors start around $650.

Photograph by Tara Van Der Linden

Whether bistro chairs make you dream of Paris cafes or you just like their bright colors, these woven seats add a cheerful touch to both indoor and outdoor spaces. To learn more about their origins, we talked with Joan Stonich of TK Collections, a to-the-trade showroom in the New York Design Center that has been importing custom cafe chairs directly from the French countryside for decades.

  • Although the chairs were first produced in the late 19th century, they didn’t become popular until the 1920s—when Paris cafes attracted writers and artists like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sartre, and Picasso.
  • Today, authentic French versions are made of bent rattan and Rilsan, a bioplastic derived from castor beans, best known for their oil. Rilsan, which was developed during World War II, is so strong it was used to create nets that captured submarines.
  • Rilsan makes bistro chairs lightweight, colorfast, and durable, says Stonich. “It won’t fade. If you wanted to damage it, you could take an ax to it. But with regular use, nothing will happen to it.” Restaurants often use the same chairs for decades, she notes.
  • The original-style chairs are handmade by artisans living north of Paris, who have passed down the skills for generations.

This article originally appeared in our Spring 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.