One of the greatest attractions in Paris are their cafes, there is a hole culture, history and stories around Paris cafes, and one of the musts when visiting Paris is to go to a traditional cafe have a coffee or a glass of wine in the terrace, stay there for a while watching people pass, reading a book, thinking or talking with your friend or lover.

Traditional Paris Cafe

Walking trough Paris you can see a lot of cafes, almost at every corner in some quartiers, and one of their particular things is that all of them have these classic Paris cafe chairs that are very similar to each other. Have you ever wanted to know about the Parisian chairs history in the cafes, bistros and brasseries? It all started with the bistros, in the 1800s, these kind of business were started by French families in order to offer cheaper and simpler food to people, they served this food in the streets setting chairs and tables on the outside, so here begun this idea of serving food in the streets. With time, this business evolved and the bistros, brasseries and cafes we know today emerged.

Those chairs were created specially in the Haussmanian era, what not? These kind of chairs were fabricated for the brassereies of the new grand boulevards in Paris. Back in the day there were lots of ateliers for those chairs, nowadays not much of them are still left. But the person who actually designed and invented the chairs was Michael Thonet, a German-Austrian, who named this chair "Chair No. 14", this man was a chair designer and won lots of awards with his designs, he sold 50 million of these chairs between 1859 y 1930, and these were the chairs the French chose for their Paris cafes and bistros, since then those chairs were practical and economical to fabricate and buy.

The classic Paris cafe chairs are made from rattan, a material imported from the former French colonies in Asia, which is a sturdy and light material very easy to clean if wine or coffee is spilled, some of them are painted in vibrant colors with antique patterns and they say they are comfortable, not for me haha. These chairs are not outdoor chairs, they need some care, that is why all the nights you see the waitresses of every cafe and bistro take the chairs indoor so they get dry, and that is why all Paris cafes have tents, or maybe they are for some of us who would sit there while looking to Paris in the rain.

Of course everything is related to the development of bistros and cafes and how they emerged, which is itself a more interesting story. What I also think is wonderful is that today you can get those same exact chairs as decorative objects for your home - I actually want one. The other good thing is that also today even the newest cafes in Paris still order those chairs for their cafes, I love Parisian traditional aesthetics. 

I remember clearly that in the corner where the building I usually stay in when in Paris, the first time I went there the cafe had simple aluminium chairs and I actually went by it several times and nobody sat in those chairs; a year after when I returned they had been replaced with the classic Parisian cafe chairs and now the place is always full.

All photography by Caroline Mint


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